~~Contributed by Beth Knorr, Executive Director of Summit Food Policy Coalition and Director of Markets at Countryside Conservancy~~
It has been an amazing thing to watch the local food movement grow, shift, expand, and gain momentum over the past twenty years. It has gone from “What
is a CSA?” to “How are we addressing transportation issues to increase access in our most vulnerable neighborhoods?” It is not an understatement that
food systems work can be truly transformative for individuals and communities.
It was easy for organizations working in this space way back when to feel like islands. And to constantly have to repeat why the work they were doing should
be valued. While having to repeat that information is still the case in some instances, what has changed is how many people are telling it, and how
they are coalescing in order to make true and lasting change.
One manifestation of this spirit of collaboration is the Summit Food Policy Coalition. This loose affiliation of organizations and individuals originally came together in 2009 to find ways to work together and tackle larger food-justice issues faced by the community as a whole. The term “food desert” was something only a few were familiar with at the time, and examples of success at addressing the issues they exemplify were not as widespread as they are now.
Since then, many other organizations have joined the coalition both formally and by supporting us in kind. We have accomplished much in the past 7 years. Many public gatherings focusing on healthful and local food have been held; the Summit County Food Charter was created in recognition of the importance of establishing a vibrant local food economy- 5 cities and Summit County signed on; two Growing Hope Food Summits were held, bringing together 200-300 people from a diverse cross section of the community each time; Neighborfood, a mini-grant program, was established to provide start up funds for community gardens across the county; we worked with University of Akron to map Food Deserts; a Corner Store project was initiated, and helped to bring fresh produce to corner stores in food desert neighborhoods in Akron; we hosted a garden tour of 15 community gardens; a Friday Film and Potluck Series was organized along with a Salsa Contest and a fall gardening workshop; and the Summit Lake Neighborhood Farmers’ Market was started due to the collaboration of a handful of our member organizations.
Now, thanks to Akron Community Foundation’s leadership and support, Summit Food Policy Coalition has set forth clear goals to accomplish over the next three years and beyond. Our goals focus on four areas of the food system:
We are always looking for volunteers who are passionate about addressing food insecurity as well as supporting our local food businesses. If that sounds like you, won’t you join us? Each focus area team has regular meetings mapping out plans to help us accomplish our goals. Quarterly we have public forums to hear from community members and experts in the field to help us learn as well as celebrate our accomplishments. To learn more about getting involved, visit our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Summit-Food-Policy-Coalition-1395214944061718/ or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.