12 Community Insights for
a North Carolina that
“Does Food Differently”
The current state of our agriculture and farming industries confirms that there is a serious, ongoing problem within our food system. The heart of this issue–that power is concentrated in the hands of a few–keeps many people, especially vulnerable and marginalized people, from gaining fair access to food.
We wanted to know what could be learned from people across communities in North Carolina with various lived experiences of the food system. We invited over 300 people from our networks to participate in focus groups and respond from their various identities, and 65 people participated. From August 2020 to February 2021, members of the Food Action Plan project team interviewed stakeholders from different identity groups to learn from their reflections on the food system, their communities, and society as a whole.
Almost a decade ago, the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) presented From Farm to Fork: A Guide to Building North Carolina’s Sustainable Local Food Economy. The 2009 Farm to Fork process, led by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), taught us to trust the expertise of community members’ lived experiences. Stories are data. They are the basics of how we communicate. These human truths help us understand how pieces fit together and clarify what’s at stake.
Our twelve leading insights were developed using the information we gathered during each of our identity conversations. Conversation notes and transcripts were analyzed using a blend of qualitative research, human-centered design, and community-based participatory research methods.
The lessons we took away from this work emphasized the desire for a food system that nourishes all people. One that is not driven by profit but by the needs of the community. Change can start with a single conversation and turn into a movement. Now is the time to start finding ways to “do food differently” in North Carolina. We hope this report is a springboard for further conversations and action.
“ …I have hindsight, insight, and foresight,” which all come with aging. With hindsight, insight and foresight, we are likely to be better equipped to navigate currents of change in our lives and in our organizations”
-Huilan Krenn, WKKF
Communities across North Carolina have been pushing for change in our food system all along, and continue to do so every day. This work would not be possible without the community-led, grassroots work that has drawn attention to problems and built momentum around promising solutions.
Space to consider and process emotion is critical in moving forward.
An intersectional approach to food is foundational.
Mismatches of available resources in the current system increase existing disparities.
Power and gatekeeping tactics that impede access to opportunity for communities of color need to be acknowledged and addressed.
Address the need to pay farmers fairly and desire to see food as a right.
There is a need for a stronger and shared analysis on charity vs. justice as it relates to food systems change.
Small farms are a desired solution, and struggle with viability.
Youth voices drive the future and need to be consulted.
Community-generated solutions hold the keys to progress.
Both big “P” and little “p” policy changes are necessary.
Identify and focus on what drives innovation, outside of a crisis.
Leverage the current momentum to create a new food system.
The advisory committee will guide the direction of the work by identifying the questions we need answered to ensure we’re building a food system that nourishes people, places and communities. This group is composed of individuals and organizations working in multiple sectors and regions across North Carolina. The project team is committed to making this process evolutionary, meaning the advisory committee will grow and change throughout the project’s lifespan.
- A Better Chance A Better Community (ABC2)
- Alamance Food Collaborative
- Alliance for a Healthier Generation
- Association of Mexicans in NC (AMEXCAN)
- Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP)
- Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of North Carolina
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina
- Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA)
- Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS)
- Chef Kabui
- Compass Group/Morrison Healthcare
- Cone Health
- Conetoe Family Life Center
- Congresswoman Alma S. Adams’s Office
- Cooperative Extension at North Carolina A&T State University
- Dig In Yancey
- Duke World Food Policy Center
- Eastern Carolina Organics
- ECU Medical School
- Episcopal Farmworker Ministry
- Farmer Foodshare
- Firsthand Foods
- Food Bank, ECNC
- Foothills Food Hub
- FreshPoint, Inc.
- Former Congresswoman Eva Clayton
- Growing Change
- Healthy Native North Carolinians
- Lantern/The Durham
- National Capital Investment Fund
- NC Institute of Medicine
- NC A&T State University
- NC Alliance for Health
- NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
- NC Department of Environmental Quality
- NC Department of Health and Human Services
- NC Department of Public Instruction – Nutrition Services
- NC Farm Bureau Federation
- NC League of Municipalities
- NC Rural Center
- NC Sea Grant
- NC State – College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
- NC Institute of Medicine
- Partnerships to Improve Community Health (PICH)
- Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI)
- Resourceful Communities
- Sandhills Ag Innovation Center
- Self-Help Credit Union
- UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
- UNC Chapel Hill’s Department of American Studies
- Veterans Employment Base Camp and Organic Garden
- Washington Harbor District Alliance
- Western NC Health Network
- Z. Smith Reynolds