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Annual Report

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Community Food Strategies 

2023 Annual Report
Inspiring Connections.
Amplifying Collective Action.

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2023 Timeline

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    Quarter 1 - Statewide Gathering

    Quarter 1 - Statewide Gathering
  • Quarter 2 - FIRE Intern celebration

     Quarter 2 - FIRE Intern celebration
    • Conducted and summarized a Statewide Food Assessment & Mapping survey completed by 50+ respondents, led by a group that meets bimonthly to enhance food assessments
    • Organized and facilitated quarterly Councils of Governments Advancing Food Systems calls
    • Continued Quarterly Network Calls attended by 17 local food coalitions continuing the learnings from Community Food Gathering workshop tracks
    • Celebrated the completion of the 2022-2023 FIRE Internship with presentations and good food
    • Hosted a WNC Food Story Circle to connect across the region and share event template
  • Quarter 3 - July Team Retreat

     Quarter 3 - July Team Retreat
    • Started another full-year FIRE internship program with six food coalitions in partnership with NCLFC
    • Celebrated and connected as a team with a mid-year retreat
    • Held an internal team Racial Equity training to build relational culture, and help raise awareness and consciousness of the systemic racism that exists in institutions, society, and ourselves
    • Hosted a Food System Policy Update Presentation from partners NC Alliance for Health and NC Food Advocacy Coalition
  • Quarter 4 - Strategy Session

     Quarter 4 - Strategy Session
    • Created and promoted and Network Survey to better understand the needs and opportunities of the Network to inform future strategies and offerings
    • Facilitated two Shared Gifting Circles with the ARPA Advocacy Academy cohort distributing $63K to 8 food coalitions
    • Started working with a fiscal sponsor to more deeply align organizational structure with collaborative values
    • Received $2.1million BCBSFNC People & Power grant for 2024-2027
    • Launched a new Project Curator leadership structure for the team
    • Evaluated 2023 and established 2024 goals at the end-of-year Team Strategy Session
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Food is so intersectional. You can’t really address any justice work without having food as part of the conversation.

Moriah Gendy

Team & Partners

Support from:

Kindred Seedlings Farm

LaShauna Austria

Kindred Seedlings Farm
NC Rural Center

Brandy Bynum Dawson

NC Rural Center
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association

Jaylen Cates

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
Island CultureZ

Marcus Hill

Island CultureZ
NC Budget & Tax Center

Suzy Khachaturyan

NC Budget & Tax Center
NC Rural Center

Miles Kirksey

NC Rural Center
Center for Environmental Farming Systems

Gini Knight

Center for Environmental Farming Systems
Yasmeen Lee

Yasmeen Lee

MDC Rural Forward

Hetal Patel

MDC Rural Forward
Center for Environmental Farming Systems | Community Food Strategies, Project Lead

Abbey Piner

Center for Environmental Farming Systems | Community Food Strategies, Project Lead
CEFS Business Associate

Ali Stone

CEFS Business Associate
Our team collectively consists of just over five full-time staff, with many of us contributing small percentages of time to the overall project. 
Our team collectively consists of just over five full-time staff, with many of us contributing small percentages of time to the overall project. 


Ten incredible storytellers at the Community Food Gathering StorySLAM shared important food memories, and what the wanted to bring from those memories into the work of creating our food future.

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What We Did?

  • January 2023

    Policy & Advocacy Organizing

    Policy & Advocacy Organizing

    In 2023, our Policy team provided seven organizations in the ARPA Advocacy Academy cohort with individual coaching, funding through participatory grantmaking, and technical support around local budget advocacy, strategic advocacy planning, and engaging local electeds. Early in the year, they released a 2022 Report on Policy & System Change Actions of the NC Food Network to educate and highlight actionable steps the Network is taking toward food policy and system change.

  • Network Survey

    Network Survey

    From our 2023 Network Survey, we found that the food councils, organizations, and coalitions engaged in the Network are increasingly more focused on supporting local farmers, prioritizing community engagement, and increasing their skills and action around advocacy.  Fifty-six percent of the Network was engaged in policy and advocacy in 2023, including strategies like writing opinion editorials, hosting events to raise awareness, and presenting to local government officials.  Their top need to accomplish their priorities was increased funding, capacity, and grant support.

  • Forging our Food Future: 2023 Community Food Gathering

    Forging our Food Future: 2023 Community Food Gathering

    Hundreds of farm and food system leaders and community food advocates participated in Forging our Food Future: 2023 Community Food Gathering in March 2023. Along with keynote speakers and 16 workshops and panel discussions, the Gathering featured a Farm-to-Table Dinner at Golden Organic Farm and a StorySLAM, featuring ten different storytellers sharing their perspectives and learnings. Workshop topics included statewide policy and advocacy opportunities, existing community food solutions, opportunities to support growing value chains and local food system infrastructure, creative communications strategies, and capacity building.  In the  event survey, 100% of the respondents (n=83) rated their overall experience as Good, Very Good, or Excellent,

  • July 2023

    Solidarity Economies

    Solidarity Economies

    We continued bimonthly meetings of an exploratory cohort of food system representatives to dive into possibilities for non-exploitative food system development based on equitable, sustainable, cooperative values. This cohort led an engaged workshop at the Community Food Gathering and continues to be a community of practice exploring and highlighting alternative models to share across the food network in North Carolina.

  • Council of Governments Advancing Food Systems Calls

    Council of Governments Advancing Food Systems Calls

    Community Food Strategies organized and facilitated three Council of Governments (COGs) calls for staff who are working on projects to advance food systems in their regions during this grant period.  Twenty-eight people joined across the three calls covering eight of the sixteen COGs across the state. Three new COGs participated this year, generating more momentum, connectivity, and the possibility of catalyzing statewide food system efforts at the regional level. The attendees are sharing resources, learning about each others’ work, and now working on collaborating on future funding to continue working in the food systems field.

  • Food-Inspired Resiliency & Equity (FIRE) Interns

    Food-Inspired Resiliency & Equity (FIRE) Interns

    In collaboration with the NCLFC and CEFS, Community Food Strategies continued our paid academic-year FIRE internship program, aimed to build the capacity of local food-based organizations and to inspire food system career pathways.  Together, we hosted sixteen interns and host sites for the 2023 Spring and Fall academic year. Of those interns, 68% identified as being Black, Indigenous, or a Person of color (BIPOC) and 62% of host site mentors identified as BIPOC. This unique internship model offers monthly professional development sessions and connections to other interns and organizations engaged in food system work across the state.  These interns expanded and deepened their communication channels, created opportunities to build connections with various partners, researched and developed resources, administered community-based surveys, organized events, taught workshops, supported fundraising efforts, and gave much relief to their host sites.

  • December 2023

    Expanding beyond food councils

    Expanding beyond food councils

    This year, we decided to expand our reach beyond the term ‘food council’.  We work with groups, not individuals, and these groups can be collaboratives, coalitions, cooperatives, organizations, or councils. The term ‘food councils’ is not always known, and we defined the term broadly as a cross-sector group of people engaged in food systems change.  Many groups fit this description and still don’t consider themselves food policy councils or food councils.  We see these groups as community-centered, valuing BIPOC leadership and collaboration with a broader network, and using food to advance systems change and justice-based solutions.

2023 TOTAL

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The internship has increased public visibility of our work, improved existing relationships and built new partnerships, and increased the number of food access points. Our current local food system and its ability to adapt to the changing needs of the community is stronger and more flexible.

Rutherford County Food Council, 2022 – 2023 FIRE Intern Host Site

Cornerstones Of How We Approach Our Work

Food is a social justice fight and a fight against racism, and we continue that fight by doing events like this and speaking up.


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Forging our Food Future Video

This 3-minute video features participants at the Forging our Food Future: 2023 Community Food Gathering in Rocky Mount, NC who share important food memories and traditions that feed their vision for a just and joyful food future. These participants shared important lessons and learnings with the Network. 

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One of if not the most impactful conferences I have ever attended. To hear the stories shared altered my way of thinking in how I approach situations in my work. It challenged where I am in deconstructing my old ideologies (raised in a small rural NC town). I truly felt at home amongst people who spoke their truths and work every day towards not only a more equitable and just food system, but in every walk of life. Thank you for everything! It was an amazing time surrounded by beautiful people.


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2024 Priorities

  • Evaluate and deepen our policy and advocacy support on the team to better serve the Network

  • Organize and host Regional Gatherings that inspire the Network, fuel collective strategy, and bridge new connections

  • Launch a Coaching Cohort model that provides focused attention and connection in practicing liberation in local food system organizing

  • Introduce and engage the Network to the Solidarity Economies framework through food systems

  • Continue to build an effective and relational culture with the Community Food Strategies team and partners

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