2022 ANNUAL REPORT
Brandy Bynum Dawson
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 experienced some transitions throughout the year, as some team members moved on to share their gifts elsewhere and some team members joined us to share their gifts with us.
WHAT DID WE DO?
Policy & Advocacy Organizing
In 2022, our Policy team launched a new ARPA Advocacy Academy initiative, offered trainings, facilitated collective organizing, and engaged in resource development. The ARPA Advocacy Academy (AAA) initiative is supporting eight food councils and community groups in North Carolina to advocate for local government allocations of American Rescue Plan Act (2021) local fiscal funds to support health-equity-related food systems projects. The team engaged 19 public officials, and 20 community leaders via intensive focus groups aimed at refining our previously developed Policies, Program, Practices and Investments for Food System Resiliency toolkit into an online database toolkit in early 2024. 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.
This Twelve Community Insights narrative document offers community-based perspectives on key ways of engaging in food systems change work in the next five years. The insights were gathered through affinity group conversations for community members across different identities: urban and rural; elder and youth, BIPOC, Latino/a, and white. The work reflects the collective voice, and honors the distinct perspectives within it. Each insight offers a starting place for action. We hope the narrative energizes folks to apply one or more of the insights in their work so that we can do food differently.
We selected and hosted an exploratory cohort of food system representatives to dive into possibilities for non-exploitative food system development based on equitable, sustainable, cooperative values. In the Fall of 2022, this cohort joined the “solidarity economy in the south” gathering at the Highlander Center to build with other southern-based Solidarity Economy practitioners. This cohort is a community of practice exploring and highlighting alternative models to share across the food network in North Carolina.
Racial Equity Coaching
Our team participated in a 10-week racial equity training with Ra’Shya Ghee, an attorney, educator, and racial equity expert to deepen our own internal practice and analysis. We regularly host separate BIPOC and white caucuses for our team members for deepened learning and healing. We supported multiple organizations individually in the network with racial equity coaching and facilitation in community engagement and organizational development. Our team also promoted and assisted with numerous racial equity in the food systems trainings and resources.
Food-Inspired Resiliency & Equity (FIRE) Interns
In collaboration with the NCLFC and CEFS, Community Food Strategies piloted our first-ever paid internship program, aimed to build the capacity of local food-based organizations and to inspire food system career pathways. Fifty percent of NC food councils applied to host an intern, demonstrating the significant need and interest. In the first two cohorts, 14 food-based organizations received and mentored a FIRE intern. Of those interns, 57% identified as being Black, Indigenous, or a Person of color (BIPOC). This unique internship model offers monthly professional development sessions and connections to eight other interns and organizations engaged in food system work across the state. These interns enhanced communication channels, researched and developed resources, administered surveys, organized events, supported fundraising efforts, and gave much relief to their host sites.
Peer-to-Peer Networking Calls
We host multiple peer-to-peer networking calls throughout the year to facilitate connection, resource sharing, and idea exchange. We hosted four Quarterly Network calls reaching more than 30 groups in collaboration with our six Regional Network Weavers and NCLFC’s Regional Representatives. We held four quarterly calls for Council of Government staff working to advance food systems, attended by staff from six COGs across the state. We held bimonthly calls with a Regional Food Assessments Learning group which conducted a survey to food system practitioners about their insights into a statewide food system mapping tool that streamlines regional food system assessments. We also began planning for our signature statewide Community Food Gathering multi-day event held in March 2023.
Shared Gifting is a participatory grantmaking process that we facilitate for groups to collaboratively exchange funds amongst each other. In 2022, eleven food coalitions came together in two separate events to learn about, give feedback on, and ultimately grant $83,600 in funding to each others’ work. We hosted these events at historic settings that reiterated the importance of this power-shifting process. This process prioritizes relationships, amplifies community leadership, centers equity, and invites collaboration.