Funded by Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of NC
Our multi-organizational team
inspires connections and amplifies collective impact
so that community voices are heard and
food policy shifts toward more equitable outcomes.
Why we do what we do
North Carolina has the 11th highest rate of food insecurity in the nation (America’s Health Rankings).
Nationally, Black communities face higher poverty rates (18.7%) compared to white communities (7.3%)
NC’s remaining Black farmers have fought through decades of racial discrimination, and unfair policies to maintain their land and livelihood.
Rural communities suffer persistent economic distress, population loss, higher than average unemployment
NC is the second-most threatened state, when it comes to the loss of agricultural lands, according to the American Farmland Trust’s 2020
Recent supply chain disruptions highlighted that the globalized, centralized food system leaves vulnerabilities while community-based partnerships can adapt
The local food councils are doing grassroots, storytelling, important groundwork, but it’s hard for an organization to be effective at that and carry a state-level advocacy presence. Making sure everyone works together well and effectively has been key to moving this forward. ”
Marianne Weant, NC Alliance for Health
how We work
Working with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg food council has informed the work that I do on the agriculture committee- your local solutions are often the key to our legislative victories.”
Congresswoman Alma Adams
Cornerstones Of How We Approach Our Work
What is different
because of our work?
Chapter 1 (2013 – 2017)
Growing and Connecting a Network
- Community Food Strategies began in 2013 as a way to accomplish one of the 11 game changer ideas from the Farm to Fork: Building a Sustainable Local Food Economy in North Carolina guide released in 2010. One of the biggest takeaways from the report was the importance of establishing an avenue for people to come together with policymakers to discuss how food impacted their communities, and offer solutions that were right-sized for their situations. Facilitating the creation of food councils across the state would give individuals the opportunity to influence the food system specific to their community.
- Our team created resources, coordinated networking events, and provided technical assistance and coaching for developing and existing food councils. We focused on building capacity, connecting existing groups, and creating a communications platform to highlight their stories and connections.
- Through intentional partnership development and shared leadership structures, we developed a multi-organizational initiative and team. We collectively adopted governance and decision-making processes that allowed us to practice, model, and evolve our approach.
If we can do this safely, then we’re going to recover millions of dollars of food that would otherwise be going to a landfill someplace. … for $50,000, you are getting a multimillion-dollar return for food that will be used in the community. An overwhelming majority of NC counties are at or above national food insecurity rates, as much as double. That’s prior to the pandemic. [This would] cut down on health care costs related to food insecurity. This is a one-time investment with a great return.”
Carl Vierling, Greater High Point Food Alliance in reference to Food Waste and Recovery efforts
Chapter 2 (2018 – 2022)
Deepening Equity Focus, Relationships, & Capacity
- In 2017, Community Food Strategies made an explicit commitment to incorporate and work towards racial equity in all aspects of our work. Race consistently influences the disparities in our food system and equitable access to opportunities. This commitment influenced a shift in our work over the next four years.
- We collaborated more closely with the Committee on Racial Equity in the Food System (CORE) at CEFS, incorporated third-party evaluation, expanded our team, and set multiple explicit racial equity goals. We recognized the racial composition of our team, organizational leadership, and the network did not reflect our belief in honoring and shifting power to historically marginalized populations.
- The next four years started and continued with internal reflection on how to build a culture and team to reflect our values. We focused on listening to the communities we work with, deepening relationships, shifting decision-making power in our network, and building racial equity awareness and advocacy skills across the network.
What is the case for continuing Community Food Strategies’ work as a statewide connector and resource for the food council network?
- Food councils and coalitions are engaged, asking for support, and want to engage in foodways and food solutions, including advocacy and policy work.
- The time is ripe for change with a heightened awareness of the racial disparities in our food system, the urgency of climate change, and the fragility of the democratic process.
- Community-led and local solutions are adaptable, flexible, and responsive to community requests.
- This statewide network has an opportunity to support Black, Brown, and Indigenous led food solutions and leaders.
- Regions are organizing and collaborating around food.
- Community insights reveal an interest in doing food differently.
12 Community Insights for
a North Carolina that
“Does Food Differently”
Food council voices their recent work and the benefits of connection to Community Food Strategies and the Network of Food Councils.
What’s different in the NC food council network landscape?
The food council network is more diverse across age, race, ethnicity, and levels of experience in this network. This growing network is better able to reflect and represent our communities.
More food councils have a greater awareness of systemic racism in our food system and 65% now have explicit commitments to racial equity. However, in 2022 food council check-ins, 33% of food councils admitted that they are unsure how their council is or should be conducting racial equity. There is a clear need for support and coaching here.
Food councils have more policy and advocacy expertise and experience at all levels of government. Food councils have stonger relationships with elected officials, as well as local and state governments, as a result.
Why is a food council necessary? What food councils are saying:
- “The more voices we have to advocate for a common cause, the better we will be at creating change and changing policy.”
- “Our food council is an advocate for their community’s needs, in particular food insecurity.”
- “Food insecurity is a huge issue in our area.”
- “We function to not only focus on this need but to address the root causes.”
- “Folks who haven’t thought beyond food security started asking why are people hungry and not able to feed themselves – that is why we need this group.”
- “Community voices drive our work, rather than us speaking for our community.”
- “Many groups are looking at emergency response and we are bringing awareness to food as a system.”
- “We are a network, facilitating relationships, so we can collaborate and not duplicate.”
Our Food Council participated in a “History of Food Insecurity: Correcting the Policy Decisions of our Past and Present” Webinar Viewing and Facilitated Discussion through Community Food Strategies and felt that the council made strides towards talking about the roots of the problem rather than Band-Aid solutions.”
Food council response in 2021 survey.
How has the connection to Community Food Strategies been an asset? What food councils are saying:
- The majority spoke about the benefits of accessing a greater (regional, statewide) network of councils, which connects us to a large array of resources and ideas.
- This “cross-pollination” helps to widen our perspective about what’s happening across the state.
- The coordination and support is incredibly helpful, such as providing guidance on projects and being able to ask questions and get feedback.
- More than half of the councils also spoke about how helpful funding has been to further their programming.
I’ve got to admit to being slightly in awe of [Community Food Strategies’] drive and enthusiasm and professionalism. They’re very well organized, they balance that sort of clinical expertise with passion.”
Partner organization leader from 2020 evaluation interview