Date: October 1, 2014 – 2 pm
The second meeting took place at the Thomasville Area Chamber of Commerce. This time the meeting was facilitated by Grace Kanoy, who is a member of Carolina Farm Stewardship Association and the Thomasville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Because there were many new faces, the meeting opened up with a brief summary of what food councils can do for their communities (see Davidson County Food Council presentation) and then quickly moved onto introductions of the various attendees.
WHO CAME TO THE MEETING?
The attendees at the meeting represented various food-related sectors of the community:
- Food Pantry representatives
- Small business owners
- Non-profit organizations
- Senior care providers
- School administration
Not bad for our second meeting! We had robust representation from Davidson County’s food pantries and representatives who serve our local children such as Brenda Watford, Child Nutrition Director for Thomasville City Schools and Beth Farrell, Thomasville’s Parks and Recreation specialist who oversees an after school vegetable garden program with Thomasville City Schools.
GETTING TO KNOW EACH OTHER
Many Davidson County residents are unaware of the projects and caring work undertaken by the organizations here. After brief introductions of each of the attendees, we learned about various food-related sectors in our community and their challenges.
WHAT CHALLENGES ARE WE FACING?
We had a robust discussion on the issue of food insecurity in Davidson County. Sgt. Mary Ashby of The Salvation Army brought up the issue of seeing the same families and even the next generation using the food pantries as a regular source of food. In other words, families would “shop” from pantry to pantry regarding the pantries as a handout rather than a hand up. Ashby introduced the idea of a skills workshop for these families to try to break the cycle of poverty. This discussion was abbreviated due to lack of time, but promises to be an issue that needs to be explored.
The idea of more fresh produce at food pantries was suggested, especially produce that could be gleaned from farms at the end of each harvest. However, many of the food pantry organizers face challenges of refrigeration space and spoilage. Further suggestions were made regarding canning the produce to be sold or given away as secondary product. Amy-Lynn Albertson mentioned that secondary product can only be sold at the Farmers Market if the producer holds certification to do so. She listed the following challenges: home-canned products can only be sold if the processor has undergone the canning certification; secondly, canning must be processed in an inspected commercial kitchen. The cost of taking the certification may be cost prohibitive to many people.
It turns out that there are several commercial kitchens in Davidson County, many of which are found in churches! Apparently, there are 20 commercial kitchens available in Thomasville. A potential solution is to involve the churches and their commercial kitchens and develop a system where gleaned produce can be used for secondary products. This discussion will continue.
Again, these discussions had to be limited because of time.
WHAT RESOURCES DID WE DISCOVER?
Community garden at Memorial Park run by Thomasville Parks and Recreation.
We were very lucky to have Greg Rice, former Director of Habitat for Humanity in Davidson County in attendance. He shared his experiences regarding the ½ acre community garden in the Historic Downtown Thomasville district that he oversaw a few years ago. Rice had overwhelming support from the Cooperative Extension, but had difficulty with volunteers. Although they produced ample produce, enough produce to even sell at the Farmers’ market, they were unable to sustain the project because he lacked committed volunteers.
Beth Farrell runs the community garden at Memorial Park. This garden is the focus for her after-school program in partnership with Thomasville City Schools. The program has been very successful in engaging elementary and middle school students, not only during the school year, but throughout the summer. Farrell confesses that the community garden takes up a lot of her time, and the sustainability of her program will require volunteers. She would love more volunteers to help her work with the students. In addition, to the garden, Parks and Rec were able to hold cooking lessons teaching students how to use the produce from the garden and to make healthy options. Surplus vegetables were sent home with the children to their families.
The success of Farrell’s community garden can be attributed to her collaboration with Thomasville City Schools. Teaching children, who then invite their parents to be involved seems to have a better rate of engagement than Rice’s community garden which was based purely on adult volunteers. Perhaps, we should pursue more student based programs and nurture a culture of gardening with this generation.
THINGS TO DO:
- Use Google Maps to list community gardens in Davidson
- Use Google Maps to list all commercial kitchens available
- Organize a public forum to allow more members of the community to have a say in the development of our food network
- Pursue discussion regarding food insecurity and better accountability methods for those who receive food from the pantries
- Pursue discussion on expanding children’s involved in community gardens
- Pursue discussion on canning and gleaning program
- Consider farm network to assess supply and connect with food pantries and school institution needs
- Formalize food network structure
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE MEETING?
After the meeting, we did the following:
- Set up a more complete Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/davidsonfoodnetwork — FOLLOW US – the FB page has a number of resources
- Set up this blog – use a blog as a mode of information distribution
- Set up a newsletter – keep members updated on the food system network’s progress
- Created a logo
- Modified the name from “council” to “network” to better represent the current state of the tentative organization
- Received an email from Mary Jane Akerman (Wellness Director at Thomasville City Schools) regarding a gleaning program and a canning training program in January or February. More information soon!