Plan addresses fresh food access

Published 6:00 pm Monday, December 16, 2013

An action plan for increasing availability and access to fresh food in Beaufort County includes five priorities.

Those priorities, identified through surveys in Beaufort County communities, include the following:

• Connect crops and communities by increasing opportunities for the sale of local food products.

• Tilling together by supporting community gardens and school gardens by getting young people involved.

• Community cooking classes that expand existing food-education classes and create new educational opportunities related to cooking and food.

• Fill the GAPs by providing financial and other support for good-agricultural-practices certification for growers.

• Maintain (and build) the momentum by continuing to facilitate food connections throughout the county.

“Each of these five priority goals represents a missing element from the current food system in Beaufort County — a critical gap, which, if filled, will directly contribute to improvement in residents’ access to healthy, fresh, local foods,” reads a section of the plan.

The action plan is a result of food-assessment project by the Mid-East Commission and the Carolina Farm Stewardship. The plan recommends possible solutions to increase local, fresh and healthful food options in the county.

The assessment is being funded by a grant from the Kate B Reynolds Charitable Trust as part of Healthy Places NC, a new place-based initiative that has started in Beaufort, Halifax and McDowell counties. The initiative is aimed at improving the health and overall quality of life for people in rural areas in North Carolina. The trust is funding several projects in the county aimed to increase opportunities for healthy eating and active living.

The Beaufort County Department of Social Services, Beaufort County Health Department, Eagle’s Wings and other community partners surveyed clients on healthful-food access during August as part of the assessment. Other surveys took place in October and November.

Jared Cates with the N.C. Farm Steward Association talked about the strategies to implement the action plan and when implementation begins.

“That kind of remains to be seen. Each of these strategies relies on organizations taking the reins and wanting to do the work. It also relies on funding being available,” Cates said. “We’ve spoken to the Mid-East Commission and Kate B. Reynolds. We did this in cooperation with them. Kate B. Reynolds funded the assessment. Both of those organizations — Kate B. Reynolds has a bunch of projects funded in Beaufort County right now — are committed to continuing that work. I think it kind of remains to be seen as to who takes the reins and runs with it. I think within the next six months you probably will see the possibility of some grants be made to do this kind of work. Some community organizations like the Washington Harbor District Alliance have already put their hands up and said they would help. They’re actively looking right now to figure out a way to shore up Saturday Market and figure out a possibility of getting some funding so they can fund a market manager and get some EBT and WIC access at the Washington Saturday Market.”

WIC is the acronym for the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, which provides EBT (electronic benefits transfer) cards to clients so they can obtain food.

Cates said the involvement of community organizations is key to the program succeeding.

“There’s a group that’s been meeting — citizens, representatives from public health, people from all sorts of organizations. They’re going to be looking at this assessment and trying to figure out ways to implement some of the stuff,” Cates said.

Cates said his organization plans to meet with the local group to talk about possibly establishing a Beaufort County food policy network.

“I think that’s the next step, establishing a forum to keep talking about these issues and pushing the forward,” Cates said.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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