Building Community Food Security

This community’s success story will inspire you to help create a healthy, secure and sustainable local food system in your area.

| April/May 2011

My husband and I have been developing our central-Ohio homestead for the past 10 years, and it now produces most of the food we eat. Our Dutch Belted cows and Dorking chickens give us meat, milk products and eggs. The animals also contribute to the compost that creates our excellent garden soil, which grows our nutritious vegetables and fruits that, in winter, fill our root cellar and line the shelves of our basement pantry. Bees from our own hive sweeten our food and pollinate our crops.

We’re thankful that we have healthy food and that our farm can sustain itself largely without outside inputs. That said, we realize the majority of people in our community buy their food from grocery stores. The availability of such food is totally dependent on oil. It’s farmed with large tractors and petroleum-based chemicals, and it’s transported, processed, packaged and refrigerated using fossil fuels. As petroleum reserves dwindle and oil continues to become more expensive, food prices will go up, causing some people to go hungry.

If my family were hungry, I wouldn’t think twice about climbing over a neighbor’s fence to steal a chicken or two. If our neighbors were hungry, I would expect them to do the same. Given this, none of us can feel secure about our own food supply until the food supplies of our neighbors and communities are also secure. If we use what we learn while producing our own food to help our community members produce food of their own, we can take great strides toward reaching community food security.

Creating a Healthy, Sustainable Community

Those of us who grow food have valuable skills to teach. However, introducing new ideas in a community takes more than just having knowledge and a willingness to share it. Many good ideas never take hold, and that’s why I was excited to find a model that works.

Local Matters, a nonprofit food advocacy group in Columbus, Ohio, seems to have it figured out. The group’s origin traces back to 2002, when a collaboration among several local organizations created community gardens and a nutrition education program with a food security grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They started some of the gardens at Head Start schools (Head Start is a nonprofit organization that provides comprehensive education, health, nutrition and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families). It was at this time that I met some of the Local Matters members, and they offered me and my husband the opportunity to invite the Head Start children to our farm to show them the animals, garden and orchard. The visits helped give the children a sense of where their food comes from, and familiarized them with whole, healthy foods many hadn’t seen before: A fresh apple, green beans, a potato and corn on the cob were foreign to some of them.

Now, several years later, Local Matters has matured to address all aspects of the Columbus food system. It considers the community’s talents, assets, dreams and needs, and helps to implement the best local food system projects.

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