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‘Communities of Opportunity’ to strengthen links between farmers, consumers

By RACHEL TEAMAN

Published March 5, 2015

“The selected local governments will blaze a path for more than 30,000 local governments in the United States that have traditionally overlooked the problems and opportunities in their communities’ food systems.”
Samina Raja, associate professor
Department of Urban and Regional Planning
  • Eight communities across the country will receive training and assistance to link family farmers and local residents who lack access to healthy food, thanks to a project spearheaded by UB and partners.

Growing Food Connections (GFC) will help local governments, planners, family farmers and consumers work together to strengthen their food systems.

American Farmland Trust (AFT) will lead outreach efforts in partnership with UB’s Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab (GFC project lead), Ohio State University and Cultivating Healthy Places. The American Planning Association and the Growing Food Connections National Advisory Committee also advise the project.

“Growing Food Connections is a landmark, collaborative effort bringing national expertise in food policy and planning to assist citizens and their communities. American Farmland Trust and our partners will help create and strengthen local policies to better serve residents,” says AFT President Andrew McElwaine. “We are proud to lead outreach, technical assistance and education in our eight Communities of Opportunity.”

The eight Communities of Opportunity (COOs) are:

  • Chautauqua County, New York (Jamestown).
  • Cumberland County, Maine (Portland).
  • Dougherty County, Georgia (Albany).
  • Doña Ana County, New Mexico (Las Cruces).
  • Douglas County, Nebraska (Omaha).
  • Luna County, New Mexico (Deming).
  • Polk County, North Carolina (Columbus).
  • Wyandotte County, Kansas (Kansas City).

“We have found that local leaders want tools and resources, not handouts,” says Julia Freedgood, AFT assistant vice president for programs. “And, that’s what GFC will do — help local governments develop a vision and a game plan to benefit farmers and ranchers and community residents who are underserved by our current food system.”

Over a three-year period, GFC will help local governments create their own plans, policies and partnerships, and make public investments to support family farmers and enhance food security. The COOs also will serve as models for other communities nationwide that face similar challenges.

Samina Raja, GFC principal investigator and UB associate professor of urban and regional planning, notes the COOs were selected through a competitive nationwide search and application process. “The selected local governments will blaze a path for more than 30,000 local governments in the United States that have traditionally overlooked the problems and opportunities in their communities’ food systems,” Raja says.

GFC is a five-year, $3.96 million research initiative funded by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.