September 2013 - "Educating on the Importance of Eating Healthy, Locally-Produced Food"

"Educating on the Importance of Eating Healthy, Locally-Produced Food" forum was held at Heberton Hall on September 25th, 2013 and was attended by nearly 100 citizens, representing the education and health fields as well as farming, business, and both local and state government.

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Invited speakers Kin Schilling (The Cornucopia Project); Christine Parshall (University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension); Maryanne Keating (Cheshire County Healthy Eating Active Living); and Jeannie Aldrich (1780 Farm) presented their experiences with food and nutrition education locally. Participants then worked in groups to brainstorm strategies that could be implemented in Monadnock communities to engage schools, towns, and community groups, as well as farms and families, in actively learning about where their food comes from and increasing support for local foods.

The result was an outline action plan that includes three areas: access (making available a public inventory of farms and locations to purchase local food), awareness (encouraging knowledge and support of local food systems), and education (especially of youth, on the benefits of locally produced food).

Some of the specific actions discussed includedinviting service providers for low-income citizens to visit local farms, tracking and distributing news about legislation in state government that affects food access, markets, environment and agriculture, and identifying where the food agenda overlaps with school core competencies and the interests of work sites.

Coalition members reported on their progress since the last quarterly forum, and provided updates on current initiatives.  MFCC has been working to ensure that all citizens know where to find food from local farms, while the Community Kitchen in Keene has been coordinating a gleaning effort to deliver surplus produce to those in need. Farm-to-school and community gardening programs, Double Up Veggie Bucks at the Keene Farmers’ Market, local Agricultural Commissions who are working with farmers to increase their market reach, and efforts to educate local and state government leaders about food and farm issues were among the highlights.

Coalition members also found ways to connect the work of their individual organizations with MFCC’s Strategic Plan. Goal 5 of the plan is to enhance synergy around education, awareness and access of healthy eating and the importance of locally produced food. The MFCC forum allowed members to share their successes and challenges with each other, and explore how each organization's work can be enhanced through collaboration. MFCC's member-driven vision is "a vibrant, safe and efficient local food system that enhances the health of our community, is profitable for farmers and producers, is accessible to all community members, conserves natural resources, and is sustained by strong leadership and commitment in the Monadnock Region."