Louisiana is a state with rich agriculture and leadership that supports improving our food systems. Our goal for the summit is to establish a knowledge base for communities to use to develop local food policy councils. Involvement in the food system allows a community to work collectively to improve the quantity and quality of local food in schools and markets. We can increase access to healthful food options, decrease food waste and support local farm economies. Thank you for participating in an endeavor to improve food systems in Louisiana.
Farm-to-school programs (farm food to the cafeteria table) support local and regional farm families. Louisiana is working to identify the barriers to using local foods in schools and the capacity of farmers and fishermen to supply schools with agricultural and fishery products. Healthful options in school cafeterias can instill lifelong, healthful-eating habits. As children learn by doing, introducing them to the process of growing food, meet-the-farmer days and other educational programs inspire interest in fresh fruits and vegetables.
Urban agriculture plays an important role in robust local and regional food systems. Community gardens to full-scale commercial farms integrate food production into the urban environment in cities and towns. The benefits of urban agriculture include shortened supply chains, increased awareness of food production infrastructure, increased urban access to fresh produce, sustainable green-waste disposal and creative strategies for combating urban blight. Cities actively promote food production by amending zoning ordinances and city plans to allow a full range of agricultural activities within city limits. This session discusses the urban planning process and how city governments, citizen groups and agricultural advocates can guide communities to become food-producing environments.
The Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010 is a strategic statewide coalition framework with real potential to make Louisiana hunger free. A capacity-building project, the Hunger Free initiative establishes multi-disciplinary and cross-sector collaborations to improve outreach, community organizing, advocacy and coordination in communities to more effectively serve children at risk of hunger. Food banks partner to establish grassroots efforts to increase participation in public and private resources in the regions. A Hunger-free Louisiana effort looks for ways to work together to address gaps in service, reduce duplication and conduct creative outreach efforts with programs across boundaries of state agency that work with families on the local level.
Farmers markets are an essential component of local and regional food systems. Markets are a space for farmers to sell directly to consumers, shortening the food supply chain and enabling farmers to realize a greater share of the value of their product. Consumers also learn about food sources and gather in public spaces, fostering community building and rural-urban connections. Farmers markets play an important role in widespread food access. They provide farm-fresh produce in urban areas that wouldn’t otherwise have access to it. By accepting SNAP (food stamps), WIC benefits, and senior benefits, they put healthful, local produce within reach of individuals and families at all income levels.
Food Policy Councils (FPCs) bring together stakeholders from food-related sectors to examine the food system and develop recommendations to improve it. FPCs can be started by government or a grassroots effort. They are successful at educating officials and the public, encouraging public policy and laws to decrease barriers to food access for schools and the hungry, and allowing local foods broader and easier distribution without financial barriers. Examples include bringing full-service grocery stores to underserved areas, encouraging government to purchase from local farmers and organizing community gardens and farmers markets. Join us for a discussion on starting a food policy council.
For those who grow, process, sell and eat food, market sectors must be linked for the food system to be efficient, effective and profitable. Agricultural markets help farmers and food entrepreneurs identify potential markets, consumers find fresh local food and farmers, and food enterprises connect with others in the food supply chain. MarketMaker is a free searchable database of markets and growers that maps potential markets by demographics and provides census profiles of markets, maps, and profiles of farmers and food businesses.
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