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Food Access Summit 2014

“This event brings together leaders from agriculture, community development, education, health, hunger relief, human services and philanthropy sectors to improve access to healthy food for Minnesotans with limited financial resources.”

Screen shot 2015-01-16 at 12.53.49 PMWhat an influential group of people gathered in Duluth for the Food Access Summit last week. Tuesday, October 28 was the beginning reception and introduction to the Food Access Summit. Seitu Jones, the creator of Create: The Community Meal, started off the great conversation of food and food access. He presented his passion for connecting art and food and his inspiration behind Create: The Community Meal. At the heart of his inspiration, directly correlating to the theme of the summit, “providing all Minnesotans, especially those with limited financial resources, with access to healthy, affordable and safe food”.

In his community of Frogtown in St. Paul, he observed people walking by with grocery bags full of processed and sugary filled food from the local convenience store.  Three words within the word CREATE, used for the title of the Community Meal, were also inspired for the meal – (Art, Act, Eat). Art- the place mats that were made out of burdock, Act – the choreographed movements while the food was being served, and of course… Eat – the community meal, food from local farmers within 40 miles of St. Paul. Seitu Jones stated that we need to match together love, passion, and power to create a beloved community. The legacy that Seitu hopes the Community Meal will leave is moving kitchens (mobile by bike) – the kitchens that were designed and created for the meal, and more community dinners and meals.

“Food is a science. There are the economics, ecology, agronomy, etc. Teaching children that food is a science and system is important to our future generations.”

A wonderful speaker to start the conversations focused in environmental sustainability, food production, and food justice.

Wednesday, October 29th – A day full of speakers, panels, breakout workshops, and networking opportunities. A large highlight of the summit was the launch of the Minnesota Food Charter. “The Minnesota Food Charter offers a shared roadmap for how all Minnesotans can have reliable access to healthy, affordable, safe food in the places they work, learn, live, and play.”  The Minnesota Food Charter will help guide policy changes and improve access to healthy food. There are five core strategies that the Food Charter looks at: Food Skills, Food Affordability, Food Availability, Food Accessibility, and Food Infrastructure.

Food infrastructure includes: how, where, and what food and by whom, how food is processed, packaged, and distributed, how food is marketed to and obtained by consumers, and how we dispose of food waste. Main Street Project has been working to develop a system of sustainable agriculture that produces healthy food, eliminates the economic inequities in our current food system, and produces ecological benefits with the potential to diminish the worst effects of climate change, that can relate to a change in food infrastructure.

The Minnesota Food Charter Promo Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iay2qLznwbM

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McDonalds in the U.S.

Following lunch, we went to out breakout workshops for most of the remainder of the day. I participated in the “Getting Started with Healthy Food Access Policies (Part 1)”, which was lead by Heather Wooten, Vice President of Programs for ChangeLab Solutions. In the picture to the right, she opened up the conversation with a question of what we thought the picture was showing. Cities? Farmers Markets? No. McDonalds. “There is 1 McDonalds per 13,000 Americans.”

Following the shocking statistic, Heather Wooten presented a model of the framework of food access. There are four ideas that constitute the framework for the access to healthy food including physical, economic, cultural, and knowledge. Questions regarding each of the framework components could be asked: Physical – Can I get to the store? Economic – Can I afford it? Cultural- Is it what I want to buy? and Knowledge – Do I know how to prepare it? There was discussion of examples of policy tools that are already put into place regarding these four components.  Heather Wooten also described the components in simple terms: find, afford, choose, and use. We need to continue to understand these healthy food access policies that can be implemented into our lives and Minnesota Food Charter goals.

The second part of the afternoon, I went to the “Healthy Food Access Policies (Part 2)”, to apply what I had learned in the previous session. Heather Wooten described how policy can target food access. There are different ways and categories – zoning laws, local policies, transportation policies, WIC and SNAP accepted, Bike Racks in front of stores, Active Transportation Policies, licensing, etc.

She encouraged our organizations to make a plan, knowing the food access barriers in your community. No access? Some access? Enough access? Build it. Fix it. Love it. Humans adapt the the environment around us, we need to make the environment a healthy place. We need to make a change and fit it into the environment. Other discussions throughout both of the policy presentations included – reviewing the research linking community environments and diet-related health outcomes, and exploring case studies of communities who have used policy to increase access to fresh, healthy food.

IMG_20141030_091733Thursday, October 30th. Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, Main Street Project, and Julie Ristau, On The Commons, were a part of a panel discussion about keeping local food producers in the local food system pipeline. A description of the breakout workshop : “Improving access to healthy, locally produced foods is often considered from a consumer perspective but ensuring consumer access hinges upon addressing the challenges surrounding local food producers. As the bumper sticker aptly observes: “No Farms, No Food.” Relevant to anyone who relies upon local producers to meet business or mission goals, this session will elaborate some of the challenges related to maintaining a thriving local producer community and propose an approach for addressing those challenges drawing on historical and contemporary examples.”

“Groundbreaking new study finds that 4 out of 4 people in the US eat.” states Dave Frederickson, Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner. Access is key. #mnfoodaccess