I spent the morning and afternoon at the University of Dayton River Campus Friday, November 8th, 2013 as the Montgomery County Food Policy Coalition hosted a local food summit. Montgomery County Commissioner Judy Dodge was the chairperson for the gathering entitled The Positive Impact of Local Food in Our Community. Speakers included people from academia, local and federal government, business owners and local organizations offering best-practice and personal experiences regarding local food, from production to public access, to education and awareness. Jim Gross, Dayton and Montgomery County Public Health Commissioner, opened with a focus on food and its connection to health. Jim mentioned Public Health’s holiday competition of Not a Single Pound where groups or businesses challenge their members or employees respectively to be conscious of how much they eat.
The importance of local food was the topic of Brian Raison, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County. Brian held a mango in front of the audience and asked if anyone knew the significance of the fruit. Since no one could guess, he said it was his favorite food and that was a problem. Why? Because mangoes do not grow in Ohio. His favorite food has baggage. It’s production does not contribute to the local economy and it has a sizeable carbon footprint. Locally produced foods improve the economy, taste better and have better nutrition over food grown in a far away state or country. Brian suggested people could join a food co-op or buy a share in community supported agriculture or CSA to keep their food dollars local. CSA’s are an alternative farming system where farmers sell directly to customers.
Tony Logan, state director for rural development, U. S. Department of Agriculture, spoke about regional food hubs. First, a definition of food hub from the USDA’s blog, “Regional food hub - businesses or organizations that connect farmers and buyers by offering a suite of production, distribution, and marketing services - can play a critical role in developing stronger supply chains for local food.” Tony talked about the USDA’s rural business programs and how they can help drive local food production through loans, grants and renewable energy programs.
Next, was Bethany Ramsey of Five Rivers MetroParks. Bethany is the market event coordinator for the 2nd Street Market. Bethany’s talk was about public marketplaces and she defined them as markets in public spaces where independent merchants can sell their products to the public. A place such as the 2nd Street Market is important for a city or region in that it ties urban and rural economies together. It helps foster social engagement by creating an environment where people are eager to return.
Tonia Fish, co-founder of Synergy Incubators, continued the theme of local merchants with her talk about the nonprofit community-shared kitchen facility. Synergy Incubators will be a resource for the home-based culinary entrepreneur who has out-grown the family oven to train and produce with the help of professional-grade equipment. The shared community kitchen will act as a central hub for food truck owners as it will provide space for food storage. The shared space will help reduce costs for budding business owners as well as facilitate education.
- UPDATE Synergy Incubators were notified just before Thanksgiving that they would no longer be welcome in their location in downtown Dayton. They are looking to continue their work and seek a new venue within the Miami Valley.
Encouraging schools and universities to source food served in cafeterias from local farms was Suzanne Mills-Wasniak, Extension Educator with the Ohio State University Extension, Montgomery County. Suzanne’s talk centered around the National Farm to School Network and its mission to create local and regional food systems, to increase access to local food and provide nutrition education for school children and their families while supporting local and regional farmers.
Kelly Smith, a second-grade teacher from Cleveland Pre Kindergarten through 6th in Dayton, gave a passionate speech about how she established a garden at the school and the challenges she faced. Her motivation behind the garden was to help students understand where food comes from. She told a story about a neighborhood boy who was curious about a plant and was surprised to learn it was a radish because he only saw radishes in plastic bags at the grocery store.
Joshua Jennings, the founding Director of Global Impact STEM Academy at Clark State Community College’s Leffel Lane campus, informed the audience about the early-college high-school and its push to develop professionals in: food science, bio-science, environment, and energy. Past coursework asked the students to figure out how to feed a future global population of nine billion people given the demand for resources of food, fuel and fiber.
Valley View High School intervention specialist Kevin Phillips operates the school’s garden and greenhouse. The community garden program titled Volunteerism and Service, Learning through Gardening, was started in 2007 by Valley View Local School District exceptional needs specialist Michelle Hodson. Since January 2010, the garden in Germantown, Ohio has distributed over 3500 pounds food to local families and sold over 100 pounds of produce to the high school cafeteria. Many academic departments have created curriculum related to the garden to help students learn.
Wilmington College’s Tony Staubach is the project manager for the college’s Grow Food Grow Hope, or GFGH, program. Tony is a co-founder of the program that seeks to educate young people about the benefits of local food through community and backyard gardening. GFGH’s youth education program has established a curriculum for educators to use in and out of the classroom.
Downtown Dayton’s famous landmark, the Wympee Diner, has become a beacon of sustainability thanks to the dedication of Kim Collett, owner of Olive, an urban dive. Kim spoke about the effort she, along with family and friends, put into turning around the old diner from a run-down shell of a building into a restaurant founded on the principles of locally-sourced products and sustainable practices. She is proud of the fact that the kitchen does not own a can opener because everything is made from scratch. Kim stressed the importance of supporting local businesses and implored people to always stop at every lemonade stand they see.
The final speaker was Sherry Chen with B-W Greenway Community Land Trust. Sherry is on the food and farming team with the land trust and talked about ways people can return to a more natural approach to food production and farming practice. The land trust food and farming team is responsible for publishing a local foods directory. Sherry highlighted problems she identified within the current industrial food production system and the impact they have on public health and the environment. Developing a personal food network is one approach people can take to gain access to high-quality and nutritious food. A food network requires relationships with people certainly but also with living systems like soil and ecology.
The 2013 Montgomery County food summit sponsors were; Dayton Regional Green 3, CareSource, Dorothy Lane Market and Molina Healthcare
A list of event exhibitors:
Five Rivers MetroParks
Molina Healthcare of Ohio
Ohio State University Extension