When a community comes together to discuss how it can build a healthier, more sustainable food system, amazing things happen. Relationships with local growers flourish. Backyard gardens and new farmers markets sprout. And neighbors learn that, by working together, they can create a stronger local food system that takes advantage of the resources within their community.
For nearly two years, through our Food-Education-Agriculture-Solutions-Together (FEAST) program, Oregon Food Bank has worked to promote more equitable and resilient food systems. The program has engaged and educated Oregonians across the state with informed, facilitated discussions about the role food and agricultural resources play in their communities. OFB held its first FEAST event in Cannon Beach in September of 2009. Since then, nine additional communities across Oregon have held events with 50 to 60 community members participating in each session.
These events have planted the seeds for dozens of new ideas and programs that have improved each community’s food system. Recent FEAST programs helped expand relationships between donors and emergency food providers, connected rural school districts with local farmers, and created new and expanded farmers markets and community gardens to promote healthy, locally grown produce. FEAST has also rallied groups to action, including farmers and grocers in Grant County, who are meeting regularly to organize a long-term marketing relationship. Groups also created the North Coast Food Web, which supports the local food system in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington with a newsletter and radio show covering local food issues.
These encouraging results show that powerful things happen when community members come together to discuss participating in their local food system. OFB is planning for 10 FEAST events in the coming year, complete with new training materials for facilitators.
“Our FEAST event energized people in Clatsop County to take action on the important issues surrounding a food system,” said Marlin Martin, a food program developer at the CCA Regional Food Bank in Astoria. “Since the event, I have seen great leaders, and great ideas emerge to direct the food system coalition. FEAST revitalized not just conversation, but enacted a vision
filled with goals and action.”