Community Food Security Discussion
Saturday, October 15, Junction City held its first FEAST, modeled on the Oregon Food Bank's plan of community engagement for "Food, Education, Agriculture, Solutions Together.” Organized by Live Well Geary County and facilitated by the Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy (ICDD), the half-day event was attended by 42 residents who agreed to develop community organizing around the theme of locally grown, healthy food for everyone. Participants included public and non-profit working groups such as a food policy council and a food pantry, as well as individuals describing themselves as food insecure who also distribute home-grown produce to others in need.
A panel of featured speakers included Barbara LaClair, Kansas Food Security Task Force; Deanna Munson, Munson’s Prime restaurant; Victor Wong, Geary County Food Pantry; Chuck Otte, K-State Extension; and Jim Schmidt, a local producer. Themes addressed covered the need for fresh, locally-produced food “from farm to fork” along with barriers to be overcome, such as lack of local food distribution systems, or transportation for economically-stressed consumers to sources of fresh food.
Maps of food retailers in Junction City/Geary County were displayed that participants could update from their knowledge of other food businesses and distribution points. Table-top discussions among the residents elaborated on what the assets and gaps of the area food system were, and what priority issues should make up the community work ahead. Three working groups were formed from these discussions, focused on education, marketing, and connecting local producers to consumers in need.
“The Junction City Food Policy Council was thrilled with the outcomes from the FEAST,” said Susan Bilderback, Chair-Elect Junction City Food Policy Council. “The attendance represented many different agencies, producers, sellers, farmers’ market vendors and consumers in our food system. The panelist were very informative and ICDD did a wonderful job of facilitating the discussion.”
A survey to determine the effectiveness of the event found that overall, participants thought the event was very helpful. Comments included that participants gained a “greater understanding of food system and issues in the community,” and would work on “taking (the) next steps to implementing topics discussed.”
“We feel that lines of communication were opened and networks established,” said Bilderback. “We are optimistic that the three work groups that came out of the FEAST will continue to make improvements to the Geary County Food System.”