Creating New Pathways to Bring Local Foods From Farmers to Older Adults Across North Carolina

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Farm to Senior Service County and Partner Map

North Carolina State University (NC State) announced today that the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) has awarded it a three-year, $496,642 grant to create farm-to-senior services pilots and develop local food procurement policy in North Carolina. The project is led by Robyn Stout, Program Lead of the NC 10% Campaign, a collaboration of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) and North Carolina Cooperative Extension, based at NC State.

According to Stout, “Institutional market opportunities for local farmers create profitable market potential, improve healthy food options for consumers, and support greater community resilience. However, institutional local food procurement is often limited by contracts, seasonality, and supply chain logistics.”  Stout adds that “smaller county-based institutions, such as senior food services, can be more accessible and require year-round volumes that match well with small and mid-scale farms. In addition, senior food services are often connected to local government offices motivated to support the viability of local farmers and food businesses.”

The Farm to Senior Services project will create and connect three county-based teams including Extension agents, food councils, farmers, intermediary food businesses (e.g. food hubs or aggregators), and senior meal service institutional buyers. The project team aims to improve institutional procurement policy, address procurement challenges of county-based institutions, provide resources and technical assistance for farmers, and support increased availability of local foods for older adults in North Carolina.

McDowell, Scotland, and Warren counties were selected as pilots for this project based on their geographic variation, existence of established food councils, and USDA designation as low income/low access areas. These models will be shared across North Carolina and nationally. Community collaborators include McDowell County Cooperative Extension, McDowell County Senior Center, McDowell County Local Food Advisory Council, and Foothills Food Hub; Scotland County Cooperative Extension, Lumber River Council of Government’s Area Agency on Aging, ScotLand Grows, and Sandhills AgInnovation Center; Warren County Cooperative Extension, Warren County Senior Center, Warren County Local Foods Promotion Council, and Working Landscapes. Additional partners include Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments, Isothermal Planning and Development Commission, and Good Food Purchasing Program.

Other project team members at NC State include Dara Bloom, CEFS Assistant Director of Community-based Food Systems; Becky Bowen, CultivateNC Program Manager; Krystal Chojnacki, IR-4 Project National Business Manager/Chief of Staff;  Nancy Creamer, Former CEFS Co-Director; Angel Cruz, CEFS Academic and Extension Initiatives Manager; Hannah Dankbar, Extension Local Food Program Manager; Gini Knight, Community Food Strategies Program Coordinator; Abbey Piner, Community Food Strategies Program Director.

Stout concludes with, “We are excited that this project will connect our existing farm-to-institution experience with senior food services in order to increase fresh and healthy local food to some of North Carolina’s older adult populations. This grant has already opened up new partnerships with statewide organizations like Meals on Wheels.”

Find project updates: Farm to Senior Services

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems is a partnership of North Carolina State University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. CEFS develops and promotes just and equitable food and farming systems that conserve natural resources, strengthen communities, improve health outcomes, and provide economic opportunities in North Carolina and beyond. For more information please visit CEFS.