Bringing Local Food Passion to Her Community: A Conversation With Morgan King

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A young woman in a semiformal shirt stands in front of a flowerbed.After serving 5 years as the Brunswick County 4-H Agent, Morgan King found her interest and passion shift to local food and food security thanks to the Overview of Local Food Systems graduate course, taught by Dr. Dara Bloom and Hannah Dankbar. In January of 2022, Morgan began serving as the FCS Agent in New Hanover County, focusing on local foods and food access, while still keeping strong to her 4-H roots through farm to school efforts. 

Morgan’s work in New Hanover County allows her to collaborate with local organizations to increase food access and be better prepared for supporting the local food system during disasters (hurricanes and COVID being the two main current focuses). In addition to serving on the Disaster Coalition and the Northside Health and Well-Being Nutrition Sub-Committee, Morgan is currently working with other partners such as the Food Bank of CENC, UNCW, Feast Down East, and Cape Fear Collective to clarify the goals and mission of the local food council after turnover/covid slowed down the work of the council. Morgan’s work with Cape Fear Collective extends into training organizations to provide nutrition education as part of the Healthy Opportunities Pilot. All of this work is geared towards strengthening the components of the food system to create more food security for her community. 

Morgan’s Local Food Landscape

If you do any research into the local food scene of New Hanover County, two things are evident: first, there is a very obvious wealth and income split among county residents, and second, local food is not just a priority to many residents, it’s a bridge to many other challenges and opportunities for bettering the community as a whole. While there has been an increase in farmers markets and stores and restaurants that sell and use local food, several areas in the county still have low access and transportation challenges to getting fresh, affordable food.

Morgan’s Primary Projects & Programs

When Morgan stepped into the role as FCS Agent she inherited a group of Extension Master Food Volunteers (EMFV). She continues to grow the EMFV program and engage the volunteers by having them assist with a Donation Station at The Wilmington Farmers Market at Tidal Creek. In just seven market days so far this season, Morgan and her Donation Station team has donated over 360 pounds of food to local residents in need. 

The Farm to School initiative is something that Morgan started while in Brunswick County and plans to bring over into New Hanover County as well. In Brunswick Co, Morgan supervised FoodCorps service members, allowing her the chance to see the importance of kids working in a garden and learning about growing their own food. In her new role, Morgan has recently started partnering with Smart Start and local early childcare centers to teach Color Me Healthy and get kids in the garden. She also plans to join the team working on the Garbage to Gardens project at a local elementary school. Partnering with NHC Soil and Water and other Extension agents such as Matt Collogan, NHC Consumer Horticulture Agent, Garbage to Gardens is a waste diversion program where kids compost their school leftovers and the compost comes back to the school garden. Morgan’s goal is to complete the circle to show kids how we prepare the food from the garden and why it is good for us. 

A young boy kneels beside a bucket labeled worm food and a table with scraps on it.

Morgan attributes her interest in collaborating on local food projects to the Overview of Local Food Systems Graduate Course. With her interest in farm to school and local food growing on a personal and professional level, Morgan decided to take the course where she learned more about the complexities of the food system components and how it dictates/affects food security. The course showed her how food is connected to everything and how Extension could cross-program and collaborate on bigger projects, and this pushed her towards the FCS field so food could be the primary focus of her programming rather than just a part of her role. 

Morgan’s Final Thoughts

Morgan is hopeful that the future of local foods in NC will look more collaborative in nature. Morgan suggested that to define local foods in our region we should look at it from a state level to better utilize statewide resources making local food more accessible on a local level. She said that she wants to better understand Extension’s role and think more towards the future – being proactive in how to best support the people and pieces of the food system. 

Morgan’s Favorite Place to Buy Local and Favorite Recipes Using Local Food

The Wilmington Farmers Market at Tidal Creek will always be near and dear to Morgan’s heart. She also gets a CSA from Red Beard Farms (the owner’s name is also Morgan and also graduated from NCSU so the loyalty is strong). While she has many favorite recipes using local foods, she really just loves getting to experiment with new foods because of what’s in season or in her CSA. For example, she had never tried kohlrabi but now she loves it roasted! Last week, beets were abundant in her CSA so she made beet and black bean burgers. Get creative and eat seasonally!