Bridging the Food Insecurity Gap: A Conversation With Kelly Tyndall

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Kelly Tyndall serves as the Family & Consumer Sciences Agent in Lenoir County. In addition to overseeing the Parents as Teachers program, Kelly also promotes food safety, teaches food preservation, and supports health and wellness through nutrition, exercise, and mindfulness in her community. Seeing program participants of all ages getting excited about learning new culinary skills and creating dishes in the kitchen is one of Kelly’s favorite parts of the job! 

Kelly’s Local Food Landscape

“While Eastern Carolina is agriculture rich, historically much of its land was dedicated to tobacco production. However, many farmers are exploring other possibilities for their land,” (Fork to Farmer). Lenoir County is home to Chef Vivian Howard who has used her restaurant to help grow and promote the local food landscape. Farmers have transitioned from tobacco to produce and are growing their businesses in new ways. 

Lenoir County is part of the Fork to Farmer program which collaborates with tourism, local foods, and Extension partners to “leverage the high visibility of celebrated chefs to enhance the viability of small farms” through short films that celebrate the chef and farmer partnerships as well as build marketing coalitions that allow small farmers to sell farm experiences that can boost business through transparency. 

The downtown area boasts The Lenoir County Farmers Market, an active farmers market that is unique because of the variety of activities hosted throughout the year. In addition to this market, mini-markets can be found at local nurseries, local businesses, or along highways throughout the county. Most of the produce farmers also have markets on their farms as well, providing ample opportunity to shop local!

Kelly’s Primary Projects & Programs

Kelly has been an FCS Agent for just over five years, serving originally as a dual-county agent and then dealing with the challenges of the pandemic while moving into a single-county role. Because of these changes, her programs have looked different year to year but she has enjoyed finding what works best for her community and the needs of the county. 

A woman at a conference standing behind a display of apples and apple products.

In addition to Steps to Health programs such as Color Me Healthy, Take Control, and Kids Club she has also offered Med Instead of Meds, food safety training, and food preservation. Offering hands-on cooking as well as food demonstrations gives her a chance to share nutritional information and local food resources as part of her programming. Her summers are full of 4-H culinary camps, and other times of the year she provides programs to senior centers, the library, and agencies in the community. Working with the Coastal Plains Chicken Project and the BBQ Summit, where Kelly provides education on proper meat handling and food safety, have been two very exciting and unique experiences, as well as starting a Donation Station at the Lenoir County Farmers Market. It is programs like Fork to Farmer and Donation Stations that are helping to promote the importance of farming and local food while bridging the food insecurity gap in Lenoir County.

Donation Stations are a collaboration between the Local Food Program Team, Farmer Foodshare, and the Extension Master Food Volunteer (EMFV) Program. Donation Stations seek to improve access to fresh, locally-grown food while supporting the farmers who grow it. They are designed to combat food insecurity while raising awareness that a healthy local food system must include every member of the community. 

The Farmer Foodshare donation station with food goods displayed on it.

Kelly’s Final Thoughts

“I have a strong feeling that the local foods movement will continue to thrive in North Carolina. However, it will look very different from region to region, even adjacent counties can look very different.” She is excited to see the movement grow and change and to be a part of it through Extension programming. 

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

Kelly has so many recipes that she loves that incorporate local ingredients. Collards are one of her favorite things to purchase at the farmers market (right there with ya, Kelly!)! She shared, “I love it when I’m out there with the Donation Station or doing a food demo and can purchase vegetables or fruits that I don’t grow in my garden or may not be ready yet!”