Summit County is taking a lesson from Columbus to help residents get affordable, healthful food.
Some of the people who worked to develop a blueprint to bring better food and nutrition to Columbus and Franklin County on Wednesday spoke to members of the Summit Food Coalition, a group that has been working on local food issues, including nutrition and availability, since 2009.
Beth Knorr, executive director of the Summit Food Coalition, said a blueprint for this area would set goals and plans to reach them.
Knorr became the Summit coalition’s first — and only — staff member in 2016. The coalition’s efforts include giving mini grants for community gardens, supporting groups seeking to increase access to local, healthful food through farmers markets and other means, helping food entrepreneurs find kitchen space and organizing education forums focusing on food.
The Summit coalition is made up of area individuals and organizations.
The Columbus and Franklin County Food Action Plan arose out of a realization that the area was lacking an overall strategy on how to address food issues, said Brian Estabrook, whose Franklin County job — food systems planner — grew out of the plan's creation.
The plan, Estabrook said, seeks to address natural tensions.
"Healthy, local and affordable [food] are not very often the same,” he said to the gathering Wednesday at the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.
Estabrook is one of three public employees — the other two are part of the city of Columbus health department — who make up the “Local Food Team” in Franklin.
They work to implement recommended actions outlined in Columbus and Franklin County's plan.
The plan's 27 actions are designed to help achieve four broad goals. They involve strengthening coordination among existing food agencies, improving access to and education about healthful and local food and increasing the role of food in economic development.
The three-person Local Food Team, Estabrook said, “is really a coordinating hub,” as it brings in members of other groups to implement actions.
For example, Estabrook said, the team helped the Ohio Farmers Market Network get federal funding to offer training for market managers, as well as create marketing to attract more patrons to farmers markets and get data on how central Ohio markets are doing.
Local Matters, a nonprofit in Columbus, is taking on the recommended action of expanding nutrition and food system education in prekindergarten through high school classrooms.
It is critical to get local government support, said Estabrook: “Local food action plans [in other areas] that did not have local government support were not really effective."
A Columbus City Council member and a Franklin County commissioner were champions of the blueprint.
Knorr said among the next steps in Akron and Summit is to obtain funding to develop an action plan. In Columbus, Estabrook said, a paid facilitator helped shepherd the process.
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