University of Virginia Class Conducts An Early Assessment of Assets and Needs of Charlottesville Regional Food System

May 2, 2006 — Is our community food system sustainable? Is it secure?Can we establish more opportunities for fresh, healthy, locally grown food?

These and other questions inspired a University of Virginia class to conduct an assessment of Charlottesville's regional food system.

The class will present its findings at City Hall on Monday, May 8, 5:30-7 p.m.The presentation is open to the public, and participants will have an opportunity to ask questions and will be asked to provide the students with their comments and feedback.

The class, consisting of both graduate and undergraduate students and titled "Planning for a Sustainable and Secure Community Food System," is taught by Timothy Beatley, Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities, Department of Urban and Environmental Planning, and Tanya Denckla Cobb, senior associate, Institute for Environmental Negotiation.

At the beginning of the semester, Beatley and Cobb convened a Regional Food Security Working Group to guide and assist the class in its assessment. It is envisioned that the working group may slowly evolve into a local Food Policy Council that would help shape local policies to assist farmers and citizens in establishing sustainable supplies of fresh, healthy, locally grown food.

In addition to the students, the working group included representatives from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, Virginia Cooperative Extension, U.Va. Dining Services, Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, Green Dining and four local farmers, all of whom will be at the presentation.

The U.Va. class assessment is the first step in a longer-term project that could take root in the community to foster better linkages between local farms and community schools, food stores, restaurants and residents. Beatley and Cobb envision a range of options that might be pursued by the community — including developing farm-to-school programs to address public health concerns with obesity and diabetes, creation of more farmers or tailgate markets throughout the region, direct marketing opportunities for farmers to local restaurants and shops and even the establishment of a farmers' cooperative to establish consistent, reliable markets for farm products. Issues of equitable access and culturally appropriate food also need to be addressed.

The group is seeking feedback from the community, and is also seeking to connect and partner with people and organizations that are passionate about establishing a sustainable community food system.

If you plan to attend the presentation, please R.S.V.P. BY FRIDAY MAY 5 to, if possible.