Healthy Living

EATING HEALTHY BEGINS WITH ACCESS TO HEALTHY, LOCAL FOOD

North Carolina’s current food environment, particularly in the most vulnerable communities, is marked by an abundance of foods and beverages that are of poor nutrient quality: high in fat, sugar, and calories. This creates a direct impact on obesity and diet-related disease. To reduce the rates of obesity and diet-related disease in North Carolina, we strive to create easy access to healthy, local food for all North Carolinians. Fruits and vegetables are a central part of a healthy diet. A healthy diet not only decreases risk for numerous diseases, but it can also help to reduce the burden of diseases once they have been diagnosed. The CDC’s 2013 State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables reported that four out of 10 North Carolina high school students (44.5 percent) and adults (40.8 percent) eat fruit less than one time per day, as compared to the national rates of 36 percent and 37.7 percent. About four out of 10 NC high school students (39.6 percent) and two out of 10 NC adults (21.9 percent) eat vegetables less than one time per day.

Strategy: Healthy Food Systems

Our strategy is to work across systems in order to improve health, recognizing that the food system is dynamic and interconnected. In order for more North Carolinians to have access to healthy, local food, we have to focus on the systems that grow, distribute, market and process food while at the same time support efforts to increase consumer demand for that healthy, local food. Our strategy focuses on infrastructure (from a local level to statewide) including food production and aggregation, creating demand through institutions, a ready workforce and youth advocating for the right to good food. As a result of this strategy, we hope to see a sustainable food system that encourages local production and distribution and makes nutritious food available, accessible, and affordable to all.

Grantee Spotlights

Center for Environmental Farming Systems

In 2010, the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), a partnership between NC State University, NC A&T University and the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, released our state’s first plan to build a local food economy entitled “From Farm to Fork”. This plan was based on intensive research and significant stakeholder input and established a roadmap of efforts for individuals and organizations working to improve the food system in North Carolina. Since that time, new voices have joined in food systems work from new sectors including health, economic development, environment, and policy arenas. To continue to move the statewide strategy forward, the Foundation invested in CEFS to track the results from the first Farm to Fork action plan and to reset the field to continue to look towards the future for a more sustainable local food system in our state. This effort also resulted in the support and networking of local food councils across North Carolina, as a way to both localize and align the efforts taking place. This dynamic process will culminate in a new statewide action plan with stronger local capacity on the ground to both lead and implement the recommendations of the plan.

FoodCorps

In order to build a local food infrastructure, the Foundation invested in FoodCorps as a boots-on-the-ground strategy to use schools and school gardens as a cornerstone for a healthy local food system. FoodCorps is a national nonprofit organization, hosted in North Carolina by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems and 4-H. FoodCorps places service members in school gardens working on nutrition education, garden engagement and farm-to-cafeteria access. Since 2011, FoodCorps service members located in Gaston, Moore, Warren, New Hanover, and Wayne counties have reached nearly 22,000 children, conducted more than 7,000 educational activities, built or revitalized 82 school and community gardens, and donated more than 2,100 pounds of produce.

North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: Farm to School

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) Farm to School program has been supplying fresh North Carolina produce to North Carolina schools since 1997; however, the infrastructure was not growing with the increasing demand for this service. In 2011, the Foundation partnered with NCDA&CS to expand the capacity of the Farm to School program to reach more schools by increasing the fleet of tractor trailers that deliver the produce from 10 to 15 trailers, and to expand the marketing of the Farm to School program to facilitate the connection between what is being served in the cafeteria and what children are learning in the classroom.

Youth Empowered Solutions (YES!)

Youth Empowered Solution’s (YES!) Real Food, Active Living (RFAL) team is working to engage and empower young people in community change efforts to increase access to healthy food and active living, and to decrease childhood obesity. The team provides training and technical assistance to youth, adults and organizations on how to empower youth in sustainable community change efforts. The students are changing the environments where they are most greatly impacted by the food choices that are available to them and are creating a healthier school food environment for all students.