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Connecticut Food System Alliance Gathering, November 14th, 2014
Our most recent Connecticut Food System Alliance (CFSA) Gathering took place at Bethesda Lutheran Church in New Haven, a city that is home to several food organizations that are represented in the Alliance. Cityseed, Common Ground High School, and the Connecticut Food Bank are all part of the CFSA, and are based in New Haven. New Haven ranked second lowest among all towns in the state for community food security, in a study conducted by UConn Cooperative Extension in 2012. Demographics, access to public transportation, and proximity of food outlets are some of the main factors that contributed to a town’s ranking, and contribute to residents’ ability to access enough food for a healthy, active lifestyle. It is within this setting and context that we held our Gathering with the theme of Food Access and Justice.
Organizing the day around a central theme was one of several changes introduced at this Gathering, the sixth since the CFSA began in 2011. The changes developed from a steering committee retreat that took place in August, and included supporting the development of sub-networks, developing the roles and responsibilities of the steering committee, and beginning a Community Supper pilot. It was the first of three gatherings that will take place in 2014-2015 with themes related to the “triple bottom line” of people, the environment, and the economy.
The day began with a welcome speech and an introduction to these changes, given by Melissa Spear, executive director of Common Ground High School. Next, Navina Vemuri and Zoe Madden of Hartford Food System lead a discussion about Food Justice and Access. Participants watched a video of a TED talk given by LaDonna Redmond titled “Food + Justice = Democracy,” inspiring a rich conversation in small groups and as a larger group.
Over the past three months, sub-networks have been meeting to create communities of practice, and to build alignment to undertake state-wide projects to improve the food system. Leaders of the Mobile Markets, Youth Leadership, Incentive Programs, Food Waste and New Farmers (CT New Farmers Alliance) sub-networks shared updates on their progress.
After a delicious potluck lunch, all nine sub-networks held very productive meetings with participants at the gathering. It was exciting to hear action steps and plans for next meetings coming out of these conversations. The day ended with report-outs from the sub-networks, and announcements, followed by time for casual networking. Overall, it was a productive day filled with conversation featuring many different viewpoints. We hope to see you at the next CFSA gathering, which will take place February 17th, 2015.
Zoe Madden is the Connecticut Food System Alliance Network Coordinator.
Featured Image of Marantha Community Gardens courtesy of Grow Windham.