Guest Post: Beth Knorr on Creating a Vibrant Local Food System

How does a child achieve educational goals if their family doesn’t have consistent access to nutritious foods?

How do we help all of our neighbors live a healthy life, even if they are unable to cook?

How does a vibrant civic life emerge in our neighborhoods if we must leave them to meet our basic need for nourishing food?

Food touches countless facets of our lives: our civic life, our individual health, the health of our environment, the essence of our communities, and the vibrancy of our economies. I’m encouraged to hear these types of questions emerge from our local institutions and to see organizations coalescing to address these issues collaboratively.

Systemic change requires systemic solutions.

When I first began my work in the local food system in the late 1990s, the questions of today seemed to only be heard in small circles of local food advocates.

In 1998, I took a job at Crown Point Ecology Center teaching kids from Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center about farming, how food production impacts the environment, and why buying from local farms is important. At the time, Crown Point was a pioneer—one of only three community supported agriculture (CSA) farms in Ohio.

Fast forward twenty years and now you see that CSAs are far more common, farmers’ markets have experienced a major boom, and the banners that those pioneering local food advocates were waving have influenced conversations we’re having today—not only about food, but also about economic development, place-making, equity, and beyond.

Food councils and coalitions have helped foster these conversations and have helped drive collaborative efforts within the food sector to affect real, systemic change.

You can have a seat the table too, by taking action and lending your voice. Download our recently released Local Food Guide to discover and support local farms and food businesses. Make lasting impact by becoming a member of the Summit Food Coalition or join us at our Stakeholder Gathering on August 22 to learn more and to help us identify priorities for future work in Summit County. The event is free, but registration is required: bit.ly/summitfoodevent.

— Beth Knorr, Director, Summit Food Coalition