Working Report for the Central Appalachian Foodshed Conference


I. The Appalachian Foodshed Project

The Appalachian Foodshed Project (AFP) is a regional partnership of organizations and institutions focused on building greater community food security in Central Appalachia. The project is funded by a 2011 USDA's Agriculture, Food and Research Initiative (AFRI) grants program. (Award Number: 2011-68004-30079) Project funding is directed through three Land Grant Universities--Virginia Tech, West Virginia University, and North Carolina State University. Current funding will end in February of 2016.

The AFP has been committed to both community development and community-based research on issues related to food security in central Appalachia. Given the political, cultural, and geographic diversity in the region, the project maintained a variety of activities, state-to-state, year-to-year. Though the project partnerships have grown and shifted over its course, you can find a list of some of our past and current partners, here [insert all projects tagged Appalachian Foodshed Project]. Heading into the final months of the Project, this report is an effort to coalesce our learning from our project activities and initiatives over the past four-five years.

II. Report Introduction

“Community food research is messy!”

This was an exclamation at a recent meeting of regional project partners. In this report, we acknowledge this “messiness,” but also seek potential spaces of transformation amidst the complexity of developing food systems that are more socially, ecologically, and financially just and equitable.

In light of the uncertainty and messiness that is community food research and action, we intend for this report to be dynamic and open. The report is housed in a wiki, so it can be easily modified, updated, and commented upon.

In this document, we combine our learnings with the spaces, openings, and possibilities we see emerging from our knowledge and experiences over the past four years. To borrow an agricultural analogy, this report is more of a seed than a harvest. In one way this seed is the summation of four and half years of hard work, but it is also entry into the middle, of openings for new cycles of growth and harvest.

III. Report Overview

This report contains four primary sections. Each of these sections are the result of half a decade of partnership between multiple universities and community partners, collectively working to improve the community food security of central Appalachia.

The first section, AFP Outputs, is an overview of some of the empirical results from our work over the past year—it is broken into three major parts:

1) Information about the many partners who are contributing to the many facets of community food security in central Appalachia—this information housed as in an open-access format on;

2) The methods and reports of preliminary findings from three community food security assessments in West Virginia and the Appalachian portions of North Carolina and Virginia;

3) An overview of the computer-based agricultural carrying-capacity model developed by several researchers from Virginia Tech and West Virginia University.

The remaining three sections of the report have a common format. Each is focused on a salient issue that has emerged in our work. The sections contain three primary components: 1) A broad overview of each issue, drawing on a combination of social change theory and our practical experiences; 2) Examples from AFP work that illustrate the issue; 3) Recommendations for future work in this area. Components 1 and 2 will ultimately be used to frame the spaces and openings that we described in the recommendations.

The latter three sections are titled:

·         Negotiating Community Complexities

·         Grassroots Actions >> Institutional Change

·         Spaces for Transformation

In this report, we do not spend a significant amount of time excavating the state of our systems (food, ecological, etc.). Instead, we have chosen to focus on spaces and potentials for movement. This is an attempt to aggregate and synthesize our best thinking from the past five years in hopes that we might seed our best action.

We, not just welcome, but request your input, feedback and changes to this document.

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