The very first official meeting of the Chatham Community Food Council (CCFC) convened last week in the Agriculture Building just off Courthouse circle in Pittsboro. Small business owners, sustainable and conventional farmers, county government, county farm extension, county visitors bureau, non-profit organizations, and consumers all sat down around the table — two men, and eight women from all over the county, including myself, Jenny Schnaak, Associate Director at Abundance NC.
The goal of the CCFC is to identify and strengthen all connections in the food system in Chatham County, serving to bridge the gap between the public and government. We communicate with neighboring NC counties to work together to solve systemic food system issues.
We began the meeting by each sharing our reasons for volunteering to be on the CCFC. We went around the table offering our answers — some short, some longwinded, but each with a thoughtful, determined tone to them: improving healthy food access and equitable fresh food distribution, succession planning for aging farmers, connecting young farmers with land and capital, getting more local food in school lunches, increasing demand for healthy foods in schools, and making enough money to keep small business afloat in a growing county.
For the short-term, we need to elect chairs of committees, set goals, and we would like to fill the remaining three or four spots on the CCFC with people of color. It is our belief that if we can have a wider variety of perspectives and backgrounds represented on the CCFC, we will be able to identify and solve critical food system issues and the council will better reflect the community it serves are serving.
Our fearless leader and expert in “dynamic governance,” Christy Shi, is leaving us soon (her contract is up) and while we have a diverse team of highly competent individuals, many of us expressed feeling daunted by the heaping pile of responsibilities we now have in our hands. But, excited? Passionate? Committed? You bet we are.
Food Policy Councils are popping up all around North Carolina. There are new FPCs in Wake, Guilford, Durham, and new task forces are forming councils in Orange, Alamance, and counties beyond. The Triangle is poised for growth and change in the coming years, and insofar as our food system goes here in the triangle, all signs point to a future of stronger, more equitable community food systems.