Feeding Our Future Network
The Feeding Our Future Network facilitates progressive conversation and brings together diverse voices to work toward a stronger local and regional food system. We photographed the February session on Youth & Food, which engaged community members of all ages in conversation about why they engage with the food system and what the barriers are to engagement for youth.
A Q&A with Holly Payne, Coordinator of Greenstar Community Projects.
What is the Feeding Our Future Network?
It’s a network of initiatives across Tompkins County. They can be focused in any part of the food system: production, transport, marketing, disposal, etc. We seek voices who are less heard and help them gain a forum for having their voices heard as we develop a new food system.
The network’s principle action is to convene voices from across the community around certain focal areas. Because the food system is so big, each session deals with a different aspect of the food system.
Who does it benefit?
It should benefit all of us, because everybody eats. The idea is that the current food system is highly disfunctional and is creating major health dilemmas for many people across America and in Tompkins County. The underlying effort is to build a new food system, one that will be local and regional and that will enable everybody to access healthy food at affordable prices. It’s a pretty audacious goal and it’s going to take everybody to make it work. That’s why we have a lot of sessions on very different parts of the food system – we’re trying to do a huge thing.
What kind of change are you trying it make?
We’re trying to change the current industrial food system that disenfranchises large numbers of people who are not able to eat healthy, affordable food. Many of those foods are also grown in ways that are creating major problems for the environment.
How did it start?
A lot of different people started to recognize that there were a growing number of initiatives in the area that were dealing with food, and they started to realize that if they could combine forces they’d be much more effective. So, Greenstar Community Projects decided to support a network that would meet on a rotating basis throughout the year over and over again to convene and pull people together. We support the network financially and also logistically, but there are many other players that are involved in the network planning group, like Cooperative Extension and Groundswell.
What impact does this have on the community?
It’s amazing! Out of the network sessions action groups have started up. One of them is the communication action group, which is creating an interactive website to serve all the voices in our emerging local food system: Hot Potato Press. We also have a very active food policy action group that is helping to develop a local food policy council from Tompkins County. That came straight out of the networking sessions. There’s a lot of other actions too… just connections over and over again that are helping us to create a system that will work.
How has the community supported Feeding Our Future?
They support it by coming to the sessions, by requesting different sessions, by giving us feedback, by volunteering… they are the network.
What struggles have you encountered?
There’s too much to do! It would be great to stick with one session and do it over and over again, but that’s why the action groups develop.
Another big frustration is funding. It’s hard to describe what we’re doing and why it’s so important, even though everyone asks for it and appreciates it. It’s hard to paint it as a charismatic endeavour that’s ongoing, because it’s so process oriented and its results are so full of process. But without the process we’re never going to be able to create the system that we need to create! It’s sort of a fascinating dilemma.
What should we be celebrating?
We should be celebrating our incredible, unique diversity. This community stands such a chance for pulling together a local to regional fair and sustainable food system. It stands a chance because of who we are and because of the willingness of people to step forward in their own diverse ways and have their voices be heard. It’s a huge reason for celebration. Everybody is putting their best foot forward and trying to work on this audacious goal.
How can we get involved?
Ask to be on the listserv and we’ll send out bi-weekly blurbs on what sessions are coming up. You’re all welcome, it’s free and available to everybody, and there’s a free meal! There’s also all sorts of volunteer opportunities.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to join the Feeding Our Future mailing list to be notified of upcoming networking sessions and engagement opportunities.5
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