By Belle Crawford
On its website, the Asheville Buncombe Food Policy Council (ABFPC), an organization working to improve and protect local food systems, highlights a 2013 study that reports unsettling statistics. The study revealed that, despite its ever-growing list of innovative restaurants and breweries and its national recognition as a “foodtopia,” the Asheville Metropolitan Area is the ninth hungriest city in the nation, with more than one in five residents experiencing “food hardship.”
The goal of the ABFPC is to see that all residents of Buncombe County have the ability and the option to cultivate and prepare nutritious food. The organization focuses on helping conserve farmland, forests and water resources, and aims to ensure a thriving agriculturerelated economy.
“There are so many organizations doing important program work to improve our food system,” says Kiera Bulan, ABFPC coordinator, “but they’re stretched so thin that one of the objectives of the ABFPC is to work collaboratively with these organizations to identify policy barriers and strategize efforts to create solutions.”
ABFPC does not administer programs, but rather incubates ideas and brings collaborators together to achieve collective outcomes. One recent success, the Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) program launched in June of this year at the French Broad Food Co-op and in September at West Village Market, allows customers purchasing local produce with food stamps to double their dollars, up to $20 per day. DUFB credits can be used on any produce in the stores at any time up to a year from the initial purchase. The program has been a huge success at both locations, with participation far exceeding expectation.
Bountiful Cities, an Asheville based organization dedicated to teaching sustainable agriculture skills in urban environments, is the lead agent in administering the DUFB program. “As of a report issued in mid- August, there were already 160 people enrolled in the DUFB program at French Broad Food Coop,” says Nicole Hinebaugh, program director for Bountiful Cities. “More than $1,300 worth of fresh produce has already been purchased with DUFB matching dollars.”
On Tuesday, November 14, from 5:30–8 p.m., ABFPC is holding the Meeting of the Whole at Stephens-Lee Recreation Center in Asheville. The meeting, an annual event open to the public, will celebrate recent regional food movement successes, present the 2017 food policy agenda and action plan that is being put forth to Asheville City Council and begin to flesh out steps to pursue research and strategies for collaborating with city, county and local organizations to make things happen.
The 2017 food action plan will focus on food access and distribution; farms, food production and processing; community food education; water, compost and energy stewardship; state food policy and legislation; emergency preparedness; and city initiatives.
“Everyone is invited and encouraged to attend the Meeting of the Whole,” says Bulan. “At the meeting, attendees will be able to get up to speed on current ABFPC work and participate in bringing ideas and priorities developed through the Food Policy Action Planning process to light.”
The Stephens-Lee Recreation Center is located at 30 George Washington Carver Avenue. For more information about the Meeting of the Whole and about Asheville Buncombe Food Policy Council, visit abfoodpolicy.org.