By Katie Sobiech
A movement beginning in Cleveland is now growing in Akron. On February 8th, citizens and strangers gathered at Musica for the E4S (Entrepreneurs for Sustainability) Local Food Initiative that is taking off.
The E4S: Putting Sustainability to Work is known for their innovative workshops, roundtables and networking events for the purpose of connecting people and ideas that will help sustain work for our region. The network includes over 8,000 business, government and non-profit leaders working to grow a sustainable economy.
The purpose of this evening was to stir up discussions, network and provide information on the local food movement. Ideally, the initiative seeks to make locally grown, healthy food available to all. This means corner stores and places you may not normally find fresh food.
“Tonight was really an amazing opportunity for all kinds of people to learn what’s going on, and to get inspired by what they might want to do themselves. To get connected with one another, support one another, create new ideas, new opportunities and collaborate,” Sue Lacy of Round River Consulting, and a member of the E4S, said.
“We have a deep commitment to building up the local food economy in a way that provides everyone access in the county, especially people who don’t currently have access to fresh foods,” Lacy said.
Lacy and Katie Fry have been community organizers, helping facilitate the process, build up leadership and help people make connections, all while consulting their own business.
“We’ve been very involved in the local food movement. I’m actually a former botanic gardener. I had a hundred acre organic farm which was actually the second farm certified by the Ohio Ecological Farm and Food Association,” Fry, also a member of the E4S, said of her background in this movement.
The two women find volunteering for this cause crucial, because of their passion about growing and consuming healthy foods and building up the local economy around the local foods movement.
“Creating jobs is a really important part of it for us, as well as people being able to eat and access healthy produce,” Fry said.
The Movement in Akron
Patrick Bravo, Deputy Director for Community and Economic Development for Summit County Executive Russ Pry, stopped by to share what’s been going on with the local food charter initiative that he’s involved in.
Bravo thanked the crowd for their commitment and passion in moving this conversation forward. He and Jerry Egan, part of the Summit County Food Policy Coalition, have been meeting about the food charter and what it means for Summit County, its communities, and the organizations that are committed to this kind of cause. From these meetings and discussions they drafted the Summit County Community Food Charter.
“We’d like to take this to the next level,” Bravo said, “We’d like to take it to our communities and our stakeholder organizations and we’d like to get them to sign on to support this charter and initiative.”
Once they get approval for their ideas, the group will move forward bringing them to communities and organizations in Summit County.
“The vision of this group is that Summit County will be home to the economically vibrant, local and regional food industry and that all residents will be able to obtain very nutritious food,” Bravo said.
So far, everyone seems to be on board and this initiative is quickly moving forward.
“It’s great news for everyone. Summit County communities support these initiatives to advance the local food economy. This includes making nutritious food available to all residents at a variety of locations that are within a reasonable distance,” Bravo continued.
“I’m actively encouraging growing food for personal use in community gardens, or urban gardens,” Bravo said, encouraging communities to set a plan for these kinds of garden-growing initiatives.
“We can’t forget Ohio in general is still an agricultural state. We should foster that and move that conversation forward,” Bravo said of regional agriculture as a business.
His desire is to develop policies that preserve farmland and enable appropriate use of urban land for agriculture.
“The whole concept of urban and community gardening and how we can support that at the community level and government level (is important). We’ll be looking for ways to support this initiative as we work with the Summit County Food Coalition,” Bravo said.
What’s Happening Now
The Ohio State University’s Center for Farmland Policy Innovation has plans to start a corner store project to get local food and fresh fruits and vegetables into existing corner stores in Akron.
The E4S is receiving funding to bring in resources to these corner stores, such as coolers to keep the fresh produce. A working plan for 2012 is being put together to connect the stores with distributors and local food producers to get their food into stores.
Stay tuned for Part 2 next week to find out more about what is happening locally and how you can become a part of this local food movement!