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Food and Farm Network working to help ease food insecurity in Rowan

SALISBURY — A group of nonprofits and agencies are collaborating to launch the Food and Farm Network Rowan, which will work to combat food insecurity in local communities.
The program also is intended to educate Rowan residents about healthy food choices and provide networking opportunities for vendors, consumers and farmers throughout the county.
The idea was created after Carol Schmitz-Corken, who co-founded Bread Riot with Dottie Hoy, was exposed to other counties with food councils after attending Healthy Rowan meetings. The program began in May but it is still in its infancy stages as “there are still things we need to know,” Schmitz-Corken said, referring to more research and funding needed to fully launch the project and its ideas.
“We want to get produce in the hands of communities in insecure food areas and spread awareness,” she said.
Other organizations involved in the Food and Farm Network Rowan include the Cooperative Extension Service, Happy Roots, Healthy Rowan, Rufty Holmes Lunch Clubs, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, Communities in Schools, Rowan County Health Department, Rowan Helping Ministries and Meals on Wheels Rowan. Schmitz-Corken serves as chair of Food and Farm Network Rowan.
Schmitz-Corken emphasized the importance of educating the public on food insecurity in the county because “if you don’t see it, you don’t know it,” she said.
About 2.3 million people, or 2.2% percent of all U.S. households, live more than a mile away from a supermarket or grocery store and don’t own a car, according to a report by the Economic Research Service of the USDA. A “food desert” is defined as an area where access to healthy food or groceries is difficult or restricted due to geographic factors.
Currently, a student intern from Catawba College is working with the program to map out where food resources are in the county and what areas need more resources, with anticipated completion this summer.
Another goal of the program is to supply produce in local corner stores to serve the “food insecure pockets” in the county. Additionally, program participants are working to develop cooking classes with celebrity chefs at schools, the farmers market or the health department in an effort to teach people how to cook their produce.
Lisa Altman, of the Rowan-Salisbury Schools Food Services Department, said a program like Food and Farm Network is “only going to help our children going forward.”
And though grants schools receive have specific guidelines for the extent to which food from local farms and other organizations can be used, Altman said she hopes there is room to collaborate with the program in the future.
“We don’t need to have hunger like this,” she said. “We have a lot of potential. These resources will only improve our areas and our communities.”
Altman said about 60% of the school district includes students who are a part of the free or reduced lunch program, which requires families to be at or below a certain income level.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at (704) 797-4246.

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