Rowan Farm and Food Network promotes healthy eating

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 1, 2021

By Dottie Hoy

Rowan Farm and Food Network, a food council, has been in existence for just over two years and has been an important group especially during the last 15 months. RFFN is a gathering of leaders of organizations who are concerned about various aspects of healthy food and healthy eating. Food councils are community-based coalitions, consisting of multiple organizations and individuals, that share information and help promote more resilient food systems.

Getting food to people has been very much on the minds of our local organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.  RFFN has been a place to share what’s happening in our individual organizations and to assist and motivate each other.  For example, Meals on Wheels and Bread Riot worked together to deliver fresh strawberries, cucumbers and potatoes to Seniors. Likewise, Rufty-Holmes sourced locally grown produce through Bread Riot for their meal sites. Rowan Helping Ministries shared how they were working to assist families in a different way and explained ways that we could assist. Hutchens Homestead connected with Main Street Marketplace in China Grove to sell chicken. Rowan Health Department kept us up to date on the COVID-19 pandemic.

RFFN participates in the N.C. Food System Advocacy Coalition. The group shares experiences across the state and how that plays into the need for state and national legislation. This is important work to try to shape the policies to meet the needs of our local people regarding farming and food. 

RFFN becomes more and more aware of how people in different sectors work to address issues that intersect with food. Food councils provide a shared way of thinking about the whole food system by including voices from many different sectors. Food councils put the pieces together and strive to tell the story of the whole food system.

There are 30 food councils in North Carolina, each approaching the needs of their community in different ways. RFFN is under the umbrella of Carolina Food Strategies, which encourages and supports us.

Later this fall, we will host a public gathering to encourage organizations and individuals to learn about Rowan Farm and Food Network. We seek representations from all who advocate for food, including city and county officials, faith community leaders, restaurant workers and owners, health care workers, farmers and producers, schools and colleges.   

RFFN dreams of assisting corner stores to provide local produce; of having healthy food pantries at high schools, of having a mobile truck that would take produce to food deserts, of a day when food insecurity is not an issue.

Bread Riot is one of the beneficiaries of RFFN. We have learned from the other organizations and have been able to implement some of the ideas that we have gleaned.

Bread Riot was named to honor the women who, during the Civil War, marched on downtown merchants and demanded food for their hungry children. It has been in existence over 14 years. Our primary project is sourcing produce from local farmers, paying for it with grants from local foundations and friends, and take it to low-income families and seniors.  More than 25 volunteers have distributed over 6,000 pounds of food this summer. Any excess is given to organizations such as Community Care Clinic, Capstone, and Rowan Helping Ministries. During the winter months, we source local food and offer it as a subscription-based product to the community. We also provide produce to Head Start and public schools on an occasional basis during the winter. 

We strive to encourage local farmers, especially through the Salisbury-Rowan Farmers Market. We were pleased to be able to give $500 grants to each of five vendors as well as to assist three farmers in attending Farm School during the winter. 

Bread Riot is grateful for grants from Rowan United Way (COVID-19 fund), Foundation for the Carolinas, St. Luke Episcopal Foundation, B. J. Robertson Foundation, Rowan Arts Council, St. John’s Foundation as well as for private donations.

Riot at New Sarum, the annual fund raiser for Bread Riot, will be from 4-10 p.m. on Aug. 21 at 109 N. Lee St. Please join us for music, food, silent auctions and a time to gather with others who support “local.”

Dottie Hoy serves as president of the Bread Riot Board and is a member of the Rowan Farm and Food Network board.

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