Food sys­tem pro­gram hosts ini­tial fo­rum

The Record (Troy, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS -

More than 70 peo­ple gath­ered in Siena Col­lege’s Sny­der Hall on Thurs­day for the Greater Cap­i­tal Re­gion Food Sys­tem As­sess­ment Stake­holder Fo­rum, the first in a se­ries of fo­rums to be held over the next year.

The Greater Cap­i­tal Re­gion Food Sys­tem As­sess­ment is a com­pre­hen­sive food sys­tem as­sess­ment aimed at in­creas­ing eco­nomic re­silience and cre­at­ing a more eq­ui­table food sys­tem with its re­sults. Spear­headed by lo­cal food ac­cess non­profit, Cap­i­tal Roots, and guided by a steer­ing com­mit­tee of 20 key play­ers from across the Cap­i­tal Re­gion’s food­shed, the as­sess­ment launched in early 2016 and is pro­jected to wrap up by the end of 2018.

The stake­holder fo­rum brought to­gether key play­ers from the four sec­tors of the food sys­tem — con­sump­tion, pro­duc­tion, pro­cess­ing, and dis­tri­bu­tion — to share pre­lim­i­nary find­ings and work­shop cur­rent chal­lenges fac­ing mem­bers of the food­shed. All four parts of the sys­tem are be­ing thor­oughly ex­am­ined as part of the as­sess­ment.

Marissa Peck, food as­sess­ment co­or­di­na­tor for Cap­i­tal Roots, shared early find­ings with stake­hold­ers dur­ing

the morn­ing ses­sion. In the be­gin­ning phase of re­search, Peck and her team con­ducted a Food Se­cu­rity Fo­cus Group Pi­lot to iden­tify bar­ri­ers and op­por­tu­ni­ties to in­creas­ing food se­cu­rity and healthy food ac­cess in ur­ban and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties in the re­gion.

“We’re find­ing that there are costs to our up­state farm­ers that aren’t be­ing fac­tored in to a lot of the con­ver­sa­tion about meet­ing down­state mar­ket de­mand, and we hope to of­fer an­other per­spec­tive to ad­dress that,” Peck said. “In re­la­tion to our con­sumers, we hope to go be­yond just un­der­stand­ing the bar­ri­ers of af­ford­abil­ity and avail­abil­ity and dive deeper into the com­plex chal­lenges fac­ing healthy food ac­cess.”

Af­ter Peck re­leased the early find­ings, par­tic­i­pants broke into groups to dis­cuss chal­lenges such as trans­porta­tion for ur­ban la­bor­ers to ru­ral farms, man­ag­ing the risks of small pro­duc­ers scal­ing up to whole­sale mar­kets and in­creas­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion in lo­cal pro­duce re­cov­ery ef­forts, as well as how best to re­solve them.

The next stake­holder fo­rum will take place in Novem­ber 2018, when as­sess­ment com­mit­tee mem­bers will present find­ings from their sec­ond year of re­search, which will fo­cus on en­gag­ing di­rectly with pro­duc­ers, pro­ces­sors and dis­trib­u­tors work­ing in the Cap­i­tal Re­gion.

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