Good Food Central Florida and its volunteer partners have initiated a community food assessment project to better understand the nature and extent of the local food system in Orange County and its municipalities, including the City of Orlando and the City of Winter Park. A community food assessment in its simplest terms is an analysis of a local food system, identification of its characteristics including its assets and deficits and a recommendation to improve its resiliency to allow greater healthy and sustainable food access for all residents. Of particular interest is the expansion of local urban agriculture, growth in sustainable food waste technology, increasing popularity of local food hubs, food cooperatives and farmers’ markets, as well as healthy food options and new pathways and partnerships in achieving food security.
At present, GFCF is in a multi-month preparatory phase which involves developing a work plan, identifying roles, responsibilities and resources, as well as identifying key research questions and themes. Guiding GFCF’s inquiry has been a number of important resources and documents such as the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service’s Florida’s Roadmap to Living Healthy Living, Orange County Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) research, the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council’s 2060 Plan and Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), the City of Orlando Greenworks’ Plan and Parramore Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan, Orange County’s “Our Home for Life” Sustainability Plan as well as Whole Measures for a Healthy Food System guide.
As stated in the Whole Measures guide “(t)he spectrum of those working towards community food security is culturally and geographically diverse, spanning a broad range of people, places and activities. Organizations and individuals working in the food system and building food secure communities create complex relationships and inter-related activities. For example, an urban farmers’ market may also house a job-skills program that trains young mothers to teach cooking skills. At the close of the market, gleaners come by to pick up extra produce for the food bank, while a local composter gathers food waste to be recycled. Farmers at the market may also run a cooperative distribution site for local restaurants and institutions like schools and hospitals, as well as hold a seat on the local food policy council that helps define priorities for the area’s food system development. This guide, in particular, will help guide the collaborative process and involves key research themes….” (Whole Measures for Community Food Systems: Values Based Planning and Evaluation, Center for Whole Communities, 2009.
It is anticipated that the value themed Community Food Assessment will help shape our local food culture, identify new economic opportunities, better serve our at risk populations, increase food security, and create a healthy, sustainable food system!