Policy. Advocacy. Change.

From Food Waste to Food Justice

What does food waste have to do with food justice? In a word, economics. A 2020 study by Zach Conrad, assistant professor in William & Mary’s Department of Kinesiology & Health Sciences, found that an average American throws away $1,300 of food per year. Multiply that number for each individual in a household and the amount of money spent on food that ends up in the garbage could be significant for a family with limited resources. The good news is there are some fairly simple strategies to keep money in pockets and food in stomachs instead of the trash. 

Those strategies are something WNC Food Waste Solutions has been exploring since its first Food Waste Summit in 2017. Because of the good work of this volunteer collaborative, the Food Waste Strategy area for the WNC Food Justice Planning Initiative has a great place to start. We will be working with WNC Food Waste Solutions to focus on expanding food waste reduction education and action, especially within rural and low-wealth communities. Our efforts will center equitable messaging and working in partnership with communities.

WNC Food Waste Solutions launched a new (and beautiful!) website recently that is a resource for opportunities, education, initiatives, events, and collaboration. The group worked with the City of Asheville in April 2021 to promote Food Waste Reduction month to raise awareness and encourage residents to perform Food Waste Audits. With focus areas on composting, restaurants and retailers, education, and redistribution, this group has laid the groundwork to work with individuals, businesses, and municipalities in our region to extend the urgent message of the necessity for food waste solutions. 

The FJPI is thrilled to be working with this existing organization to expand access to opportunities for all consumers in WNC to save money and increase food security by focusing on reducing their food waste.

Written by Cathy Cleary
Cathy Cleary works with Bountiful Cities as an Outreach Coordinator. As a former professional cook she has always been interested in the impacts of food waste on everything from household economics to climate change.

Update! WNC Food Justice Planning Initiative

Since January 2020, the Asheville Buncombe Food Policy Council (ABFPC) has been participating in the WNC Food Justice Planning Initiative (FJPI). This project is an opportunity for over three dozen stakeholder organizations from across our 18 county region and the Qualla Boundary to come together to think through the possibilities and create tangible action steps for collectively improving our food system. The work of Year 1 resulted in:

  • Identifying priorities, a common vision, priority groups, and goals through group consensus
  • Completion of over 40 Key Informant interviews and significant analysis around interview data and local statistics of what is being done across the country
  • A final report detailing the process (finalized date TBD)
  • Working toward identifying a program or organization that can serve as a vehicle for the work going forward
  • Submitting multiple LOIs and completed grants and receiving over $100,000 in funding (to date) for collaborative work in Year 2
  • Developing a Regional Strategic Action Plan driven by the action plans of the six determined Strategy Areas (Cooking and Nutrition Education, Community Gardens, Food Waste Solutions, Healthy Food Distribution, Regional Ag Network/s, Regional Food Council)

The ABFPC is participating in the Strategy Area that is developing a Regional Food Council. The WNC Regional Food Council is intended to act as a vehicle for driving the implementation of the WNC Food Justice Action Plan and to sustain that work well into the future. The Council will also serve as a connector and support system for existing local food councils and other small networks working toward a stronger food system and food security.  So far, a small group of stakeholders has participated in a preliminary action planning process for the initial development of the Food Council. The group is extending an invite to all stakeholders who have been identified so far to participate as a member of the Council. The kickoff meeting will be held in late April/early May, at which point a collective vision and goals will be determined and a regular meeting schedule will be set. 

The Council welcomes stakeholders from across sectors, including those working in the food system, economic development, local government, education, health & human services, faith-based organizations, etc. If you are interested in participating or learning more, please reach out to Abby Holmes at [email protected] or Kelli Buckner at [email protected].

Work in Year 2, with the help of a new Leadership Team, will be focused on securing collective funding for all groups involved, working toward completion of the Regional Strategic Action Plan, and hiring a Project Coordinator to direct and organize this important work.

If you’re interested in getting involved in any of the six Strategy Areas, reach out to the leads using the contact information below.

Cooking and Nutrition Education – Cathy Hohenstein [email protected]
Community Gardens - Nicole Hinebaugh [email protected] and Jess Prax [email protected]
Food Waste Solutions – Cathy Cleary [email protected]
Healthy Food Distribution - Glenn Wise [email protected]
Regional Ag Network/s - Zev Freidman [email protected] , Laura Lauffer [email protected], and Cameron Farlow [email protected]
Regional Food Council - Keli Buckner [email protected] and Abby Holmes [email protected]

The ABFPC Welcomes Gina Smith as Interim Coordinator!

The ABFPC would like to welcome Gina Smith as Interim Program Coordinator. Gina will be managing the day-to-day operations of the ABFPC, and advocating and organizing for city and county-wide policy implementation around food justice, while there is an ongoing hiring process to fill the Coordinator Position long-term.

Gina Smith, ABFPC Interim Coordinator

Gina moved to Asheville in 2008 after spending several years working with diverse communities in Catawba County as family services staff and volunteer coordinator for the area’s Habitat for Humanity affiliate. In 2011, she first got acquainted with Western North Carolina’s farming sector and food-security dynamics while collaborating with a handful of farmers and community builders to found the Oakley Farmers Market in her neighborhood. Since then, Gina has steadily developed strong relationships across the region’s food system through her work as a writer and editor focused on food justice, sustainability, and agriculture. 

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