Food Systems Event Series: Strengthening Community, Building Capacity
Friday, April 18, 2014 - 2:00pm

Food Systems Event Series

Strengthening Community, Building Capacity

Where: Portland State University, ASRC, room 660 (1800 SW 6th Ave.)

Hear from advocates, practitioners, researchers and critics as we discuss how food systems related strategies contribute to the health of communities. This four-session series of food systems conversations will explore the effectiveness of common food systems strategies in increasing food security, the role of community involvement in designing solutions, and new fields of research and action that build community capacity and respond to community identified needs. Hosted by the PSU Institute for Sustainable Solutions and the Social Sustainability Colloquium.

Week 1: April 11, 2-4 p.m. | PSU, ASRC, Room 660

Food Systems: Convening and Creating Community 

Hear from a panel of organizational representatives and community members about their efforts to build and strengthen cultural heritage, community ties, food security, and capacity to address unique community needs using food systems fixes as the convening topic. We will hear about projects and programs from the following organizations:

Oregon Food Bank’s FEAST Program: FEAST stands for Food, Education, Agriculture Solutions Together. FEAST is a community organizing process that allows participants to engage in an informed and facilitated discussion about food, education, and agriculture in their community and begin to work toward solutions together to help build a healthier, more equitable and more resilient local food system. 

Village Gardens: Village Gardens is a comprehensive organization that runs a number of programs aimed at increasing the health of the communities they serve through community gardens, employment opportunities for adults and teens, after-school and summer activities for children, homework clubs, an emerging livestock project, a Community Health Worker program, and a youth-run entrepreneurial business growing and marketing specialty salad mixes at local farmers markets, and the Village Market – a healthy corner store project. 

Living Cully Native Plant Garden: The 20,000sf Tribal Garden Gathering Area’s design mission is to provide the Portland Native community and Tribes whose ceded land includes the Cully Park site with a place to commune, cultivate indigenous foods and materials for cultural practices and traditions, and revitalize the associated knowledge, skills, and ethics. 

Zenger Farm: Incorporated in 1999, Friends of Zenger Farm is a non-profit farm and wetland in outer southeast Portland dedicated to promoting sustainable food systems, environmental stewardship and local economic development through a working urban farm. Friends of Zenger Farm utilize the combination of a 10-acre wetland adjacent to the 6-acre organic farming operation to provide unique experiential learning opportunities for youth, farmers and families in subjects such as sustainable agriculture, wetland ecology, food security, healthy eating and local economic development.


Week 2: April 18, 2-4 p.m. | PSU, ASRC, Room 660

Social Capital and Social Cohesion through Food Systems Initiatives

What is social capital and social cohesion? Why are they important concepts in understanding capacity building in various communities? Hear from researchers that examine how social cohesion and capital contributes to the health of communities and how food systems strategies can play a role in this.

Dr. Larry Wallack, Senior Research Fellow at the Moore Institute at OHSU, will introduce the concept and research around the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD), a long-standing body of research that emphasizes access to nutrition and community support as essential to the prevention of significant poor health outcomes. We will discuss the contributing factors of the DOHaD, why social cohesion and community capacity are important when considering reducing them, and how and what role food systems strategies can play in improving social cohesion and community capacity. 

Claudia Arana-Colen, HOPE Coalition representative, will share the Coalition's efforts to integrate community voice into the development of a 5-year plan that focuses on improving health equity for the region. The HOPE Coalition is a regional partnership of communities of color, health advocates, and policy makers working together with the common goal of addressing specific health inequities that exist within Oregon. Launched in 2011, the HOPE Coalition Steering Committee comprises: The Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), Center for Intercultural Organizing (CIO), Oregon Latino Health Coalition (OLHC), The Alliance of Culturally Specific and Behavioral Health Providers and Programs (The Alliance), Upstream Public Health (Upstream), and Urban League of Portland (ULPDX). Their mission is to create and implement a five- year health equity plan that enacts smart policies to improve our regional health and well-being through public policy, legislation and policies that govern our workplaces, schools, and communities.


Week 3: May 2, 2-4 p.m. | PSU, ASRC, Room 660 

Common Food Systems Strategies: Who are they helping, who are they hurting?

We often hear about the myriad benefits that our most beloved food systems strategies and efforts provide, such as increased food security, increased access to fruits and vegetables, and hunger relief. But when evaluating the effectiveness and benefits of food systems efforts, it begs the question: how effective are they really? What about potential downsides? Who benefits from these initiatives? Who participates? This discussion will engage long-time alternative food system advocates about the pros, cons, and common misperceptions of urban agriculture, community gardening, and food banks.

Nathan McClintock is a geographer and assistant professor of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University. He teaches courses on food systems, participatory research methods, and critical urban theory, and is currently researching urban agriculture policy and practice in several cities in the U.S. and Canada. He has worked closely with food justice activists in Portland and Oakland, and on sustainable agriculture projects across the Global South.

Andy Fisher co-founded and directed the Community Food Security Coalition for 17 years. CFSC spearheaded the development of a national food and farming movement centered on connecting farmers and consumers and improving access to healthy foods in low-income communities. Andy is a leading expert in the food systems field, and has co-authored numerous reports on a variety of food-related topics.  He is currently working on a book that lays out a new vision for the anti-hunger field. He has been a Food and Society Policy Fellow with Kellogg Foundation, and holds graduate degrees from UCLA in Environmental Policy and Latin American Studies.


Week 4: May 9, 2-4 p.m. | PSU, ASRC, Room 660 

Strengthening Community Capacity using Food Systems Strategies

As the food systems conversation and movement matures, both problems and solutions become more nuanced and complex. Regardless of your stake in food systems reform, the sounding call for critical thought and evaluation of current strategies in order to engage new strategies that emphasize community engagement and capacity-building has been made. In this conversation, we will explore new ways of interacting with food systems strategies, such as the role and inclusion of community health workers in communicating the benefits of healthy eating in their communities, or the role of community-based participatory research in providing opportunities for community members to engage in making relevant food systems related changes. Representatives from the following organizations will share their work:

Nuestra Comunidad Sana/Our Healthy Community (NCS) has provided Latino health education and promotion, advocacy, leadership, and asset development for families in the Columbia River Gorge for 25 years. NCS works hand-in-hand with the Latino community, most of whom are migrant or seasonal farm workers, recognizing that it is imperative to foster Latino community members’ ability to identify their most pressing needs and advocate for themselves. One of the projects developed, the Raíces/Roots Community Greenhouse and Farm project, works to build long term economic self-reliance and food security by expanding access to high-quality, locally-grown foods while building entrepreneurial and leadership skills, such as facilitating the process of forming a food sales cooperative, providing a successful Farmers’ Market sales booth for members who wish to sell, and establishing two land lease agreements for participants to grow and sell produce.

The Sustainable Agriculture Program at Adelante Mujeres provides Latino immigrant farmers and gardeners with the training and skills necessary to grow produce using sustainable methods and to successfully market their products. Adelante Mujeres, a nonprofit organization in Forest Grove, Oregon, educates and empowers low-income Latina women and their families. Adelante Mujeres Distributor is a mission-driven produce distributor, housed within the Sustainable Agriculture program, which provides market access for participating Latino farmers. The Produce Rx Program, another project of Adelante Mujeres, provides “produce prescriptions” to low-income patients who suffer from or who are at risk for diet-related diseases.

Village Gardens' Food Works program and the Sisters of the Road Cafe have been participating in a unique partnership that provide youth an opportunity to understand homelessness and provide the customers of the Sisters of the Road Cafe with fresh, organic vegetables. Through a volunteer exchange program, youth and cafe workers and cooks (largely homeless) change places providing an opportunity for youth to serve the food they helped produce to the homeless clients of the cafe. Conversely, a selection of the clients leave the city for the day to head to the Food Works farm on Sauvie Island for a day of farm work and connection.