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Welcome to WFAEats — a fun adventure where we explore all things tasty and interesting in the Charlotte food scene. We want to share stories, recipes and culinary escapades and hear about yours!

WFAEats: With Food Insecurity In Mind, An Alliance Is Formed

Rhett Maxwell
Fresh produce at Charlotte's regional Farmer's Market.

As a social worker, Alisha Pruett was working to find housing for homeless veterans when she learned of another problem: lack of access to food. “I saw the barriers they faced in getting to resources and fresh food, due to lack of transportation and income,” she said. “I realized I had to figure out a way to get fresh produce to those in need.”

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She founded The Bulb, a group that provides direct donations of produce to Charlotte residents who can’t obtain fresh greens, beans, fruit, or other nutritious, fresh foods.

The Bulb will be one of the participants in an upcoming meeting of local groups and individuals who work to provide food access for underserved area residents. At the Community Food Advocacy Forum, attendees will gather to network, collaborate, and discuss strategies and solutions to food insecurity. It’s the first event of its kind and will take place 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 28, at Johnson C. Smith University.

“The forum is an opportunity to bring together people who want to make a difference with our local food system,” says organizer Nicole Peterson, Associate Professor of Anthropology at UNC Charlotte.

For Angela Gray, founder of the Roots in Community (R.I.C.’s) Market Foundation, it will be an opportunity to push forward on a dream. For several years, Gray has been working to start a non-profit grocery store that will make higher-quality food available, partly subsidized by donated funds, to low-income residents. With a business plan in place, she’s now seeking a physical location to implement the innovative model.

“We are looking at the feasibility of opening in the Harvey’s location that is closing on The Plaza,” she said while noting wryly that it’s still a “ ‘pie in the sky idea,’ but it will help me identify objections sooner rather than later.”

During the morning sessions, presenters will explain the complex Charlotte food system and the challenges facing a growing community that increasingly struggles with affordability and lack of access to healthy food. In the afternoon, attendees will form small groups to address specific problems such as emergency food relief, school nutrition, and economic development. Interested members of the public are invited to attend.

Organizers are encouraging participants to continue their discussions going forward.

“We just need to learn from each other; residents, experts, organizations and communities all have valuable knowledge and perspectives that can help us improve food access, local food availability, and nutrition,” says Peterson. “Everybody from every community can help.”

The forum is hosted by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Food Policy Council, the Integrated Network for Social Sustainability, and Johnson C. Smith University’s Smith Institute for Applied Research and the Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainability. Additional sponsors are Truliant Credit Union and Community Food Strategies. The event is free and lunch will be provided but registration is required by April 15: https://goo.gl/forms/WE0ZFMnGmngjLN5k2

Amy Rogers is the author of Hungry for Home: Stories of Food from Across the Carolinas and Red Pepper Fudge and Blue Ribbon Biscuits. Her writing has also been featured in Cornbread Nation 1: The Best of Southern Food Writing, the Oxford American, and the Charlotte Observer. She is founding publisher of the award-winning Novello Festival Press. She received a Creative Artist Fellowship from the Arts and Science Council, and was the first person to receive the award for non-fiction writing. Her reporting has also won multiple awards from the N.C. Working Press Association. She has been Writer in Residence at the Wildacres Center, and a program presenter at dozens of events, festivals, arts centers, schools, and other venues. Amy Rogers considers herself “Southern by choice,” and is a food and culture commentator for NPR station WFAE.