A diverse group of partners is working together to address hunger, farming and health needs through the work of the South Carolina Food Policy Council.
The council, part of a nationwide network of state and local groups seeking stronger regional food systems, recently issued its first annual report and a set of recommendations to the Commissioner of Agriculture, Hugh Weathers. The council—composed of farmers, agricultural commodity organizations, educators, researchers, food processors, public health advocates, food banks, rural development specialists and nutritionists— met in March to review implementation of the plan’s recommendations with the commissioner and to establish priorities for 2007.
The recommendations from the 2006 report included a set of steps that could provide a win-win situation for farmers and consumers:
- Support food processing facilities, particularly in the seafood area
- Develop community value-added kitchens to benefit farmers and small-scale food entrepreneurs
- Support S.C.-grown marketing campaign and increased locally grown labeling authority
- Expand consumer science and agriculture curricula at the elementary, secondary, and college levels
- Relieve development pressure on farms through better land use planning
- Highlight food as a tourist and business development draw to the state
- Cultivate the next generation of farmers with farm transition services
- Support existing nutrition programs that can alleviate the state’s status of having the highest rate in the nation of households with very low food security
- Fund the USDA school fruit and vegetable snack program
- Increase consumer awareness about nutrition and access to healthy foods
- Establish a farm-to-institution program that can facilitate the purchase of local foods by schools, hospitals and other food service providers
The work of the SC Food Policy Council fits well with the efforts that American Farmland Trust has been leading to develop the Lowcountry Farm to Chef Project. This initiative has been convening partners from the public and private sectors to investigate opportunities to increase sales from local farmers and fishers to restaurants from Beaufort to Charleston. Early needs identified by the local partners in this project include a middleman to facilitate ordering and delivery of produce from farmers to chefs; improved seafood processing and handling facilities; a pilot produce auction market to provide another wholesale scale outlet; development of a new growers school to support the educational needs of a new generation of farmers; local farm/chef marketing materials; and the incorporation of efforts with a broader campaign to support local business relationships.
For more information, contact Beth Crocker of the SC Department of Agriculture or Gerry Cohn of American Farmland Trust.
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Gerry Cohn, Southeast States Director
P.O. Box 854
Hillsborough, NC 27278