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Krupp: Community Food Security

12/07/09 5:55PM By Ron Krupp
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(HOST) During this season of holiday plenty, commentator Ron Krupp reminds us that in many communities, food security is still a serious concern.
(KRUPP) In a recent issue of Local Banquet, a Vermont farm and food publication, published in Saxtons River, there's a provocative article called "Getting Everyone To The Table: Brattleboro's Community Food Security Project," by Angela and Richard Berkfield of Williamsville.
In it they write that while some people in Vermont are committed to eating fresh, locally produced food, a large number of Vermonters are still struggling just to put food on the table.  Many families aren't earning enough to buy staple foods, not to mention fruit and vegetables.  For them, buying local and organic is out of the question.
The reality is that food reflects the class differences in our society where the bulk of economic and educational privileges are reserved for those in the middle and upper classes.  Here are some recent statistics that back up this claim. In 2009, it was reported that 12 percent of Vermonters don't have enough food to eat.  In other words, they are food insecure.  The Vermont Food Bank reported a 44 percent increase in food requests in 2009.        
The Berkfields write that in order to address the problem of hunger in Brattleboro, the Food Security Project did an assessment of the needs of the community.  The goal was to learn about the barriers to food security and come up with solutions.  The assessment was conducted by people of low income, farmers, policy makers and nonprofit staff.  All too often, the low-income community are left out of the decision-making process.
One idea that came out of the assessment was to create a local market at Westgate Housing - a 98-unit low- to middle-income community in West Brattleboro. There were a number of meetings with residents, along with Amy Frost, a local farmer, and Jesse Kayan, Westgate's community services coordinator. What evolved was a weekly "market basket."  At first, a small group participated, and then 15 families joined. Frost offered the residents a reduced rate of $15 for a weekly market basket.  She also has a CSA and sells at the Brattleboro Farmers' Market. A key component of the pilot project is that families can utilize the food stamp program.
The Westgate initiative is one way to bridge the gap and make food affordable. The lesson is that projects such as Westgate need to be supported, as they create community through democratic initiatives.  They also break down barriers between classes of people and open up dialogues so people can learn from one another.
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