During the planning meeting of December 11, we discussed a variety of strengths and weaknesses of the Cincinnati area food system. On the one hand, available land, infrastructure, and reasonably good weather present opportunities for increased consumption of local products while also addressing the needs of the poorest community members. In addition, there seems to be renewed interest locally and nationally in examining the environmental, social, and health-related impacts of the current food system. Besides supporting local agriculturalists, alternatives discussed during last month's meeting included permaculture, veganism, urban agriculture, CSAs, farmers' markets, and small-scale entrepreneurial distribution networks.
On the other hand, the weaknesses of the local food system range from the uneven distribution of retail outlets and lack of a food coop in Cincinnati to the difficulty farmer's have in making a living by distributing locally. One of the largest hurdles to the establishment of a healthier, more equitable and environmentally sensitive food system in the Cincinnati area may be a lack of communication among the various interest groups.
A real smorgasbord of stakeholders attended the planning meeting and scores more have shown interest in the Cincinnati Food Congress. Though we may not all be able to agree on the single best way to produce, distribute, and consume food in Southwest Ohio, we must all admit that the solution will likely be a combination of all of our efforts. The aim of the Food Congress is to bring together stakeholders from Cincinnati’s diverse food-related groups to examine the current state of and to develop a shared vision for the community food system. The hope is for these discussions to evolve into a permanent body charged with educating officials and the public, shaping public policy, improving coordination between existing programs and entrepreneurs, and starting new programs and businesses related to the local food system.
The following details about the Cincinnati Food Congress have been decided upon:
When: All day Saturday, March 14, 2009
Where: Community Design Center (with breakout sessions in public library, community center, and neighboring schoolhouse - all within a stone's throw)
The format and logistics (including lunch) has yet to be determined. For those interested in planning the Congress, there will be a second meeting Wednesday, January 14 at 6 pm. Again, we will use the space at the Community Design Center: 2728 Vine Street near Clifton.
I look forward to seeing you next week!
David R. Mann
Food Project Coordinator
Community Design Center
University of Cincinnati
2728 Vine Street
Cincinnati, OH 45219
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