A $750,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation will help get to the root of food-system inequities influenced by structural racism, in a project being led by The Cooperative Extension Program at N.C. A&T State University in conjunction with the Center for Environmental Farming Systems. A racially diverse team of experts will work with grassroots groups in Nash, Edgecombe and Scotland counties throughout the two-year span of the grant to assess how racial barriers can influence access to food. The project will also address ways to remove those barriers.
Leading the team is Shorlette Ammons, N.C. A&T-based community food-systems outreach coordinator at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems. CEFS is a partnership of A&T, N.C. State University and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. It has a statewide focus on research, cooperative extension and education in sustainable agriculture and community-based food systems and operates a 2,000-acre research program at Cherry Research Farm in Goldsboro.
Ammons has a background in food-justice issues and the work she administers through the Kellogg Foundation-funded initiative is to help create a national model that other communities can apply to their problems with food access.
“It’s a very complex problem and it will take a variety of different approaches,” Ammons said of the initiative. “We chose to work with community organizations that live these conditions every day and to let them be experts in their own realities and experiences.”
Among the most limited-resource challenged areas in the state, Nash, Edgecombe and Scotland counties have high incidences of food insecurity, unemployment and poor health. North Carolina is the fifth-most food insecure state in the nation, according to USDA reports. One of every four children is food insecure, and eating nutritiously is particularly burdensome for low-income residents in food deserts who can have limited transportation access to areas to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.
“We’re looking at how we can support communities in developing more equitable sustainable, local-food systems that create access to opportunity for all people,” Ammons said. “Creating a better food system involves creating better access to opportunities for underserved farmers, building career ladders in the food system for youth, increasing wages for farmworkers, decreasing chronic health conditions in low-income communities and communities of color. So this effort should involve a wide range of our community.”