Ah, Friday! The one day that virtually everyone looks forward to. Most of the time, that’s due to it being the end of the work/school week and a few days of living wild and free, whatever that means for you. In case you were wondering (and I know you were), that’s pretty much Netflix and pajamas for me.
However, this Friday was a little different. Instead of just looking forward to the weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a wonderful event hosted by the North Carolina Association of Community Development Corporations (NCACDC) and Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC), and spend some time with the Rocky Mount Fire Department.
The event that NCACDC and OIC held on Friday was the Just Health and Food Summit, an annual policy forum designed to provide information about the health, equity and sustainability consequences of various policy options relating to the local food economy. Presenters included Patrick Woodie, President of the NC Rural Center; Amanda Schaller, NC USDA Strikeforce Coordinator; and Laura Lauffer, Local Farms and Food Project Coordinator for the NC A&T Center for Environmental Farming Systems.
At the forum, the linkages and interaction among local food growers, consumers, processors and distributors was explored with much sharing of ideas and challenges each faced. I learned about a strategic framework for rural communities to create jobs, as well as expand agriculture-based businesses. The presenters spoke on their plans to build food production skills and create communities of opportunity. There was also a lot of discussion around the efforts of local people to boost economic impact by diversifying and adding to agriculture based businesses, as well as the coordination of programs, policies and strategies to build an enabling environment for healthy eating and active living.
I really enjoyed the forum, and walked away with a much better understanding of the local food economy and the efforts being made by citizens to improve health outcomes in the area. Most importantly, I witnessed the strong relationship between the City of Rocky Mount and the two host nonprofit organizations. Many departments of the City were represented at the forum and contributing to the conversation, as well as providing feedback on areas that touched on the City’s domain.
Witnessing how effortlessly local government officials, citizens and nonprofit professionals came together for a common goal was a great observation for me. Public service collaboration is awesome, but it can be difficult to navigate. Based on my observations from the forum, Rocky Mount’s local government has done a great job crafting relationships with NCACDC and OIC in ways that can only benefit the citizens. In order to tackle the wicked problems that exist in communities, it is vital for local governments to coordinate with other public service entities, and I was glad to see it happening here.
As for my time with the Rocky Mount Fire Department, let’s just say they deserve their own post. Stay tuned!