Ever since I embarked on my southern states tour last winter, I’ve been looking at environmental education and food justice issues that affect both urban and rural communities. We know that Cleveland and other metropolitan cities are starting to do a better job of this, and I for one, have been buying produce at my corner Convenient Food Mart during the off season. We have to support our local farmers (not blame them) and do everything we can to encourage healthy food access.
Over the summer, I was excited to learn that I won a $1,500 scholarship from the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation to try and connect the dots between kids living in poor urban areas like Cleveland and those living in Appalachian Ohio. Where can I start?
What kind of food challenges do kids in the rural areas have, and how can Ohio farmers get more involved in supplying and serving today’s schools? Rural communities are much closer to the farmland, by nature, but we know that plentiful food is not always reaching institutional kitchens and food pantries.
I purposely joined the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) at the beginning of 2014 so I could meet organic farmers all over the Buckeye State. After I attended OEFFA’s annual conference in February, I got a good sense of food needs and wants, and how folks are growing fresh healthy fruits and vegetables in rooftop gardens, permaculture beds, container gardens and vacant lots, too.
This is around the same time I applied for a composting grant and started working with middle school kids from Near West Intergenerational School. It was then that I stumbled upon a scholarship named for Cindy Hollingshead, a community leader and activist. Hollingshead was an executive secretary of the Ohio Farm Bureau for 39 years when she passed away in 2011. She was instrumental in the development of Ohio Farm Bureau’s service to its members and a leader in her community.
After I read about Cindy’s work I knew I had to apply. OFB selected the winners in July, and it was nice to read some of the excerpts from our applications. I’m sure I am much older than the others (sigh), but it sounds like every one of us is on a mission, and I look forward to reading about the next step in our journeys.
Now that school is over for me, I decided to start reaching out to nonprofits in Athens County so I could follow through with some of my future plans. If I can take my project to the next level, it will be fun to begin working with people throughout Ohio. In the meantime, I will continue to immerse myself in the inner workings of urban food deserts and find out what I can about rural farm to fork.