The next time you’re at the grocery store and you’re sorting through veggies in the produce aisle, think about how far that tomato traveled to get here and what it cost in fuel, man power and overhead to place that tomato in your basket.
Called a Community Food Assessment, a community-led study focusing on the Blaine County food system has made significant progress with the finalization of two core research teams comprised of passionate and engaged local citizens. The teams’ expertise ranges from food insecurity and health to farming, processing and distribution of food in the Blaine County area. The teams will oversee focus groups, interviews and surveys to assess the state of food security in Blaine County and determine ways to ensure that everyone has access to healthy, local food.
Representatives range from Idaho’s Bounty, the Local Food Alliance and the Farmers Market to St. Luke’s, the Senior Connection, local government officials, and many more. There are approximately 30 members between the two teams. These teams join The Hunger Coalition and two full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members in creating a broad-based snapshot of our local food system.
Initially, the study was a concept of The Hunger Coalition, who after seeing a marked increase in the use of their services, decided to bring on the VISTA members to address the unprecedented rise in Blaine County residents needing food assistance.
Assisting the project are VISTA members: Emily Slike, Outreach Coordinator, and Emily Williams, Research Coordinator. Slike is a native of the Valley and soon-to-be law school student. “I’m excited to take a detailed look at the underlying social, economic, and institutional factors that affect the quantity and quality of our food,” said Slike.
Williams, a Michigan native, is eager to assess the data they are gathering during this crucial research-collecting time. “Now that the teams are in place, we are moving forward with gathering data to examine our valley’s food system, and what we can do to improve access to healthy, local food for everyone,” said Williams.
The critical areas of inquiry that will be emphasized in this particular study are the consumers and producers of food, methods of food recovery available and the plight of food insecure individuals in Blaine County. So far, the teams and VISTA members have identified preliminary focus groups to better glean information on the barriers and motivations of farmers selling locally and of food insecure adults. These focus groups will be analyzed by the end of March 2015, time permitting. From there, interviews and surveys will take place to further investigate the aforementioned critical areas of inquiry.
By August 2015 a final report will be available to the public, as well as presented through community wide events and city council meetings.
“The members involved in this assessment are excited to collect the data that will better help us understand and address issues of hunger and food security in the region,” said Slike. At the most recent meeting, the group agreed on a vision statement for this phase of the project: The Blaine County Food Assessment is a broad based, participatory process that will produce a comprehensive account of the local food environment which will empower the community to create a secure food system.
It is the goal of the team that the final CFA report will be a viable channel to effectively create change in our county as it relates to our local food system.