Why Create a Roanoke Foodshed Network?

The food system is incredibly complex, touching not only every individual person, every day of their lives, but every sector of society.

As an organization, LEAP works to transform the food system by supporting farmers, food businesses, and healthy food access through our community programs (LEAP Farmers Markets, LEAP Mobile Market, LEAP Farm Share, LEAP Kitchen, LEAP Community Gardens, and Healthy Food Incentives offered to the recipients of SNAP, WIC, Medicaid, and more). These programs create new opportunities and avenues for fresh, local food to be grown, created, sold, and distributed to community members that want and need it the most.  

LEAP programs build alternative avenues for food production, processing, distribution, and access. While this is, and will remain, an essential component to food systems change efforts, creating the broader conditions for an equitable and resilient food system across our regional foodshed is not possible on the shoulders of a single organization.

As a systems-thinking organization, LEAP recognizes that large-scale food systems transformation is only possible through collaboration with a broader coalition of stakeholders. These stakeholders must be representative of the diversity present in our region today: from individual community members and community-based organizations, to large-scale organizations, municipalities, and corporations. To have voices that represent the diversity of our present food system, these collaborations must be cognizant of both individual diversity (race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, community), and organizational diversity (representing diverse sectors of society such as healthcare, city government, regional planning, conservation, farming, food-based businesses, nonprofits, gardens, parks and recreation, social services).  

In the fall of 2020, LEAP, in collaboration with a broad suite of community partners, received a planning grant through the USDA Regional Food Systems Partnership Program to fund the process to build community and capacity between diverse partners working to address food systems change in the Roanoke region. Two years later, this collaboration is stronger than ever with four action-oriented working groups centered around equitable food access, regional food identity, sustainable farm development and local food distribution, and network development. This work would not be possible without the strong partnerships that have been developed through this planning process, and we are incredibly grateful for the hard work of all the organizations that have led this effort, including (but not limited to): Feeding Southwest Virginia, Carilion Clinic, the Roanoke-Alleghany Regional Commission, Bramble Hollow Farm, Virginia Cooperative Extension, and Virginia Tech. This network aspires to develop a comprehensive approach to create a more resilient, socially just, and economically viable food system in the Roanoke region.

Interested in getting involved? Contact Mo at mo@leapforlocalfood.org and join us!

- Written by Mo McGonagle, LEAP's Director of Regional Partnerships

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