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Setting the Table for Change

A world where food connects, inspires, nourishes and empowers local communities, and is working to reinvigorate our natural world.

Photo of Katherine Miller
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

James Beard Foundation

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

In order to see our vision realized, we will need to engage other actors including corporations, governments and other non profit organizations. At this time we haven’t identified those partners and look forward to that being part of the project’s discovery phase.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

New York City

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States of America

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

The Appalachian food shed which is made up of parts of thirteen states including Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky.

What country is your selected Place located in?

United States of America

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Over the last few years we’ve hosted a series of discussions across the region exploring food access, agricultural development and nutrition (particularly in schools). We think this is an area that has the power to demonstrate ways to improve local and regional food systems, and provide nourishing food options.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Appalachia is a huge, diverse part of the country, including some or all of 13 states and 25 million people, but there is high unemployment, poverty and dependence on government subsidies. This is a land stripped - literally - of it’s livelihood, with the collapse of the coal economy. It is also home to proud communities that don’t trust outsiders, and hold on to past traditions. Featured in pop culture, it is the bleak world of Justified and the divided home to Hillbilly Elegy. But it is also home to innovative leaders who are restoring local food economies through seed saving. Leaders are also finding new ways to deliver healthy meals in schools and return divinity to people dependent on food pantries.

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

The Appalachian region has food related challenges in each of the themed areas: Environment. The coal industry decimated the environment and only after about two decades are we starting to see local and regional agriculture projects re-emerge. Diets, More than a quarter of the nation’s food insecure live in this region. It is also home to the highest non-urban rates of programs such as summer and school meal programs, WIC and the Supplemental Nutrition Access Program. At the same time, it has high rates of both obesity and malnutrition, and is home many of the country’s top rates of diet-related diseases. Economics. The region, thanks to the continued loss of coal-industry jobs, continues to hover on or around the poverty line for a family of four. The legalization and support of hemp farming is starting to contribute to a rise in incomes but there are fears of replacing one monolithic industry with another. Culture. The region is rich in artistic culture including music, art, cooking, crafts and textiles. It is also a region deeply rooted in traditions including religion, and traditional gender roles. The communities tend to be insular and distrustful of outside influences which has caused well-intentioned interventions to fail. Technology. The region is better connected, thanks to rural broadband and infrastructure efforts, than many believe. The high cost of satellite, internet and cable however lead to a high use of mobile technologies making deliver of messages somewhat challenging. Policy. Federal and state policies impact almost every aspect of Appalachian life including food access. The population is especially vulnerable to changes in policy including efforts to reduce funding for federal food assistance programs.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Our food system is exactly that, a system. It is almost impossible to try and address any one challenge in a silo. So instead of tackling just hunger or just agriculture, we would bring an approach to this work that would involve actors from across the food system. Through a community-based and people-centered approach we would help lift up existing solutions and design new projects that address each layer of challenges. By way of example, we will look to the chefs and farmers who are currently building seed saving efforts that help restore historic and cultural food ways, contribute to climate change thru regenerative agriculture practices, support economic development through the marketing and sale of new products and provide nourishing (and culturally relevant) food options. This type of project, and approach, builds the community and food system from within and helps to accomplish broader societal and environmental goals.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

In 2050 the Appalachian region will be home to healthier soils, stronger economies and a vibrant and empowered population.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

In 2050 the Appalachian region will be home to healthier soils, stronger economies and a vibrant and empowered population. We start on the path to achieving this vision through a year-long process that will involve community consultations, story telling, information sharing and trainings for locally-based advocates. We have more than 30 chef advocates and partners from the region who serve as Ambassadors and lead the initial research and engagement opportunities. Food - and all the individual and collective stories, emotions and values wrapped up in our food - has the power to change the world. Chefs and farmers are among the most trusted spokespeople when it comes to food system issues. Utilizing their narrative power - and their extensive networks - we can build the components for change and empower the Appalachian communities to change their own future.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Email
  • Website

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Alana Libow

Hi Katherine Miller Katherine Miller  - Welcome to the Food System Vision Prize! How might you further integrate the findings from your "series of discussions" across the region and your conversations with chef advocates to further inform your challenges and future vision? Full Vision: If a news reporter was speaking with a chef advocate in 2050 what would the news reporter learn, see, and experience. Take us into your world. How might your community engagement inspire a movement? To help you as you hone your vision and creatively tell us about it, we remind you that we have a toolkit ( full of resources tied to community-centered design thinking, futurecasting, and more.We look forward to seeing your updates!