A chance to talk about food, education and agriculture is coming to Reedsport on Wednesday, April 3.
It’s a “community conversation to seed community action” facilitated by NeighborWorks Umpqua and the Oregon Food Bank. It will be held from 2-4:30 p.m. at the Port of Umpqua Annex on Winchester Ave.
“The event is open to anybody who’s interested in coming,” said Laura Stroud, who works on Douglas County food issus for NeighborWorks.
“Those who may find it especially relevant are people involved in food systems work. That can be anything from being a backyard gardener, to being a farmer, being someone who cares about what they serve their family at home to being a chef at a restaurant.”
Stroud also says public health employees and anyone interested in health, food, agriculture, nutrition and hunger also are encouraged to attend.
She said the discussion will be driven by participants, not the Oregon Food Bank.
“It’s definitely not them coming down to prescribe anything or to tell anyone what they should do,” Stroud said. “They have staff that has led this kind of meeting throughout the entire state. They’re very experienced in being responsive to communities and providing the right type of environment for folks to feel comfortable discussing and getting the best ideas out of community members.”
Stroud, based in Roseburg, works with NeighborWorks Umpqua as an AmeriCorps service member.
Also scheduled to attend the Reedsport meeting is Sharron Thornberry, a community food systems manager at Oregon Food Bank.
“The Oregon Food Bank realized that providing emergency food boxes, which is the typical function of food pantries, is not enough to eliminate hunger,” Stroud explained. “So, they changed their mission to eliminating hunger and its root causes.”
That effort will be part of the discussion at the Reedsport meeting.
Reedsport has two food banks. The AARP food panty operates Thursdays from a building in Henderson Park. Project Blessing operates Wednesdays at United Presbyterian Church.
“There's a possibility of merging those two in the future,” Stroud said, “to provide better service and longer hours.”
Stroud says the visiting agencies are interested in improving the way food is delivered to those in need.
“They have begun to look at community food systems involving school cafeterias, community gardens, small farmers and farmers' markets,” she explained. “Looking at how to better connect people with food and strengthen local economies, because both of those things are essential to making sure that everyone in a community has enough food to eat.”
Stroud says it’s a matter of being able to afford and get food and having a local economy that is supporting all residents.
Such events have already taken place in Riddle, Elkton and Roseburg.
“I think a lot of times the smaller towns are the ones most in need of a conversation like this,” Stroud said. “It gives people a chance to come together in a room to focus, for a couple of hours, on a single issue. They may already know everybody in the room and maybe there’s someone else there who they’ve heard about, but haven’t had the opportunity to meet. It gives folks a chance to come together and focus on one thing, even for a short time.”
Stroud said the agencies wanted to come to Reedsport because of the town’s isolation from the rest of Douglas County.
“I really wanted to make sure that we got out there to hear what was going on and to give folks the opportunity to contribute,” she said.
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