Atlanta’s food movement

Atlanta is growing a big opportunity right beneath our feet.

If we take a look across metro Atlanta, we increasingly find a bountiful array of food growers, educators, community organizers, nonprofits, local food entrepreneurs and investors working to address complex issues related to local food. They have become part of what we call Atlanta’s food movement.

These people understand a food movement isn’t all about being a “foodie,” or that it’s just for farmers’ market frequent shoppers. They understand the power a vibrant local food movement possesses to build healthier communities – to transform our food systems and our lives. And if we look at who really is involved in the local food movement, it becomes apparent that if you eat, you’re already playing a part.

The outstanding individuals and organizations leading this movement — from growers and distributors to community gardeners and those who encourage consumption of local food — provide a solid foundation for Atlanta to become a leading city that supports and encourages a resilient, innovative, local food system.

Food keeps us connected to the land, where food comes from, and allows us to enjoy the outdoors, have fun, seek deeper engagement with our community, teach our children better nutrition and address hunger.

But to truly strengthen this movement and find better and more ways to get fresh, local food into the hands of everyone, there is a need for greater collaboration and deeper engagement across the private, public and nonprofit sectors.

Food Well Alliance, a newly formed organization in partnership with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, seeks to connect people, ideas and resources around local food. Our goal is to bridge people not just to their food, but to each other.

The James M. Cox Foundation has provided resources for Food Well Alliance to incubate at the Food Bank, which has a reputation for building successful partnerships to address complex problems related to food and hunger. This partnership enhances the Food Bank’s work in fighting hunger and improving access to fresh, healthy food, while providing credibility, stability and wisdom to establish a new table.

The Food Well Alliance model is simple. The alliance will provide a friendly, knowledgeable, productive place for people to come together around common goals and interests. It will provide grants for collaborative, compelling solutions. And it will share and emphasize how local food transforms people’s lives.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting some of the inspiring players in this movement. I’ve seen how health care givers look to local, fresh food as a prescription for healthier outcomes in their patients, and how schools are building gardens as a teaching tool and to develop future environmental stewards. I’ve seen kids experience greater access to fresh, local food at school, college graduates starting urban farms, and innovation centers inviting entrepreneurs to tackle food security issues.

I’ve also met a young, recovering drug addict who now is a thriving urban farmer, a formerly homeless man who regained his dignity just by getting his hands into soil and helping a farm be successful.

So whether you are an entrepreneur, community organizer, community gardener, educator, planner, investor — or you just like to eat — we invite you to help us build healthier communities by supporting the growth of our vibrant local food movement. We invite you to join us at Food Well Alliance.

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. Learn more at www.foodwellalliance.org

Bobbi de Winter is executive director of the Food Well Alliance.

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