The concept of eating local, farm to table, etc. is not new to Georgia. Georgia has deep roots in farming and agriculture that date back hundreds of years. As the world became more industrialized, farming became more commoditized. People lost the connection with local growers and their importance in the local food chain. In 1997, Georgia Organics (GO) was birthed, rooted in a mission to connect organic food from Georgia farms to Georgia families. GO believes that food systems should be community-based, not commodity based. The Georgia Department of Agriculture has even established the Georgia Grown program to support bringing together and promoting all stakeholders of the local agricultural economy from producer to consumer. In recent years, hundreds of players have entered the local food market with a staunch commitment to local food; many cited in GO’s Good Food Guide.
The concept of eating local is not new to Georgia, but it is in the midst of resurgence. For many, the healthy local food movement is often viewed as more of a trendy thing for “foodies” and, by and large, not accessible to the average person. Fueling the local food renaissance is the notion that access to local and healthy is not a privilege and should be available to all regardless of place and income. There are many groups and organizations, in addition to GO, working diligently to change both perception and practice of healthy local food access.
Here at the Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB), we increased our distribution of fresh produce by 40.6% in FY 2013-14. For the second year running, fresh produce is now ACFB’s largest category of food distributed. Wholesome Wave Georgia strives to increase access to fresh, healthy, locally grown food for all Georgians by doubling each federal or state nutrition benefit (SNAP, WIC, SFMNP) dollar spent at their partner markets. Community Farmers Markets, a Wholesome Wave partner, is committed to developing farmers markets that are not only sustainable but have a meaningful impact on the community. The Atlanta Mobile Market is piloting a majority sourced local produce market serving Westside Atlanta neighborhoods which have few options for quality, affordable fresh produce. Most recently, Atlanta Local Food Initiative spearheaded the passing of the Urban Agriculture Zoning Ordinance Go Grow Atlanta to support the growth of urban farms and gardens within the city limits.
All of the organizations mentioned in this article including ACFB (and many more) are a part of a collaborative known as Georgia Food Oasis which helps communities develop innovative and affordable ways for residents to discover, taste and learn about healthy and fresh food. We continuously look for ways to collaborate and create a community guided food landscape that includes access to local, healthy foods for all. At the request of Community Farmers Markets, we have come together to support the Eat Local Challenge September 21-27th. We are challenging YOU to go 7 days in September eating only foods grown, caught, or raised within a 200 mile radius of Atlanta to heighten awareness of the nutritional, economical, environmental and cultural benefits of eating locally sourced foods.
JOIN US as we Eat Local!
A special thanks to the NOLA Eat Local Challenge for the inspiration and resources.
-Cicely Garrett, Food Systems Innovation Manager