Feeding Our Future Network: GreenStar Community Projects supports local network-building sessions
***How to get involved: share your stories and thoughts, volunteer, or donate by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 607-277-0020 ext 509.
A bit of background:
There are so many amazing food-related initiatives in our community it’s almost impossible to keep track of them. Everywhere you look – in downtown Ithaca, in our rural towns, our schools and colleges, cafeterias and classrooms, on farms and in kitchens – people are doing great things to help build a better food system. The trouble is, we often don’t know what each other is doing. We miss opportunities to have a bigger impact because we’re all so busy working in our own little corner.
In 2012, GreenStar Community Projects, the nonprofit affiliate of GreenStar Co-op, decided to take on the challenge of creating a stronger and more effective network for food system change. One of the first steps was building a collaborative group of people with strong connections across Tompkins County’s diverse communities and sectors. Current members of the Network Planning Group include:
- Anne Rhodes of White Allies Against Structural Racism and Smart Energy Policy
- Phoebe Brown of Cayuga Medical Center for Healthy Living and Building Bridges
- Dan Hoffman of GreenStar Co-op Council
- Monika Roth of Cornell Cooperative Extension
- Holly Payne of GreenStar Community Projects
- Jan Norman of Local First Ithaca and New York State Sustainable Business Council
- Jeff Piestrak of Cornell’s Mann Library and Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
- Anise Hotchkiss, Finger Lakes ReUse
- Joanna Green of Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming
The role of Feeding Our Future Network is as facilitator and catalyst — bringing people and organizations together to share information and inspiration around a particular theme or issue in our local food system. We facilitate conversation, connection and collaboration between groups who might otherwise not interact much. And we catalyze actions that are, incrementally, strengthening our local food system.
Would you like to participate? Absolutely everyone is invited to be part of the Feeding Our Future network. We’re also looking for a few passionate people – including youth – to join the planning team. For more info, call 277-0020 ext 509 and ask for Holly Payne. Or you can reach Holly at email@example.com
Why focus on network-building?
Effective networks are critical to a community’s capacity to address complex, systemic problems like poverty and food insecurity. June Holley, author of The Network Weaver Handbook, notes several important functions served by effective networks:
- Effective networks enable us to bring together large numbers of people and organizations to impact a complex problem or create a new opportunity.
- An effective network helps people connect across different types of organizations, different backgrounds, or different segments of the community. As a result of these new relationships, people gain broader perspectives and often generate better solutions.
- Effective networks open up new resources. There are often many hidden resources in any network. When you take time to identify needs of individuals and organizations in the network, you can then introduce the individual with a need to someone who can fill that need by providing information, funding, space, etc.
- Effective networks build and enhance leadership. Networks contain many hidden leaders. Once identified, you can help such individuals think about their role and encourage other leaders in the community to recognize the important role these hidden leaders are playing. With additional leadership, the community will be more resilient and less vulnerable to the loss of any one leader.
From 2012-2015, we have organized eleven “Feeding Our Future” networking sessions at various locations in and around Ithaca. Sessions are free and open to all, and we provide a light dinner at each session. Participants so far include many unaffiliated individuals and representatives of more than 170 local organizations: farms, food businesses, soup kitchens, food pantries, financial institutions, foundations, hospitals, local governments, schools, universities, cooperative extension, local non-profits, religious groups, and social service centers.
Action groups have arisen out of some of these sessions, bringing people together to tackle a particular need or opportunity. For example, a Community Dinners project was initiated to foster informal conversations about food and food insecurity. This Hot Potato Press blog grew out of the network’s Communications Action Group. A Food Policy Council Planning Group is working towards establishing a formal food policy council for Tompkins County. Our latest networking session in February brought more than 70 people together to talk about Youth & Food, and we’re hoping that participants will run with some of the great ideas that came out of that discussion.
Submitted by Joanna Green on behalf of the Feeding Our Future Network Planning Team. March 22, 2015.