Since 2015, when EarthDance embarked on a Community Food Assessment process, the organization has sought to better understand the foodscape in Ferguson, our hometown. We’ve asked questions such as: do all residents of Ferguson (and nearby municipalities) have access to healthy food options? How far do they travel to buy their food — and how far does their food travel to get to them? And how can EarthDance and other stakeholders work with residents to create a healthier, more equitable food system in our community?
In 2015 EarthDance received a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Community Food Project grant to conduct a community food assessment (CFA) in Ferguson. This report assesses how a municipality’s food travels from field to fork, and how that food system is supported by other factors such as the availability of emergency food providers, food system organizations, economic and business development entities, transportation, institutions and public policy. EarthDance’s CFA specifically focused on education, access and ownership, and at its core, sought to answer the following questions:
What are Ferguson’s food system strengths and weaknesses?
What actions can we take to create a more economically thriving community that is food secure and healthier?
Beginning in 2016, the assessment process was lead by Community Food Assessment Coordinator Jessica Perkins, a community-engagement specialist. Her first task was to assemble a Community Advisory Committee of local food stakeholders and a CFA team including a GIS specialist, a researcher, and an outreach coordinator. Along with the young people of EarthDance’s Junior Farm Crew, the CFA team collected information about all facets of the food system (production, processing, distribution, consumption and waste management), as well as surveying more than 300 participants, including farmers market vendors and patrons, and Ferguson residents. The Junior Farm Crew also performed a food store audit to learn about the availability and affordability of more than 80 grocery store items at 14 stores, including the availability of organic and locally produced items.
Through the CFA, EarthDance gathered enough information to identify the challenges that people in Ferguson’s food system face and the opportunities for improving Ferguson’s food system.
Key challenges include:
Key opportunities include:
With the information gathered from the CFA, EarthDance has begun to envision and acto on behalf of a just, healthy, and economically regenerative food-scape for Ferguson.
With support from the Missouri Foundation for Health, EarthDance followed the food assessment with a year-long community engagement process designed to inform Ferguson residents and stakeholders about the CFA results. The process included organizing focus groups with Ferguson residents facing food insecurity; hosting ten interactive community conversations; and further engaging the CFA Community Advisory Council. While sharing the results, we asked, “What is most important to you about these results? Are you interested in making Ferguson a better place to eat? Where do we go from here?”
Drawing from the feedback provided to EarthDance during our community engagement campaign, with the help of our Community Food Assessment Community Advisory Council, EarthDance developed a series of strategies designed to increase residents’ engagement with healthy food assets in Ferguson and to increase healthy food production. Working with Ferguson residents, community leaders, and other stakeholders, we seek to make Ferguson a better place to eat for all!
Download the guide “Healthy Food Choice Resources”