P.I.E. Conversations at EarthDance Organic Farm School by Vicky Chen, Outreach Coordinator

In 2015, EarthDance was awarded a USDA Community Foods Project Planning grant to conduct a Community Food Assessment (CFA) of Ferguson, Missouri. The primary goal was to create a snapshot of the community’s food system through the collection of primary and secondary data and to identify food resources and gaps. Some of our key takeaways from the CFA were

  • 44% of adults and school-age children alike eat 0 to 2 servings of fruits and vegetables daily; only 16% of adults and 25% of children eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily;
  • People with the lowest incomes, especially those living in northwest Ferguson, to a large degree and, northeast Ferguson, to a lesser degree, have few to no healthy food store options available to them;
  • Aldi’s is the best value in Ferguson for health and budget-conscious shoppers, carrying 100% of the USDA’s “food basket” items at an average of 30% less cost than the community’s other grocery outlets

With a snapshot of Ferguson’s food system complete, this year, EarthDance has strived to further engage the community by communicating the results of this assessment to the public, while creating open and honest spaces for a conversation about Ferguson’s food system. We called these community gatherings PIE conversations– a discussion and presentation on how individuals can: PARTICIPATE in the food system, get INFORMED (& Inform us!), and be EMPOWERED to make Ferguson a better place to eat for all. And of course, we served up delicious pie, made from scratch by our Junior Farm Crew members.

This fall, EarthDance has had the pleasure of conversing with upwards of 150 community members over the course of 10 community gatherings on how to improve our local food system! With the help of our local and flourishing community, neighborhood, and social organizations, we were able to literally and figuratively meet people where they are to talk about food in Ferguson. From St. Louis Community College Florissant Valley, to the Center for Social Empowerment, to right here at EarthDance; we reached an array of community members to hear as many experiences and new ideas as we could.

Recurringly during our conversations, community members agreed that a community is a great place to eat when it has:

  • Grocery stores and other outlets selling affordable, high-quality fruits, vegetables; non-GMO, non-antibiotics protein; and soy and dairy free options;
  • Full grocery stores within close proximity to residential areas, including high-density areas with apartments;
  • A wide variety of restaurants serving vegetarian, vegan and ethnic options;
  • Community farms, community and school gardens sustained by volunteers;
  • A farmers market, open at convenient times and;
  • Cooking and nutrition classes for all residents, regardless of age and income

In addition, overwhelmingly, community members agreed that expanding food access and improving affordability, and increasing knowledge about how to obtain, grow, store, and produce nutritional foods are the two most critical goals we should pursue as a community.

With a new year quickly approaching and with the ideas and experiences of Ferguson residents at the forefront of our thinking, EarthDance–and hopefully the Ferguson community, as well!– is feeling energized and ready to hop into 2018 to work to improve the food system here in Ferguson!

Peas & Love,

Vicky Chen

Outreach Coordinator