Being a community and food justice organizer at the Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP) (www.mass-ave.org) in Buffalo, I work with local youth to Increase access to fresh affordable food and build a more equitable and sustainable food system. Some days that means working with youth on our urban farm to grow food for Buffalo communities, other days it’s connecting local farms and urban markets, and sometimes it’s informing elected officials about the movement for a better food system and how they can support healthier communities and economic opportunities through policy.
Tomorrow, I will travel to Capitol Hill to speak to members of Congress to inform the upcoming Farm Bill process. Sponsored by Reps Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Steve Southerland (R-FL), John Dingell (D-MI) and James McGovern (D-MA) and with assistance from Green for All, Wholesome Wave and Fair Food Network, the event will showcase innovative models in healthy food access and food systems development from around the country. Along with speakers from Fair Food Network, Wholesome Wave’s Veggie RX Program, and Inova Health Systems, I will speak about the work MAP is doing with youth to bring healthy food our communities and develop job opportunities that our area sorely needs.
You may already know how important the Farm Bill is in determining healthy food and local buying options for schools, in supporting the creation of farmers markets that help smaller farmers stay in business, and programs that make healthy produce available and affordable for people in low income and communities of color across the country. The Farm Bill also supports the Community Food Projects Grant Program, one that provides funding to local communities to develop local food systems designed to address the unique needs of their areas. With support from two Community Food Project grants, MAP has been able to assess our local food system, develop programs that make our communities stronger and bring together rural and urban stakeholders to support a healthier regional economy in the long term. As many low income families across the country chose between healthy food and housing or utilities bills, it is critical to send the message to our national leaders, that we need a Farm Bill that supports access to healthy fresh food for all and resources for local communities to build resilient and local living economies.
It’s not often when those of us working in the trenches, working with few resources and on tiny budgets, can speak to those who can make systemic change, ease the challenges our communities face and respond to evidence that we’ve gathered on the ground. I am honored to have this opportunity and thank Green for All for lifting up local leaders. Support local youth and local food.
Zoe Hollomon is a Green For All Academy Fellow and works at the Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP) in Buffalo, where she builds youth leadership and brings healthy food to her communities through organic urban farming and social change education.