An organization that supports food producers and related businesses plans four public engagement sessions this month to help assess the region and enhance strategic planning.

The sessions will be June 24 to 27, including one in Fort Wayne, the Northeast Indiana Local Food Network said in a news release Tuesday.

“The purpose of this effort is to increase awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the local food system in northeast Indiana. The planning process will also help northeast Indiana stakeholders determine how to build capacity and resilience within the local food system, increase inclusivity, and serve vulnerable and/or marginalized populations,” the release said.

The four sessions are part of the Northeast Indiana Local Food Needs Assessment and Strategic Plan Initiative.

The planning initiative will run through summer and early fall and is expected to be completed by late fall, the release said. Along with the four public sessions this month, focus group, interviews and survey outreach is planned for July and August.

“We are hosting public engagement sessions across the region, so we can hear directly from everyone who is interested in and impacted by local food,” Janet Katz, founding director of the Northeast Indiana Local Food Network, said in a statement.

“Our organization wants to understand the needs and opportunities they see for their families, schools, businesses and communities. The insights we learn will guide our plans to serve and strengthen our local food system,” Katz said.

Kristi Sturtz, with Sturtz Public Management Group, and Kate Vellucci have been hired to facilitate the process. Vellucci is an independent local food systems consultant who is working with Sturtz on this initiative, Katz said through email.

For the past couple of months, the Northeast Indiana Local Food Network has been working with Sturtz Public Management to plan an assessment and develop a strategic plan, she said.

“Food is connected to so many aspects of having a good quality of life and quality of place within our communities, from health and wellness to the natural environment to the local economy,” Sturtz said in a statement. “We invite local leaders, food system stakeholders, and resident consumers to participate in upcoming engagement sessions to both learn and share how we can work together to build a more resilient and inclusive local food system throughout northeast Indiana.”

The initiative is being funded with assistance from a USDA Regional Food System Partnerships grant and the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation, the release said. The USDA grant is $40,000, but the local health foundation grant amount has not yet been announced, Katz said.

The stakeholders participating would include anyone involved in and impacted by the local food system in the region, she said. That includes elected officials, local government professionals, community and economic developers, foundation leaders, nonprofit directors, farmers and local food entrepreneurs. Also included would be retail food-business owners, farmers market managers, chefs, food service directors and consumers.

About 50 to 75 people are expected to attend each of the four sessions. The daytime schedule may be beneficiary because organizers expect some of the attendees will be participating in the sessions as part of their job, Katz said.

The additional focus groups are likely to be held during evening hours in July, she added, and people will be encouraged to participate in regional surveys.

2024 © Network Today. All Rights Reserved.