MACED on Local Foods and Transition in Action

betsy-whaley

Betsy Whaley

Guest blog #2 on local foods comes from Betsy Whaley with the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED). 

1. First off: Who are you? And what’s your role at your organization?

I’m Betsy Whaley, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at MACED in Berea, Kentucky. My role is to help MACED identify opportunities to support economic development through new market interventions.

2. How does your organization advocate for/work for/connect with local foods work in the region?

We’ve been exploring what our role is in supporting the local food sector, since it’s not a sector in which we’ve traditionally worked. Over the past few months I’ve been working to get a deeper understanding of the local foods landscape in eastern Kentucky and to determine if there is a role for MACED to play in supporting its development.

I’ve found that there is a growing interest within the region around agriculture and local foods’ role in developing a sustainable economy. I think that MACED’s role is to be a supportive partner to others who are working directly with producers. We are a participant in the Central Appalachian Network’s Food and Agriculture Sector Working Group and serve as the fiscal agent in a collaborative grant with that group. We are exploring other ways to support this collaboration.

3. Can you share a compelling example of the local foods movement in Appalachia from your perspective?

The Farmacy program in Whitesburg, Kentucky is a great example of cross-sector collaboration to improve health outcomes and support the growth the local food. Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation(MCHC), a Federally Qualified Health Center serving Letcher and neighboring counties, was concerned about the high rates of diabetes and other diet-related health issues. At the same time, Community Farm Alliance, Grow Appalachia and the Cowan Creek Community Center were working in the county to increase local food production. As an attempt to intervene in the diet-related health issues, these groups came together to launch the Farmacy program.
Patients in MCHC clinics with a diet-related health issue can receive a “prescription” which they can take to the farmer’s market and redeem for fresh produce. In its first year, 2015, MCHC saw clinically significant improvements in several health indicators for participants, and the program was renewed and expanded for 2016. The effect on local food production has been that farmers are producing more food for sale at the farmer’s market, new producers are coming on board and more money is flowing into the local food economy.

Out of this effort a new nonprofit, Community Agriculture and Nutritional Enterprises (CANE) was born. CANE will further the work that has begun by helping people learn how to preserve food, create value-added products and cultivate new market linkages and outlets for locally produced food. The Farmacy program is a great example of a market intervention that has multiple community and economic impacts.

4. What role does local food play in your vision of Appalachia’s Just Transition movement?

Local food production is vital to the health, resilience and sustainability of local economies in Appalachia. Growing food is an empowering activity that allows residents of rural communities to make use of their natural resources to improve their family’s food security and supplement their income if they participate in the local food economy. Rebuilding the food system value chain which connects producers to market outlets both within and outside the region is vital to supporting the growth of the local food sector and local economies.

Betsy Whaley joined the staff of MACED in October of 2015. Before coming to MACED, she was the Vice President of Programs and Community Collaborations for The Julian Center in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she developed expertise in program development, project management, grant writing and building collaborations for collective impact. Betsy’s roots are in Appalachia, having grown up in east Tennessee near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A graduate of The University of Tennessee and Christian Theological Seminary, she has a great interest in working to support just and sustainable transition in eastern Kentucky.