BENNINGTON -- A plan on how to optimize the local food system lists 35 projects and which local organizations are in the best position to do them.
The Food System Action Plan has been in the works for the past several years, said Micky McGlasson, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer serving the Bennington Count Regional Commission. The regional commission has been working on the food action plan for the Bennington Farm to Plate Council.
McGlasson said the action plan is intended to be a living document that gives direction to local organizations such as Bennington College, Bennington Farmer’s Market, Southwestern Vermont Supervisory Union, the Town of Bennington, and Meals on Wheels of Bennington County to name a few.
The plan will also foster more communication between groups, McGlasson said. Bennington Farm to Plate Council will host an annual food forum similar to the ones it has done in the past and invite the different groups, as well as keep them all up to date on projects through a newsletter.
The local plan is modeled from the state Farm to Plate plan, which McGlasson said has had some success on the statewide level. This document looks at the "Trilocal Food System," which is the 30-mile radius around Bennington that includes New York and Massachusetts. Bennington’s food system is somewhat unique, McGlasson said. For most places, food is produced on the outskirts of a populated area where there are few people. Bennington is a rural area that imports much of its food from upstate New York, which has a higher population.
The goal of the plan is not to change this dynamic, but to better understand it, he said. According to the study, $100 million is spent in Bennington County each year on food. The projects put forward in the plan are things that would help local growers produce more food, find more outlets for it, and would allow locals better access to nutritional meals.
He said some projects listed are things that are being worked on or have been in action for some time.
The study breaks the projects up into eight categories, consumer demand, farm inputs, food production, food processing, wholesale distribution, retail distribution, nutrient management, and food security.
McGlasson said the eighth category was added for the local study, as the Bennington area is considered a "food desert," meaning access to quality, affordable nutrition is a challenge for some. One of the projects under it involves supporting "healthy, local foods at community meal sites," as well as cooking classes, cooking events, and recipe distribution. The Bennington County Farmer’s Market, Southern Vermont College, Tutorial Center Youth Agriculture Program, The Kitchen Cupboard, among others, were listed as groups that could further that end.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.