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This is a space where Foundation staff share their thoughts and musings on giving and community:

The Future of our Food System

Posted by: Stuart Comstock-Gay on 5/8/2015

Imagine that in fifty years, New England could produce half of the food its residents need. It’s possible, according to the compelling vision put together by Food Solutions New England in a report issued last year.

At a recent event hosted by our Food and Farm Initiative, Professor Brian Donahue of Brandeis University, the report’s lead author, described in vivid detail how the region could increase the amount of food we grow ourselves from 5% to 50% of our diets. He talked about what it would take to get there, from the challenges of maintaining healthy forests while opening new farmland to what food is best grown here, and what makes sense to import.

The report provides lots of data and scientific and economic analysis. It’s a powerful vision, and one worth thinking more about, because it has much to say about the resilience and well-being of our communities in years to come.

The Community Foundation’s Food and Farm Initiative has now been underway for about two and a half years. And the kind of vision this report describes is a part of what underlies our thinking.

As we have sought to bring together the local food movement and the fight to end hunger, our focus has been on our schools, where many of Vermont’s students rely on school meals for their nutrition. There have been successes: 

But the true success story of the Food and Farm Initiative is a collective one. Nonprofits and entrepreneurs and collections of individuals are working together in new ways, building a structure to ensure that good foods are a part of the future of all Vermonters. By funding a broad range of interconnected projects at the same time, we seek to support a critical mass of reinforcing activities. By encouraging a coordinated state-level approach, we’re seeing greater learning, unprecedented alignment, and quicker results—and there is still much to be done.

You can read about the work of our grantees in our Spring 2015 Progress Report, released just a month ago. And if you want to help fund some of these projects, and help us keep the momentum going, we welcome your partnership and support. You can give to the local food and farms fund online, or contact Janet McLaughlin for more information.

As we look toward the future, we believe it is important to design and build a food system that can support the nutritional needs of everyone in this state, regardless of where they live or how much they earn. The task is much easier said than done; thanks to the work of the team that created the New England Food Vision, we do know that it is technically possible. So we must try.

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