Asheville Daily Planet
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Councilman pushes for food security for poor
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 16:42

From Staff Reports

 Food security in Asheville and surrounding Buncombe County was the focus of a June 1 talk by Gordon Smith, a member of Asheville City Council.

In addressing the Council of Independent Business Owners in Biltmore Square Mall, Smith began by noting that “we’ve got over 55 percent of our kids on free or reduced lunches” locally.

He defined “food security” as “when people have access to healthy, affordable food at all times ... In meeting with various groups, everyone agreed that what we had here in Buncombe County is a problem that can — and must — be addressed.”

To that end, Smith said the Asheville-Buncombe Food Policy Council has been formed to address the issue.

The councilman expressed concern that when school out for the summer, children that reciving free lunches and breakfasts are going hungry because their parents are unable to provide for their needs.

Also, Smith said that “we know kids who are not getting adequate nutrition do not do as well (in class) as those who do.”

In studying what has been successful on the issue elsewhere, Smith said the answer is local food policy councils.

“Y’all know there’s been a lot of knowledge lost over the last few generations over how to produce and eat a proper meal,” he noted. “I see this as a 25-year processs. I invite all of you to join in this ... It cuts across all ideological lines.”

With a note of pride, Smith said City Council recently eliminated a restriction on holding a farmers market in neighborhood areas and committed to purchasing at least 10 percent of foods from local sources.

“There aren’t a lot of farms producing big volumes of food (locally) to take care of larger institutions, such as the hospital,” Smith warned.

The latest development in local food security effort, he said, include council receiving a draft of ideas from the BFPC, which was sent for review to the city Sustainability Advisory Council. “In nine to 14 months from now, I’m hoping we’ll have a food security plan for Asheville City Council to vote on.”

During a question-and-answer period afterward, CIBO member Karl Koon said he applauded the efforts on food security.

However, CIBO member Robert M. “Mac” Swicegood II said that Warren Wilson College, despite its best efforts, “can’t cover itself with food production.”

Smith replied, “Warren Wilson College can produce some of the food it needs.”

In an interview after the meeting, Swicegood told the Daily Planet that, even though WWC raises beef and park, “if you want to buy a cow or hog, you have to take it to a butcher ... They can’t feed it to their students. They have to go through the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) or U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“So if you have vegetables (or fruit), you might be able to take them to Ingles” and sell them, but “you can’t go to a farmers market and sell a side of beef.”

In his view, Swicegood said, “There either has to be a relaxation of roles by the state or federal government.” or “you need to bring a (meat) processing facility here. Will that have to be subsidized by local government?”

Swicegood said the idea of producing all or most of the area’s needed food locally constitutes “a wonderful idea.”

However, Smith’s ideas make him wonder if it is a duplication of the function of MANNA FoodBank and if city leaders are “vote pandering. There’s a disconnect.”

Swicegood called WWC “a wonderful asset, but if they can’t make it work, how can this?” In previous times, the school was able to raise beef, chicken and hogs, which it butchered, and fed to the students. Now, with more stringent laws, “anything to do with blood and meat, the feds get involved.”

He suggested that local governments have created some of their own problems, when it comes to food security.



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