National Co+op Grocers partners with National Farm to School Network to build racial equity in local food system

NCG’s 148 food co-ops work with 185 local farmers and producers, creating a year-round market for local food that accounts for 22 percent of food co-op sale.

National Co+op Grocers (NCG) recently announced its continued partnership with National Farm to School Network (NFSN), an information, advocacy and networking hub working to advance policies and priorities that grow and strengthen the farm to school movement.

The two national organizations are strong advocates for local food and community empowerment and, in recent years, have drawn attention to the fact that local food systems are not serving everyone equitably and that racial disparities must be addressed. The renewed partnership includes sponsorship of NFSN’s monthly live conversations about racial equity in the food system, free and open to the public through NFSN’s Facebook page.

Leaders in the Local Food Movement

NFSN and their partner farm to school organizations across the country have been instrumental in helping to build the modern local food movement. Today, more than 42 percent of American schools engage in farm to school activities, which include locally sourced foods into school cafeterias, school gardens and food, nutrition and agriculture curriculum.

On the retail side, NCG’s 148 community-owned food co-ops work with an average of 185 local farmers and producers in their communities, creating a year-round market for local food that accounts for 22 percent of food co-op sales. Both national organizations have worked for many years to promote the benefits of local food systems, like improving community health and boosting the local economy.

The Need for Racial Equity

Local food systems often reflect many of the same inequities present in the wider U.S. food system—Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) are underrepresented as farm owners and overrepresented as food system laborers. Before COVID-19, nearly one in six kids were living with hunger, with disproportionate impacts on BIPOC households. Retail outlets and grocers that stock fresh fruits and vegetables are less likely to be located in majority BIPOC communities than their white counterparts, to cite just a few ways in which the food system is inequitable now.

As part of its commitment to improve racial equity in their network, NCG is working on internal diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, advocating for equitable food and farm policies and partnering with organizations that are focused on building racial equity in the food system. Over the past three years, NCG has invested in NFSN’s work to address racial equity with their network—raising funds for their equity learning lab in 2019 and investing in their Call to Action for 100 percent of communities to hold power in a racially just food system by 2025.

“As leaders in the local food movement, farm to school organizations and food co-ops are working to build racial equity into local food systems,” said C.E. Pugh, CEO of NCG. “NCG’s partnership with NFSN is a recognition that everyone in the local food movement must work to reduce the inequities present in today’s food system. We’re inspired by and grateful for the leadership NFSN is showing to positively impact racial equity, one community at a time.”

“National Co+op Grocers (NCG)’s partnership with NFSN is a recognition that everyone in the local food movement must work to reduce the inequities present in today’s food system.” – C.E. Pugh, CEO, NCG

NFSN is amplifying and advancing their Call to Action for a racially just food system through three equity-centered priorities—new relationships, outcome-driven strategies, and transformational programs and policies—that have the potential to shift power to those who have been marginalized, exploited and excluded from the current system.

“The inequities in our current food system are as old as the history of settler colonialism, stolen land from Indigenous peoples and forced enslavement of African peoples, on whose backs, literally, our American agricultural system was built,” said Helen Dombalis, Executive Director of NFSN. “Farm to school activities—when centered in racial equity and relationships—can be a community strategy for correcting these inequities and cultivating the just food system that so many of us seek. We are grateful for NCG’s continued partnership and support in our collective work towards this vision.”  

Check out and share NFSN’s Facebook Live monthly coffee chat series, sponsored by National Co+op Grocers, and focused on topics pertaining to building racial equity in local food systems—past archives can be found on NFSN’s YouTube channel.

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