Meetings to gather info on local food system


Indiana University wants to know people’s thoughts on the availability of fresh food locally.

IU’s Sustainable Food Systems Science Initiative and its Center for Rural Engagement will ask that question and others at a meeting that will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, at the Tri-County YMCA, 131 E. 16th St., Ferdinand.

“The food system is changing. Rural grocery stores are closing. Amazon is asking us to buy food online. Things are changing in the food system,” said Jodee Ellett, community engagement specialist for the food systems initiative. “More people are needing emergency food assistance. Why are these things happening, and how can we leverage the assets in the region to improve things for people?”

Other meetings will be held in Bedford, Linton and Nashville, Indiana.

The initiative wants to collect information about local programs that complement food system development. Researchers want to learn if community components like leadership, entrepreneurship, economic development and tourism support or promote that development.

“We’re also looking at places like schools, hospitals, corporate cafeterias, catering businesses, and small entrepreneurship businesses that we could incubate,” Ellett said, “to foster homegrown entrepreneurship and increase the supply of local foods getting to market in the region.”

She is hoping that people will come to the meeting to bring ideas, brainstorm with others and share their thoughts and feelings about the food available locally and how that could or should improve.

“There probably are things going on that I know about, but I certainly don’t know all of it,” Ellett said. “The reason for the community meetings is to bring out that information. Tell us what’s going on in the food system. And tell us your interest, and what they think their food system needs, whether it’s in your community or in their region.”

Researchers will ultimately look at all the information to determine if there are any regional trends in the south central Indiana area.

“Are there scenes occurring in the southern Indiana region?” Ellett said. “Are we hearing really strong support for certain ideas or needs in the regional food system that could be addressed by a big initiative?”

People are welcome to attend the other meetings if they cannot attend the Ferdinand one, Ellett said. Those scheduled meetings are from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at REC, 1129 West 16th St., Bedford; from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, at the Linton City Park Community Building, 1351 A St. NE; and from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, at the Purdue Extension Office, 802 Memorial Drive, Nashville, Indiana.

“We want to work with communities in Indiana to address needs and interests in their food system,” Ellett said. “The thing about the food system is that we’re all stakeholders. We all eat.”

For the sake of getting an approximate count of attendees, people are asked to RSVP for a meeting here.

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