The Georgia Food Oasis kicked off their pilot program on Sept. 3, 2015 in Augusta, GA with over 80 local residents, growers, community organizations, school nutrition directors and small business owners.
GFO, which is managed by Georgia Organics, helps communities develop innovative and affordable ways to discover, taste and learn about food. By working together, neighbors, nonprofits and community leaders encourage communities to shop smarter, eat healthier and feel better. Through an Eat – Cook – Grow strategy, Food Oasis communities collectively cook up their own food future.
Augusta is ripe with backyard growers and several local food initiatives and projects, like Grow Harrisburg. GFO aims to facilitate a community building process that builds upon existing projects while nurturing new opportunities for residents to transform their local food environment.
The meeting on Sept. 3 began that process. After an ice-breaker exercise, attendees were split into groups of eight to discuss and prioritize community needs and interests. Utilizing the framework for GFO – Eat, Cook, and Grow – the first ballot asked residents to rank the greatest needs facing Augusta, whether it was food access, knowledge about nutrition, or lacking the ability to cook, for example. The second ballot asked participants which area they would most be willing to personally assist in transforming. A third action ballot or pledge card captured attendee information to assist in organizing the community in the future.
This information will help the steering committee determine what the greatest needs are, how many people are willing to help and where those people live, providing valuable information as Augusta identifies its planning priorities to improve healthy, local food access.
While the information is extremely valuable, perhaps the most meaningful aspect of the first meeting was the community support. Kim Hines, a local, good food advocate coordinated with Erica Chaney, a culinary educator, at Helms College to prepare and serve locally sourced food for the event. Empowered by the event, attendees stayed well beyond the allotted time. As GFO Coordinator Suzanne Girdner said, “The session ended, but the discussion continues.”
The steering committee will meet in October, followed by another community meeting in November. Attendees of the first meeting were asked which voices were missing from the discussion, so if you missed the first event, be sure to check your inboxes and mailboxes for announcements for the second meeting on November 5th. We can’t wait to see you!