The mission of Georgia Food Oasis is to empower Georgians to healthier ways to eat, cook and grow local, fresh foods. Through building and supporting local coalitions that organize around the goal of creating resilient local food economies, GFO seeks to facilitate communities in self-developing innovative, affordable ways to increase healthy food access, improve the local food economy, and promote healthy living.
The pilot phase kicked off in 2015 when we identified three communities (Augusta, Columbus, and Atlanta) that were already engaged in food access work, and worked with them over a three-year period to help identify local food assets, develop local leadership, and direct resources to community-led projects and initiatives. During the next phase of GFO programming, our plan is to leverage the lessons learned and successes achieved during the pilot phase to expand on this model of organizing and continue to build food oases across the entire state of Georgia.
Here’s a look at some of the achievements from the GFO pilot phase and an update on what’s up next for the pilot communities:
Augusta – Among the projects that received GFO support in Augusta were an urban ag bootcamp, a youth life-skills program, and a composting project that takes invasive weeds growing in the Augusta canal and turns them into nutrient-rich soil that can be used by growers and farms in the community. This year, mini-grants awarded to Augusta Locally Grown and Soul + Soil kicked off two public engagement campaigns which provide fun, educational, and hands-on space for the community to learn and discover new ways to experience food.
Columbus – Columbus Food Oasis initiatives ranged from creating a community garden map, to building a fruit orchard on an abandoned plot of land, to starting a bi-weekly farmers market that saw $1500 in SNAP redemption and doubling in its first season. This year the market plans to implement an on-site micro-farm and incorporate patient dietary education. Also, be on the lookout for details about the Columbus fruit tree sale planned for September 2019.
Atlanta – The Fresh MARTA Market is entering its fifth season of operation, and is now hosted at five MARTA stations around the city. The market has enjoyed steady growth and is becoming a model for other cities who are looking to implement similar food access solutions in their communities. Atlanta Food Oasis also recently began a partnership with the Georgia Department of Corrections and Trellis Horticultural Therapy to teach gardening and life skills to women living in transitional housing.
The GFO approach utilizes the four P’s (public engagement, partnership, planning, and policy) to help organize local efforts around achieving the goal of increasing local food access, supply, and consumption. Georgia Food Oasis seeks to provide Georgia neighborhoods and community organizations with guidance and resource support to community-led initiatives, create a community of practice in Georgia that prioritizes inclusivity, equity, and sustainability in food systems planning, and elevate and promote the hard work of Georgia’s communities engaged in healthy, local food access.