building community food networks through community foods

Why Community Food Networks?

Community Food Networks include all the different businesses, individuals, organizations and institutions involved in local food with a focus on how the unique relationships, mutual loyalties, collaboration and shared values lead to economic multipliers and a competitive advantage not possible through the mainstream food system. Since a main goal of the Food Assessment is to provide MarCo with the information we need to strengthen local community networks, promote health, and retain local wealth through economic activity generated in the region, we partnered with Ken Meter and Megan Phillips Goldenberg of Crossroads Resource Center to better understand the current state of Community Food Networks in the region including existing assets, needs and opportunities. MarCo is currently using the results of this study to explore specific roles we might play in improving collaboration and cooperation among network actors and increasing demand for community food. Read on for a summary of the findings or click on the button below for the full report including some very interesting farm and farmer profiles.

The Food Assessment Coordination Team called on MarCo members to recommend key community food network stakeholders to be interviewed. Thirty-three people participated including regional farmers of different sizes, distributors, buyers, staff from food access and local food nonprofit organizations, City and County staff, and others. The interviews addressed the following questions:

1. What are the emerging community food networks in the region?

2. What factors enable or constrain these networks?

3. What factors enable or constrain the scaling up of local food in the region? 

One stakeholder observed that Phoenix has ‘food silos’ rather than a ‘food system.’ This appears totally apt. Addressing this isolation is our foremost recommendation.

-Ken Meter and Megan Phillips Goldenberg

Recommended action priorities for the Maricopa county food system coalition

1. In collaboration with local partners, convene informal meetings in which diverse farmers build trust among each other and with diverse civic leaders.

2. Mount outreach and education campaigns that persuade Maricopa County residents to buy food from farms in the County.

3. Launch a long-term effort to grow new farmers in Maricopa County.

4. Collaborate with Tribal Nations to ensure long-term water access.

MarCo has been actively reflecting on the results of Ken and Megan's study and what it means for us as coalition moving forward. In developing a shared understanding of our ideal Community Food Network shown here, MarCo hopes to play the roles of convener, educator, and advocate in order to improve collaboration and coordination among network actors and increase demand for local food. We are currently exploring how we might accomplish this through farm-to-institution and municipal food policy efforts.

Thank you to all of you who participated in this study!