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New Hampshire’s Food Strategy

by Robin LeBlanc | Aug 26th, 2014 | Leave a comment

We had the good fortune to attend a very interesting conversation last week – one of 10 that will be held around the state.  The focus was/is the food system here in the Granite State. There were over 50 people in the room, including farmers, nutritionists, educators, restaurant folks, nonprofits and more.

Definitions:

  • a food system includes all processes and infrastructure involved in feeding a population:  growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, marketing, consumption and disposal of food and food-related items.  It also includes the inputs needed and outputs generated at each of these steps.  A food system operates within and is influenced by social, political, economic and environmental contexts.  It also requires human resources that provide labor, research and education. (from the program handout)
  • The NH Food Strategy is an initiative to develop a strong and connected network of organizations, institutions, agencies, businesses and individuals that contribute to the NH food systems.

The purpose of the statewide conversations is to identify goals, key leverage points and action priorities that together will form strategies to achieve a food system that works for everyone in New Hampshire.

Quite frankly, it has been only in the past few years that we have become aware of the serious issues around food – and that New Hampshire has some sobering statistics, such as (and these are just a few):

  • There were 60 groundfish fishing vessels in NH in 2000.  Now there are 14.
  • 9.9% of NH households are classified as food insecure – ie, they don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  And 38% of this population are children.  In 2013, 8.5 MILION pounds of food went to food agencies in NH.
  • As of 2012, over 50% of farmers had a second job to help make ends meet – so as much as farmers would like to focus on growing good, healthy food, it is not always economically feasible
  • Not everyone has access to healthy food choices (like fresh vegetables or meats or non-packaged food) – some places are too rural and others live in neighborhoods with only convenience stores.  Remember, not everyone has transportation to larger grocery stores or farmers’ markets.
  • Without healthy food choices, obesity rates go up (doubled in last 15 years)  and diabetes is more common (9% of NH residents as of 2012)

There are many, many individuals and organizations that care deeply about this, and are working in their own ways to address it and related issues within their own communities.  However, what is needed is an overarching strategy, along with collaboration and cooperation, to figure out how to meet the challenges of economics and education (which now there is a lack of) to support a statewide effort.

For more information about this, go to http://nhfoodstrategy.weebly.com.  Click on the NH Regional Gatherings tab for an upcoming conversation in your region.