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In keeping with its mission to reduce heath disparities, the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP) is investigating the links between local sustainable food systems and health. HPDP faculty and staff are beginning innovative research in this area, helping to build a new North Carolina Statewide Action Plan for Building a Local Food Economy and participating in local and regional seminars focused on the connection of food practices and health.

Sustainable agriculture, organic foods, farmers markets and buying local are hot topics in these days, but little work has been done to show whether consuming local and sustainable foods improves overall health.

Through a new Gillings Innovation Lab at HPDP, “Linking Local, Sustainable Farming and Health”, Alice Ammerman, Center Director, is spearheading a team of more than thirty researchers, professionals, state officials, and farmers to tackle a comprehensive project designed to examine whether “eating local” impacts obesity, the environment and economic viability.

Robin Crowder began work as the director of this project in January. Crowder comes to the Center from Bellingham, WA, where she directed a large farmers market and worked as a marketing consultant to health care companies and sustainable businesses.

“The outpouring of support and interest from students and collaborators to join this sustainable agriculture and health project has been tremendous,” said Crowder. “This project capitalizes on the momentum that buying local is building and offers people the opportunity to work with experts in public health, farming, curriculum design, documentary film making, GIS mapping and community organizing.”

In tandem with her sustainable farming and health research Ammerman serves on the advisory committee for the statewide Farm to Fork Initiative, located at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) at NC State University. The initiative is a year-long effort to find out what is needed to develop a sustainable local food economy in North Carolina. Ideas from six regional meetings and 12 workgroups will come together in early March at the state’s first Farm to Fork Summit. The Summit will culminate in a Statewide Action Plan for Building a Local Food Economy.

Within the Farm to Fork Initiative Ammerman has facilitated the workgroup on public health and food access disparities.

“The Farm to Fork Initiative will help to move North Carolina forward in terms of the triple bottom line of health promotion, broadly defined as environmental stewardship, sustainable economic development and social justice,” said Ammerman. “HPDP’s focus on health disparities, community-based participatory research, and broad multi-disciplinary collaborations around research translation and dissemination make us well positioned to contribute significantly to these efforts.”

Other local conferences and seminars in the upcoming months further highlight the growing interest in local sustainable food systems.

A six-part Sustainable Food Systems Seminar Series, sponsored by the Robertson Collaboration Fund, will alternate locations between UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University. On March 18 Ammerman will partner with Nancy Creamer of CEFS and Robin Kohanowich of Central Carolina Community College’s Agriculture program to discuss education and outreach related to sustainable agriculture and public health.

Dottie Holland and Charles Price from the UNC Department of Anthropology, will describe the work of the Center for Integrating Research and Action (CIRA) at part of seminar series at HPDP that focuses on community-based participatory research. CIRA brings together university-based researchers and community leaders to collaborate on producing knowledge and strategies to advance social justice in North Carolina and beyond. One example of CIRA’s work is the development of a partnership between grassroots and nonprofit leaders from three “persistently poor” regions around the state in a collaboration that now focuses on sustainable agriculture.

Following is a listing of upcoming local events on sustainable agriculture.

Spring 2009 Sustainable Agriculture Events
Event Sponsor Place Dates
CIRA, Food, and Project Documentation Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, UNC Kellogg Health Scholars Program and Carolina Center for Public Service Room 236, 1700 Martin Luther King Blvd., Chapel Hill Feb 9
Sustainable Food Systems Seminar Series Robertson Collaboration Fund Alternates between UNC-CH and Duke Remaining dates are Feb 18, Mar 4, Mar 18, Apr 1
Real Food Real Medicine UNC FLO Foods and NC Naturopathic Physicians UNC Friday Center Feb 27-Mar 1
Farm to Fork Summit Center for Environmental Farming Systems
NCSU McKimmon Center
Mar 2-3

Date: February 9, 2009

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