Resource Spotlight: Community Food Strategies
In this month’s Resource Spotlight, we speak with LaShauna Austria and Gini Knight with Community Food Strategies, a multi-organizational team of food system experts working to support and develop North Carolina’s food councils through trainings, tools, and structured network building. In this piece, they share about their organization's shared leadership model, a few of their most popular resources and tools (like a toolkit for hosting community forums), and organizations they look to for resources, expertise, and inspiration (like Dismantling Racism Works and Technology of Participation (ToP) Facilitation training.)
Organization name: Community Food Strategies
Contact person: LaShauna Austria, firstname.lastname@example.org & Gini Knight, email@example.com
Link to sign up for listserv, newsletter, etc.:
● Quarterly newsletter for Community Food Strategies
● Website: https://communityfoodstrategies.org/
Who are we “speaking” with and what’s your role?
One of our team’s guiding principles is about shared leadership, meaning we share and rotate roles. In the spirit of our team culture to always have a co-pilot, two of the nine of our team members are answering these questions. We collaborate on many projects together and are the region co-leads for the nine food councils we have in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina. We both develop and lead trainings, networking events, offer direct coaching, and help the team refine strategies to support our mission.
LaShauna is a community organizer, consultant, farmer, and a leader in the Alamance Food Collaborative. Although she has been involved in this network for years, she more formally joined our team in early 2019. Gini joined the team in late 2015 and is passionate about the land, the arts, and using good food as a bridge for collaboration and conversation. Read more about LaShauna and Gini in the bios for our team.
Our focus is supporting local food councils, supporting cross-sector understanding and collaboration around community-led food and farm initiatives.
Our team supports community engagement and local voices in creating the farm and food environment they want to live in. Our mechanism for supporting community voice in food and farm issues is through local food councils. We provide equity coaching, facilitation workshops, strategy networking and advocacy consultation, microgrants, and community engagement tools.
We inspire connections and amplify collective action so that community voices are heard and food policy shifts to more equitable outcomes.
Okay now for the fun stuff…
How would you describe your organization? But there’s a catch… describe your org in a haiku!
start with equity
network for food systems change
What does your org bring to the (national food systems) table?
Community Food Strategies is a hub for local food councils and individuals across North Carolina who want to grow their voices through food. We’re a multi-organizational initiative that receives funding from three of our six partner organizations to carry out our work. We practice shared leadership and institutional collaboration to leverage resources, increase sustainability, and model the cross-sector nature of food systems work and local food councils.
We believe that race and place disproportionately impact our outcomes in our food system, and that white supremacy culture and P(p)olicy provide the structure to uphold the inequalities and injustices in our food system. We are working internally as a team, with our home institutions and organizations, and with the broader community to decentralize whiteness.
To encourage and foster more relational culture and place-based solutions, we work to create and model a statewide food council network that is strong in relationship, peer-to-peer support, and collective action.
It’s all an ongoing process, and we can bring what we are learning to the national table.
Who do you serve?
We primarily serve the more than 35 local food councils and their members across North Carolina. Our mission is aligned with those of our partner organizations, and therefore we also serve our partner organizations’ leaders and colleagues. Our trainings, resources, and events are also open to anyone interested in food systems work and food policy.
What do people/orgs look to you for?
○ Connection to a network of food councils
○ How to start and/or reinvigorate a food council
○ Food-related policy updates & strategic advocacy
○ Facilitation tools and strategy
○ Approaches to racial equity
What one (or two!) problem(s) can someone find solutions for on your site?
Like all of us, we’re more interested in solutions than problems. Food councils and other organizations often come to us for examples of food council work and how to talk about food councils. As coalitions that are typically volunteer led, we help food councils with good facilitation techniques that will include all participant voices as well as value participant’s time and life experience.
Are there certain tools or resources that you’ve found especially popular?
● Video: Food Councils in North Carolina: Why, who, and what?
● Video: What an equitable food system means to my community
● Council Development Toolkit, (currently in redevelopment): a toolkit for communities from seed to start-up
● Candidate Forum Toolkit: a toolkit for hosting candidate and community forums (currently working on guidance for hosting virtual candidate forums)
● Community Food Snapshot: a data spreadsheet and graphic template to start a conversation about food and farm-related metrics
Who can access your resources? How?
● Anyone can participate in our trainings, workshops, and networking events.
● Anyone can access our resources on the website.
● Food councils engaged in the NC Network can access our microgrants.
What other resources or support are you looking for?
○ Effective models of ‘co-hort’ learning and collective action
○ Communicating the power of relationships as a fundable outcome, particularly to more local or regional funders
○ How to create a podcast
○ Effective messaging and more support for writing and distributing stories
○ Ideas for incorporating more creativity and the arts in our work
What other “resource-full” organizations would you recommend?
○ Dismantling Racism Works
○ Racial Equity Institute
○ Other & Belonging Institute
○ Interaction Institute for Social Change
○ Technology of Participation (ToP) Facilitation training
○ National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
○ RSF Social Finance
Thanks LaShauna, Gini, and the whole team at Community Food Strategies for all that you do to create lasting change in your communities.