ASHEVILLE NC – Early last year, ASAP launched their Local Food Research Center based out of the ASAP office in Asheville, NC. Through integrated and applied research, the center examines the social, economic and environmental impacts of localizing food systems. Executive Director Charlie Jackson reports that the center produced seven publications in 2012, including food and farm assessments and a meat processing feasibility study for Western North Carolina.
To close out its inaugural year, the center completed a report on the barriers to and opportunities for increasing low-income communities’ access to fresh foods at farmers markets. A full report and quick guide for support organizations, community groups and farmers market managers have been released.
“To ASAP and others, the local food movement means local food for everyone,” says Jackson. “In recent years, farmers markets have begun accepting EBT—ASAP’s market, Asheville City Market, leads NC in farmers market EBT sales—and talk has increased about other ways to reach low-income shoppers. Our research found that with strategic efforts at markets, like multilingual signage, and outside of markets, like educational materials and events, farmers markets can reach all segments of a community. And, communities can be homes to markets that offer fresh, healthy food to everyone.”
ASAP is encouraging civic and community groups and farmers markets to share and download the quick guide: Sharing the Harvest—A Guide to Bridging the Divide Between Farmers Markets and Low-Income Shoppers. It is available for free at asapconnections.org/research.html. There, the center’s other publications are also available for download.
In 2013, the center plans to keep its momentum going. It will conduct farmer and buyer interviews about local food sourcing and purchasing, as well as conduct market research at grocery stores to test the impact of different local messages and promotional strategies on consumer choices.
ABOUT ASAP (APPALACHIAN SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE PROJECT)
ASAP’s mission is to help local farms thrive, link farmers to markets and supporters, and build healthy communities through connections to local food. ASAP’s Local Food Research Center works to assess the economic, social and environmental impacts of localizing food systems. To learn more about ASAP’s work and the center, visit asapconnections.org, or call (828) 236-1282.