OSMRE / VISTA Team Projects
West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition
OSMRE / VISTA: Garnet Bruell
Supervisor: Megan Smith
Address: 411 Main St., Suite 215, Mount Hope, West Virginia 25880
Voice Telephone: 304-877-7920
Web site: www.wvfoodandfarm.org
Congressional District: 3rd
Bureau: Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE)
The mission of the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition is to build, support and strengthen a statewide network of those involved in West Virginia’s local food economies, with the interconnected goals of improving access to healthy, locally-produced food for all West Virginians and helping viable food and farm businesses to grow.
About the Surrounding Community
West Virginia’s food system presents great leverage for positive outcomes in both economics and health. Regardless of their background, everyone everywhere spends money on food, and West Virginians are no different, purchasing nearly $7 billion dollars of food per year, averaging $3,400 per person – only $8 of which is spent on locally produced food. Additionally, less than 10% of the total food purchased is produced in West Virginia. There is a need to both a) engage and support producers to take economic advantage of the state’s agricultural potential, and b) reach out and educate consumers about the availability and benefits of local food.
In a time of declining economic opportunity in West Virginia due to the decline of the coal industry, the agricultural sector shows potential for wealth creation. If West Virginia farmers produced enough fruits and vegetables to meet 75% of the seasonal produce needs of all West Virginians, it would produce additional sales of over $90 million, and create over 1300 new jobs.
Targeting economic growth through food-system development pairs well with increased positive health outcomes. In 2013, West Virginia’s obesity level was 33% of the population. It is well documented that increased consumption of whole fruits & vegetables, which are obtainable locally, can prevent and decrease levels of obesity. Working with our community of both producers and consumers allows for an ideal cross-pollination of economic development and healthier lives.
By curating resources and information on many aspects of the West Virginia food system, as well as identifying and supporting leading local-food organizations within West Virginia “Foodsheds,” the project helps community groups, individuals, and businesses identify opportunities for food-businesses. The OSMRE/VISTA coordinates between organizations, businesses, and government entities concerned with building the local food economy; convenes economic development stakeholders to raise awareness around food economy issues; connects public health stakeholders with food-businesses to identify a strategy towards linking local food with positive health outcomes; assists in developing and organizing training materials, toolkits, field trips, workshops, and webinars related to local food projects; and builds the capacity of the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition in order for it to function independently by securing funding and conducting effective outreach. To promote environmental stewardship, the project also places a high priority on environmental research as it pertains to agriculture in a bi-weekly newsletter, thereby distributing stories on pollinators, agro-ecology, and the success of good agricultural practices.