Farm To Community Conference Starts Friday

May 1, 2014

Community members, farmers, government officials and school administrators will gather in Pittsburgh Friday for the second Farm to Community Conference.

Hosted by Women for a Healthy Environment (WHE), the conference will focus on ways to make farm fresh food available in local schools and underserved communities, or food deserts.

Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, executive director for WHE, said eight workshops are scheduled throughout the day, each focused on a different fresh food challenge.

“There will be something certainly for everyone, including people who are just really interested in understanding and applying the benefits of local food,” she said. “For instance, how to shop and eat fresh, healthy foods on a budget will be talked about. So, there’s really something for anybody to be able to learn from on this particular day.”

According to a report by Just Harvest, there are seven food deserts in the Pittsburgh region: Clairton, East End, Hilltop, McKees Rocks, Millvale, North Side and Stowe.

Keynote speakers include Doug Davis, director of food service for the Burlington School Food Project in Vermont, and Los Angeles food activist Ron Finley.

Davis has been involved with the farm to community movement for more than 10 years and his farm to school program has become a national model. Ron Finley has become known as the “Renegade Gardener,” and according to his website, he “envisions a world where gardening is gangsta.”

Naccarati-Chapkis said attendees will learn how to be part of the solution.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for western Pennsylvania to come out and have a community dialogue about fresh foods and learn what some barriers are from various experts across the country,” she said.

The event is open to the public and admission is $35.

The conference begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Double Tree Hotel in Green Tree.