Revitalizing the Guilford food system
There are 24 food deserts in Guilford County. Dr. LeGreco aims to change that.
One of the biggest conversations happening in Guilford County in the last year is about food. Dr. Marianne LeGreco, associate professor of communication studies, has been one of the people at the forefront of that conversation.
“How hungry is Guilford County?” many have asked. How accurate were the measures that the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) used when it ranked the Greensboro-High Point area as No.1 in food hardship rates nationally? What do we do now? What’s the solution?
LeGreco, whose research links communication and food, will be the first to tell you that how we talk about and make sense of our food practices, food systems and access to food as a community matters. This is a big part of her research on the current conversation in Greensboro-High Point about food insecurity.
The use of the term hunger raises some eyebrows. LeGreco agrees that it may not be the right word as it is not exactly what the FRAC study was looking into. That, however, “does not mean that we shouldn’t be talking about food in Guilford County,” says LeGreco.
In a recent op-ed piece in the News & Record, she wrote, “While we may not experience hunger in the same ways that hunger operates globally, we are experiencing some sort of disconnect between the food available to us and how people are using those resources.” The focus, she continued, “needs to be on building and maintaining a strong local and regional food system.”
It’s an issue about health and access to healthy food.
To date, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has identified 24 food deserts in Guilford County.
LeGreco has galvanized UNCG students in Public Health, Communication Studies, Computer Science and other fields to get involved in the conversation about food hardship in Guilford County. In 2014, she helped with the Mobile Oasis Farmers Market installation. In 2015, LeGreco worked with UNCG Public Health faculty members Amanda Tanner and Kay Lovelace and Laura Cole, formerly of Interior Architecture, along with students from UNCG and other area universities to host a Local Food Storm event. The food storm was a brainstorm around local food that brought together diverse voices in the community.
In 2016’s Local Food Storm event, LeGreco and students from UNCG and NC A&T were able to produce a map of the food resources currently available in Greensboro/Guilford County. She hopes that by pulling together all available food resources, we can start to see where we are and where the gaps are.
LeGreco believes that collecting more detailed data would help shed light on permanent solutions to the area’s food insecurity issues. This is the next task for LeGreco and other local food advocates.
As efforts and conversations around food evolve, LeGreco’s research direction is evolving as well. “People don’t just need access to resources, they need to know how to make use of those resources,” she says.
Over the week of June 20-25, 2016, the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, along with community partners Guilford County Food Council and Greater High Point Food Alliance, had a local foods celebration bringing together local food advocates, farmers, local chefs, local restaurateurs, agricultural professionals and local food supporters to highlight and celebrate what Guilford County is doing to create a vibrant food system. LeGreco was one of the organizers.
By Nancy Maingi