Local community members are invited to attend a press conference discussing food availability and sustainability in Duck Hill on June 28 at 11:30 a.m. The conference will kickstart a two-day workshop that concludes on 4:30 pm on June 29.
The events are part of an ongoing effort to create a stronger local food economy. A Duck Hill headquartered partnership, Achieving Sustainability through Education and Economic Development Solutions (ASEEDS), has garnered funding and support from a variety of federal programs.
Most recently, the Trump Administration selected Duck Hill as one of the communities to be a member of the Local Food, Local Places federal initiative. According to a press release, the initiative is designed to help communities “reinvest in their neighborhoods and improve quality of life as they develop the local food economy.”
Romona Taylor Williams, project leader of ASEEDS, said that the ASEEDS partnership and Local Foods, Local Places shared the same goal. The purpose is to ask how the community can “create a local food system that will address the food desert along Highway 51,” Williams said.
Williams said she really hopes community members will come to discuss their wants and needs concerning food and economic development.
“Let’s look into economic opportunities around local food sourcing,” she said.
One problem that needs to be addressed is how far residents of Duck Hill have to travel in order to find a full-service grocery store, Williams said. The closest grocery store is in Grenada County, meaning the citizens of Duck Hill are forced to boost the economy of surrounding counties instead of their own. Having a local grocery store or market would ensure that grocery purchases would directly benefit Montgomery County’s economy.
Since these are issues that cannot be resolved in a matter of days, Williams said it would be beneficial to consider Thursday and Friday’s events not as mere workshops, but as steps in a process.
The Local Food, Local Places initiative does not offer a monetary grant, but it does offer technical assistance.
“Technical assistance brings intellectual property to help put strategy and business together,” Williams said.
Although it doesn’t give money, technical assistance can be even more valuable than monetary assistance, said Williams.
The idea of sustainability is that a community is able to stay strong without any outside help. When grants give money, the money eventually runs out; however, when a grant sends resources and ideas, those can never be taken away.
“Everything begins with a plan,” Williams said. Through the help of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Sustainability and various other local and federal programs including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Southeastern Sustainability Directors Network, ASEEDS hopes to develop a “guide into implementation” for the citizens of Montgomery County, Williams said.
Representatives of many of these federal agencies will be in attendance of Thursday’s Press conference. The first day of the workshop is dedicated to “community meeting” at the Duck Hill Community Gym from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dinner will be served. The second day will focus on “action planning sessions” from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express.
The community meeting will be used to identify and discuss the options already available or unavailable in Duck Hill that contribute to the “health, community, environment and economy” of the area. The action planning sessions will give an opportunity to come up with step-by-step solutions.
There is no charge to participate in any of the events. Those interested can RSVP with Romona Taylor Williams by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 314-363-5229.