Updates from Across Well Connected Communities

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Following are short-term outcomes from seven rural communities as they apply the core principles of Well Connected Communities into their action plans.

Policy, systems, and environmental changes at the local and system level

Pennsylvania State University
Capacity & Competency: Collaborative Leadership

The local coalition and Aliquippa Food Council are developing a relationship with the Aliquippa School District with the goal of addressing food desert issues by planting a garden at the elementary school (grades one through six) and providing resources.

Council members met with the superintendent and elementary school administrators to discuss plans for the development of an elementary school garden, with $5000 funding through The Poise Foundation and a Penn State Extension Impact grant. The Council members assisted with the information required for the school to apply for a Kids Gardening grant.

The rationale for this PSE change is to teach children and families how to grow their own food and prepare it, therefore alleviating some of the food insecurity issues many local families face.

Learning and growing together for a results-oriented movement.

University of New Hampshire + Tennessee State University
Capacity & Competency: Data-informed decisions and progress-tracking

UNH-Sullivan County’s Photovoice Project is led by a University of New Hampshire professor who will teach youth and adults in the coalition to use photovoice research to conduct community asset mapping and document the realities of the community. Coalition members (youth and adult) participated in the initial training. This project will foster positive community experiences and empower community members to create change around issues they identify as priority. 

TSU-East Jackson coalition had youth and adults engaged in this community asset mapping exercise where community members were interviewed. The community coalition used the result of this survey to identify four priority areas. This needs assessment fostered connections within the community and created a general sense of awareness of health issues. Community members outside of the coalition are now actively seeking opportunities to increase awareness of health determinants in their community.

A Focus on equity and inclusion

University of Arizona (Hopi/Pima) + University of Nebraska
Capacity and Competency: Collaborative Leadership + Place-based change

UA-Hopi/Pima 4-H project is focused specifically on food justice. Youth, through creative story-telling, will document and preserve stories of food resilience and food sovereignty in Hopi and Pima counties. Adult mentors will support youth in exploring food traditions in their families and communities and sharing stories with larger communities through the participatory building of a digital archive. Project will build a social justice framework for understanding and teaching food resilience and food sovereignty.

UN-Macy County is creating a K-12 food sustainability program that uses a greenhouse and farm-to-school program to support accessibility and distribution of traditional healthy, edible, and medicinal plants to the Omaha Tribe. This is a systems change for the UNPS School District.

Commitment to transforming place through genuine partnership and shared vision

Purdue University
Capacity & Competency: Collaborative Leadership

Extension is working with the food policy council to improve sustainability and develop/open a new food hub. COVID-19 exacerbated food security issues and led to seeking out partners and weaving multiple interests. Developed a partnership with McFarling Foods, a USDA grantee.

The Oasis (Community Garden) provided over 300 servings/whole vegetables with nutrition information to individuals and apartment complexes with primarily elderly and disabled residents.

The coalition partners have brought in nearly a half-million dollars worth of food into the community. As a result, the community has new partners (AmVet, The Food Council, Senior Gleaners, etc.)* and increased visibility as they continue to identify residents without access to food.

*Local AmVets distributed 1,274 pounds of food. 33 volunteers, including drivers delivered food boxes to homebound for a total of 119 hours donated. USDA Farm to Family Meal Box distribution for “Fill in the Gap” campaign to case managers distributed 1, 054 pound of food with 25 volunteers donating 70 hours. The Food Council provided 1,680 dozen eggs. Senior Gleaners distributed 1,700 boxes of food and 150 volunteer hours

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