Voices from the Grassroots

A platform for North American grassroots organizers and organizations in the good food movement to share their work—both triumph and failure.

The Voices series seeks to tell it like it is—the challenges of food systems work as well as the opportunities, best practices, innovative strategies, collaborations, and raw inspiration. In doing so, we also aim to shed light on those stories not typically heard in scholarly narratives, particularly from disenfranchised groups and more isolated communities.

Most Voices blogs are cross-published as articles in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development (JAFSCD—a sister program of NAFSN).

Voices from the Grassroots are edited by NAFSN member/volunteers Emily Payne and Regina Bernard. To submit a Voices essay, email the team!

How CARES of Farmington Hills, Michigan, responded to the COVID-19 pandemic

CARES of Farmington Hills (Michigan) is a front-line food pantry that serves nine cities. CARES is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CARES office included a large meeting area, clothing room, and the food pantry. Before the pandemic arrived, it was a client-choice, self-serve food pantry set up like a grocery store that is


Community gardening during times of crisis: Recommendations for community-engaged dialogue, research, and praxis

How do community gardens—as spaces to grow fresh and nutritious food—respond to a pandemic socially, politically, and culturally? This essay is informed by the work of a range of stakeholders connected to The Village Community Garden and Learning Center, a community garden initiative in Rochester, Minnesota. After introducing our project, we outlin


How southeastern North Carolina is building more resilient food systems after COVID-19

Feast Down East is a regional nonprofit dedicated to creating a healthy, accessible local food system that supports economic growth in southeastern North Carolina. We began as The Southeastern North Carolina Food Systems Program at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), founded by Leslie Hossfeld and Rev. Mac Legerton, to address pover


Episcopal Farmworker Ministry and disaster response to COVID-19

Farmworkers in the U.S. confront numerous challenges. They receive poverty wages and have high rates of wage theft, precarious immigration status, and a high risk of injury and fatality (Smolski, 2019). They also face rampant food insecurity, with 40 to 70 percent of farmworkers experiencing a lack of reliable access to nutritious meals (Minkoff-Ze


Seeding the World

Debra Williby-Walker has a great story to tell, and it's living under her roof in Mercer County, West Virginia. With her is eight-year-old Brady, her charismatic grandson, who has given away more than 6,000 packets of vegetable seeds to families around the world. Williby-Walker, 52, and Brady live in Oakvale, population fewer than 125, just a few m


The Meat of the Matter

The connection between industrial agriculture and the spread of zoonic viruses is becoming increasingly clear. The novel coronavirus has exposed the profound vulnerabilities of our global, industrialized food system. According to scientists at the Scripps Research Institute and other research institutions, it is likely that the virus was transmitte


Neighbor Loaves program aims to maintain regional grain value chains and feed the community

In the surreality of March 2020, as states closed the doors on business, my colleague Alyssa Hartman had a great idea. Watching businesses struggle, she wondered what she could do as a non-essential worker to help farmers and bakers. We set up a time to chat. Alyssa is executive director of the Artisan Grain Collaborative (AGC), a group of individu


Telefarming: When push comes to shelve in responding to COVID-19

COVID-19 has introduced new ways of com­plet­ing jobs virtually. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 22 million Americans filed for unemployment through mid- April 2020 (Long, 2020). Approximately 747,000 citizens in North Carolina alone have been forced out of work due to social distancing requirements (Chiwaya & Wu, 2020). While


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