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Local leaders push for food insecurity solutions at annual food summit

Quentina Konah, the food systems project manager at Public Health Dayton-Montgomery County, at the Montgomery County Food Summit.
Alejandro Figueroa
/
WYSO
Quentina Konah, the food systems project manager at Public Health Dayton-Montgomery County, at the Montgomery County Food Summit.

At the 12th annual Montgomery County Food Summit on Thursday, local leaders, farmers, and anti-hunger advocates got together to talk solutions on addressing food insecurity locally.

This year's theme, Beyond the Plate, Celebrating Cultures in the Kitchen, addressed cultural inclusion and the need to include people from diverse backgrounds to tackle food insecurity locally.

“Solving our community's hunger problems can't happen without collaboration and input from people with diverse backgrounds who are willing to share their unique perspectives as we celebrate the cultures in the kitchen.”Montgomery County Commissioner Judy Dodge said.

Montgomery County has a 14% food insecurity rate, which is slightly higher than the national rate at 10%.

Local government leaders recognize the lack of healthy and affordable food access is an ongoing issue in Montgomery County.

One of the county’s responses to address food insecurity was to establish the Montgomery County Food Equity Coalition in 2019. The coalition is a local initiative with a mission to connect government agencies and nonprofits to decrease food insecurity and food waste.

“Overall, our mission is to decrease food waste, decrease food insecurity, and increase access to local, affordable, healthy food, “ said Quentina Konah, the food systems project manager at Public Health Dayton-Montgomery County.

Although Konah said much of that progress was thwarted by the pandemic. She adds the coalition is now working on a strategic plan to address the issue.

“Moving forward, since we are going to be focusing on our education, our advocacy efforts, we know that programming alone will not create sustainable change. We need to advocate for policy systems and environmental change as well.”

Some of those food equity efforts include plans for establishing a CSA food box for elderly households or establishing food education programs to encourage healthy eating, Konah said those are some ideas the coalition has discussed.

Dayton City Commissioner Matt Joseph said the city is working to address the historical disinvestment that led to the lack of food access in some neighborhoods.

“With the federal money that we've got, we're very consciously putting it into programs that support Black owned and brown owned businesses that will support employment here in the community.” Joseph said.

Just this month, the city announced $500,000 for a community aquaponics garden in the Edgemont Neighborhood. The city also awarded over $2 million in grants toward the planned Homefull affordable housing and farm project in southwest Dayton.

Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Support for WYSO's reporting on food and food insecurity in the Miami Valley comes from the CareSource Foundation.

Alejandro Figueroa covers food insecurity and the business of food for WYSO through Report for America — a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Alejandro particularly covers the lack of access to healthy and affordable food in Southwest Ohio communities, and what local government and nonprofits are doing to address it. He also covers rural and urban farming