Workshop amplifies EFSNE engagement with project communities


Posted: February 4, 2015

The questions driving the work of the EFSNE project team are complex, to be sure. But recently, some team members were struck by a much simpler question: “What would happen if the researchers, grocery store owners and community leaders in our study locations had the opportunity to sit and talk and learn from each other?” So they did what any researchers would do: they secured some funding and set out to answer the question. The result was a two-day meeting that immersed 26 people in rich dialogues that offered valuable insights to everyone involved.
The two-day workshop was held at the Pearlstone Center in Reisterstown, MD. Photo used with permission.*

The two-day workshop was held at the Pearlstone Center in Reisterstown, MD. Photo used with permission.*

Following introductions and a group meal, the meeting began with brief presentations from members of the Consumption, Distribution, and Production teams. Their goal was to provide the five retailers and seven community leaders who attended a sense of the depth and breadth of the project and the research questions being explored. Working in small groups, the attendees then discussed the research, answering questions like, “What did you hear that is most exciting and relevant to you? What might we be able to do with our data that would be useful to you? What did you hear that doesn’t ring true with your experience?”

As the workshop progressed, participants also heard from two Baltimore community leaders who presented case studies from each of their neighborhoods, illustrating the different forms that food insecurity can take, even in communities separated only by a few miles. The community leaders also described some of the ways in which they have engaged with the project, and the work they’re doing to improve food security in their communities.

Next, the store owners took the stage during a panel discussion that offered the researchers and community leaders an insiders’ view of some of the challenges faced by independent retailers. (A more elaborate description of the retailers’ participation is available here.)

The entire group engaged in a “thinking like a region” exercise, exchanging ideas about what it means to think like a region, how regional identities can differ, how seasonality plays in to the region’s ability to meet its food needs, and how state-level issues play out at the regional level.

The workshop wrapped up with a discussion of how the EFSNE team will continue to support and engage the project’s study communities. Attendees brainstormed about project-related activities that will be implemented by our partner communities.

The community-researcher workshop, which took place on November 5-6 in Reisterstown, MD, was funded with a separate USDA/NIFA conference grant and was organized by members of the Outreach and Consumption Teams. Approximately 25% of the project's collaborating retailers and 50% of the site-based community liaisons were able to attend the workshop. Although funded separately, input provided by stakeholders during this event will continue to inform EFSNE activities for the remainder of the project. More information about the project’s outreach activities is available here.

*Photo courtesy of the Pearlstone Center. More information about Pearlstone is available here.