Local Governments See Health, Economic Benefits of Local Foods
From the August 2012 E-Newsletter
The adage "health is wealth" is proving true for a host of North Carolina cities and counties. As the costs of treating nutrition-related diseases like obesity rise (estimated to be $147 billion in 2008) and the disease-fighting benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables are proven, municipalities from the mountains to the coast are making the connection between eating well and reducing health care costs. The Wellness Initiative of the North Carolina League of Municipalities (NCLM), which provides health insurance options to municipal governments across North Carolina, recently joined the NC 10% Campaign, a CEFS initiative that encourages North Carolinians to commit 10% of their existing food dollars to locally grown and produced foods.
“Access to healthy, local foods is a key component of our information and education program,” says Heather Rollins, who helped develop a program to help NCLM’s Wellness Initiative members gain access to local foods. Adds Rollins, “these programs have been prompted by many factors, including an interest in improving the health of employees, reduced medical costs, reduced workers comp claims and additional employee benefits. We are focused on education and health promotion and establishing partnerships like the NC 10% Campaign as an important part of this statewide effort for municipal employees”.
The Campaign’s goal is to build a local food economy in North Carolina. North Carolinians spend about $35 billion a year on food. If each person spent 10 percent locally —about $1.05 per day—about $3.5 billion would be available in the local economy. Individuals and businesses that join the NC 10% Campaign record their weekly local food purchases on the campaign’s website, www.nc10percent.com. To date, the campaign has tracked more than $20 million in local food purchases.
The NC League of Municipalities isn’t alone in recognizing the many positive benefits of eating locally. Since it began in July 2010, the 10% Campaign has drawn the support of more than 5,500 individuals and 650 businesses, including 14 local government entities.
Cabarrus County, one of its first supporters, saw their support of local agriculture as a path to economic development. Last year, Cabarrus County partnered with the 10% Campaign to host the annual meeting of the N.C. Association of County Commissioners in Concord. “The Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners and county staff found their commitment to the 10% Campaign furthered the county’s economic development, health and environmental initiatives,” said retired Cabarrus County Manager John Day, a long-time supporter of the 10% Campaign.
Interest in the NC 10% Campaign among local municipalities and municipal associations is growing quickly. The Triangle J Council of Governments also recently voted to join the Campaign. The Council is a voluntary organization of municipal and county governments in North Carolina's Region J, which includes Chatham, Durham, Johnston, Lee, Moore, Orange and Wake counties. And this past June, Orange County Commissioners pledged support to the NC 10% Campaign. Commissioner Barry Jacobs, a long-time CEFS supporter, first introduced both Orange County and the Triangle J Council to the 10% Campaign. He supports the campaign as a way to promote local agriculture.
“We tend to forget, particularly in North Carolina's rapidly urbanizing areas, that agriculture is an important, existing industry that generates income for small farmers, preserves open space and promotes important community values,” Jacobs said. “Committing to purchase locally produced food is a simple way to support those goals and to treat ourselves well besides.”
“We see this as a testament to the campaign’s overall message of community-focused support. This also shows consumers that our local governments feel that supporting our state’s farmers and local food businesses is important,” said NC 10% Campaign Manager Teisha Wymore. “If we have support at each level in the food system, we are successful.”
N.C. Cooperative Extension is a partner in the 10% Campaign and has designated a local foods coordinator in each of the state’s 100 counties and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. Sara Lilley Phelps, Marketing Director of the Eastern 4-H Center, has been involved in creating a “Buy Local” campaign in Tyrrell County along with the Greater Tyrrell County Chamber of Commerce . “The 10% Campaign is a great program ‘add-on’ to our ‘Buy Local’ campaign. By publicizing 10%, residents can recognize the produce and seafood that is available, local and fresh,” she says. In July, both the Town of Columbia's Board of Aldermen and the Tyrrell County Commissioners approved resolutions to support the Buy Local program.
CEFS offers four complementary programs for local governments interested in creating or expanding their local food system. For more information please see http://www.cefs.ncsu.edu/whatwedo/foodsystems/localfoodtoolkit.html For more information on the NC 10% Campaign, see www.nc10percent.com.