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New Year, a New Baseline for Concord: Food

By Emily Wheeler

One of the things I’m looking forward to in this new year is the Concord Community Food Assessment—a project designed to tell Concord’s food story in detail, at this moment. We all eat, yes, but how well do we understand how our local food system works? The Food Assessment report that will be published in March will tell us, and will establish a baseline from which to take next steps.

Launched by a group of citizen volunteers last fall, the Concord Community Food Assessment project is now fully underway. (Visit the project site,, for much more information.) Project managers from the Conway School of Landscape Design who will produce the report will soon be reaching out to hear from us. Knowing how many in town care about food one way or another, I hope you will respond and participate in the food assessment process.

Members of the Concord Community Food Project steering group recently sat down with the two Conway School project managers to explore a vision for our local food system. In broad strokes, the vision included ideas such as: Sustainable—Vibrant—Affordable—Accessible—Community building—Promoting human, environmental, and economic health.

How to get there? By documenting where we are now, Concord’s community food assessment will be a valuable first step. We can expect to learn from this baseline what we are already doing in the areas of food cultivation, processing, distribution, waste management, access, and education—and how these contribute to community sustainability and resilience.

In addition, the report will flag the opportunities to do more. For example, How might we build on Concord’s agricultural legacy by engaging more people in the production and support of locally grown food? Can we pull in our food shed boundary closer to home—from halfway around the globe, say, to the Northeast region of this country? Are there gaps in food access and affordability that we can address?

Rich in data, the report can also be rich in anecdote. Please share what you know about Concord’s food story, as well as your vision for a local food system, at these two upcoming gatherings:

Thursday, February 2, 7-9 PM at the Harvey Wheeler Community Center: Meet with Conway School project managers to learn more about the Concord Community Food Assessment Project and offer feedback and input.

And be sure to take advantage of several other forums for learning about our food system. These include a ConcordCAN/ Walden Woods Food Film and Discussion series, which will screen a different film each month on a Friday at the Alcott School (full schedule at Coming up on Friday, January 27, 7:30 PM, is “The Future of Food,” a look at the role of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in our food. Debra’s Natural Gourmet is co-sponsoring this screening, and Charlotte Vallaeys of the Cornucopia Institute will lead the discussion following it.

Here’s to a new year—one in which we learn more about becoming a sustainable community by looking more closely at our local food system.

Emily Wheeler is a member of the ConcordCAN (Concord Climate Action Network) steering group. She also serves on the Concord Community Food Project steering group.