Spotlight on Statewide Food Systems Work

As project lead for Community Food Strategies at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, Abbey Piner is part of wide-ranging team supporting North Carolina’s food councils, building community-based food systems, and empowering local networks to create policy change. Since the initiative began in 2012, the number of food policy councils has increased from four to 37 local and regional councils.

Piner co-leads work on the Food Action Plan, an initiative that aims to establish connections across the entire state between community organizations, individuals, non-profits, and state-level entities so they can have a shared sense of the progress they’re making toward changing food systems.

“We’ve been talking about how to support communities with a sort of shared measurement, so that we can have a sense of how change is impacting the larger system,” said Piner. “This big statewide metrics project came out of shared metrics for change at the community level and kind of grew from there.”

The Food Action Plan has two key outcomes. One of the goals of this two-and-a-half-year project is to develop a report card that will feature a range of measures and be updated over time to look at changes in food systems.

The other goal is to work with community groups to identify gamechanger ideas for how to shift metrics in the right direction. The final “Gamechanger” report will feature changes that can be implemented to improve food systems across communities in North Carolina.

“We want to connect metrics with real stories of change throughout the state and local communities,” said Piner. “We don’t just want to see the metrics improve, but we want to actually be able to share the stories of the community groups and individuals that are experiencing these shifts.”

The Food Action Plan will begin inviting North Carolinians to this project of collecting stories in June 2020 to capture food system impacts and experiences and will welcome engagement from networks across the state.

To learn more about Community Food Strategies visit