Strengthening Community Engagement in Sustainable Local Food Systems

2002 Annual Report for ENE02-072

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2002: $99,483.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $37,207.00
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Dr. Joan Thomson
Penn State University

Strengthening Community Engagement in Sustainable Local Food Systems


This project will provide the foundation on which to expand Extension programming on the local food system in collaboration with other organizations in the community. The project’s focus during its initial six months has been on identifying field-based Extension educators in each of the participating states of New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania to become part of the project’s multi-state Extension Advisory Council and to develop a web-based survey to obtain input from field-based Extension educators in these states regarding their perceptions of public engagement on food system issues within their counties as well as to assess their own participation on foods system issues, project milestones 1 and 2.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Extension agents and community collaborators at 15 sites in three states–for a total of 30 agents and 30 community members–will carry out the following actions based on the community’s current involvement in such issues:

Extension educators:

Commit and report time to this initiative through an appropriate plan of work.

Educators and community collaborators:

Encourage local public television stations to schedule “Our Food: Our Future” if they have not already done so;

Determine the type, structure, and inclusiveness of community groups that may already exist and could explore food system issues at the community level;

Work with existing groups (or establish a group) such as a food policy council to expand community dialogue on the local food system;

Initiate a process in the community to identify assets and needs for a sustainable local food system;

Work in copperation with community groups to begin local programming such as focus groups, workshops, or forums following local airing of “Our Food: Our Future”;

Initiate contacts to expand the media coverage of local food system issues;

Seek resources to support community dialogue.

Success for this project is defined as an increase in community-initiated activities that support continuing public dialogue on a sustainable local food system.


Milestone 1. Establish a multi-state Extension Educators’ Project Advisory Council.

Each state has identified one or more of its three members for this council. These individuals will provide input to ensure that educational strategies are appropriate at the community level, regardless of state. Their insights regarding local needs and interests and interpretation of community level data is intended to ensure more responsive, educational programs across the participating states.

To enhance the diversity of perspectives, knowledge, and programming around local food system issues, Extension educators in each state are being identified to represent the mix of extension programs–agricultural and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, youth development, and community economic development. These educators also reflect the geographical diversity of each state. Invitations to participate in the council are through the project’s primary contact in each state via either personal invitation or e-mail.

Council members will a) propose and critique community based educational strategies focusing on the food system; b) bring insight and interpretation to assessments of the local food system as well as identify factors critical in such assessments; c) identify and evaluate educational resources for programming on the local food system; and d) have the opportunity to serve as a resource/instructor, participant, or both for in-services on the food system offered by each state.

Milestone 2. Conduct a baseline electronic survey among field-based Extension educators in each participating state.

This survey will determine the perceptions of Extension educators regarding public engagement with food system issues within their counties as well as assess their own participation in food system programming.

Survey development was initiated in July 2002. Extensive conversations among the principals in each state via conference calls and e-mail occurred throughout this development process. As part of an October 2002 in-service, Cornell field-based educators reviewed an early version of the e-survey. During this phase, members of the project advisory council provided feedback on the e-survey via e-mail.

While questionnaire development was underway, alternative commercial software to support a web-based survey was identified and evaluated. Human subjects approval was obtained as well through each participating university.

In January 2003, the e-survey supported by Test Pilot through Penn State was piloted with field-based extension educators in a neighboring state. The e-survey among Extension educators in New Jersey, New York, And Pennsylvania is projected for February 2003.

Milestone 3. Implement in-state in-services focusing on strategies to enhance community dialogue and media coverage on locally relevant food system issues.

Cornell held a workshop, “Our Food Our Future–Enhancing Community Food Security through Local Action” during its October 2002 Extension Educators Conference, to introduce skills to initiate local progrmming on community food security issues. The expectation is that such workshops enable participants to develop strategies to address specific food system issues within their communities.

To introduce this project to Extension agents and community collaborators in Pennsylvania, planning was initiated for a March 2003 in-service “Implementing Community-Based Conversations on the Local Food System.” Following this in-service, community teams will be able to assess their current community food system, identify local food system issues, and develop community-based strategies to address these issues. Information and insights gained from the e-survey will be discussed during the in-service.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

To date, this project has focused on building the foundation through which this project can be implemented at the community level, consistent with the project’s first-year time line.


Lucinda Baron-Robbins

[email protected]
Community & Economic Development Educator
Penn State Cooperative Extension--Fayette County
61 East Main Street
Uniontown, PA 15401
Office Phone: 7244380111
Leslie Hulcoop

[email protected]
Extension Issue Leader
Dutchess County, NY, Cooperative Extension
2715 Route 44, Suite 1
Millbrook, NY 12545
Office Phone: 8456778223
Luanne Hughes

[email protected]
Family and Consumer Science Agent
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Gloucester County
County Government Services Building
1200 N. Delsea Drive
Clayton, NJ 08312-1095
Office Phone: 85630764502
Audrey Maretzki

[email protected]
Professor of Food Science and Nutrition
The Pennsylvania State University
Department of Food Science
205 Borland Lab
University Park, PA 16802
Office Phone: 8148634751
Ellen Williams

[email protected]
4-H Agent
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Monmouth County
20 Court Street
Freehold, NJ 07728
Office Phone: 7324317266
Jennifer Wilkins

[email protected]
Senior Extension Associate
Cornell University
Division of Nutritional Sciences
305 MVR Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-4401
Office Phone: 6072552142
William Tietjen

[email protected]
County Extension Dept Head & Agri'al Ext Agent
Rutgers Cooperative Extension-Warren County
Administration Building, Suite 102
165 County Road 519 South
Belvidere, NJ 07823-1949
Office Phone: 9084756505
Craig Altemose

[email protected]
County Extension Director/Agronomy
Penn State Cooperative Extension--Centre County
Willowbank Building
Room 322, 420 Holmes Avenue
Bellefonte, PA 16823-1488
Office Phone: 8143554897
Frances Alloway

[email protected]
Family and Consumer Science Educator
Penn State Cooperative Extension--Delaware County
Smedley Park
20 PaperMill Road
Springfield, PA 19064-2705
Office Phone: 6106907662
Claire Homitzky

[email protected]
Community Food Projects Director
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
New Jersey Urban Ecology Program
Dept of Nutritional Sciences, 96 Lipman Drive
New Brunswick , NJ 08901-8525
Office Phone: 7329321688
Jonathan Laughner

[email protected]
Agricultural Entrepreneurship
Penn State Cooperative Extension--Indiana County
827 Water Street
Indiana, PA 15701-1765
Office Phone: 7244653880
Phyllis Laufer

[email protected]
County Extension Director & 4-H Educator
Penn State Cooperative Extension--Northampton Co.
Gracedale Complex
Greystone Bldg
Nazareth, PA 18064-9212
Office Phone: 6107461970
Rose Marie Kendall

[email protected]
Community-Based Agricultural Development
Penn State Cooperative Extension--Indiana County
827 Water Street
Indiana, PA 15701-1765
Office Phone: 7244653880
Liberty Inciong

[email protected]
Master's candidate
Penn State Dept of Ag and Extension Education
323 Agricultural Admin Bldg
University Park, PA 16802
Office Phone: 8148628404
Jennifer Reardon

[email protected]
Nutrition Education Team Leader
Genesee County, NY, Cooperative Extension
420 E. Main Street
Batavia, NY 14020
Office Phone: 5853433040
Rama Radhakrishna

[email protected]
Associate Professor of Agricultural & Extension Ed
The Pennsylvania State University
Department of Agricultural and Extension Education
323 Agricultural Administration Bldg
University Park, PA 16802
Office Phone: 8148637069
Alison Harmon

[email protected]
Senior Extension Associate
The Pennsylvania State University
Department of Food Science
203A Borland Lab
University Park, PA 16802
Office Phone: 8148637782
Michael Hamm

[email protected]
C.S. Mott Professor of Sustainable Agriculture
Michigan State University
312B Natural Resources
East Lansing, MI 48824-1222
Office Phone: 5174321611
Joan Doyle-Paddock

[email protected]
Senior Extension Associate
Cornell University
3M26 Martha Van
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072557715