The Lycoming County CD’s FreshFoodLyco initiative is done in partnership with Penn State Extension. It promotes urban agriculture and fresh food access for all within Lycoming County. The approach has been three-pronged. One, create partnerships and relationships with food access and agriculture groups already established throughout downtowns and city centers. Two, establish the gaps within ag/food programs that can be filled by existing programs. Three, connect and engage for growth.
In order to empower and educate the community on urban agriculture as a solution to food insecurity, the first step is bringing people together. The most notable event was the FreshFoodLyco Bus Tour. During tour, stakeholders visited local urban gardens utilizing their space to teach people about fresh food and alleviating fresh food deserts in their own way. Through this event, people connected with projects in need of financial assistance, technical support, and skills such as those from the nonprofit, healthcare and agricultural communities. The goal is for these stakeholders to invest in each other’s successful programs to fill the gaps within the Lycoming County food system.
Each stakeholder expressed via survey that they would be interested in forming Lycoming County Food Policy Initiative to sustain the connections.
Another tour was held at the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank’s new facility, test kitchen and cold storage. Participants learned about the expanded programs, including Fresh Express and Back Pack, offered in Lycoming County.
A number of community gardens were assisted, including a new one at Second Street Housing Authority complex in downtown Williamsport; Red Shield, where volunteer work days were facilitated and a new hoop house installed; Lose with a new demonstration gardens trellis, strawbale garden and educational spaces; and Montgomery Summer Alive, a free summer camp that is food-based, where an outdoor kitchen was added and a small orchard planted.
A monthly educational display was set up at the Williamsport Growers Market. Penn State Master Gardner’s Sensory and Community Gardens helped develop lesson plans to assist community gardens volunteers on their outreach efforts and the FreshFoodLyco toolkit development. In addition to outreach and education, the district provided materials and tools to community gardens furthering their efforts and lengthening their growing and learning seasons.
A group of stakeholders is interested and focused. Community gardens, including Montgomery Summer Alive and Red Shield, now have the knowledge, space, tools and even shade to continue providing education and outreach events. The FreshFoodLyco website has been started, which will house the toolkit, local food news and information and an Urban Ag Resource Library.
Interest is being expressed by other entities such as the Firetree Place, a popular community center in Williamsport; two small public libraries (one in Muncy, the other in Hughesville); and the Jersey Shore Garden Club.