Mobilizing & Connecting Communities
The Come to the Table Conferences
The biennial Come to the Table conferences convene faith leaders, hunger relief advocates, community leaders, farmers, farm-workers and others to find mutually beneficial solutions to food insecurity and address systemic issues. Because past conference participants have consistently cited the building of new relationships and collaborations within their communities as one of the most significant benefits of our program, all of our events aim to facilitate relationship-building and promote collaboration.
We hosted faith leaders and laypeople, hunger relief advocate, farmers, farm workers, community organizers, community gardeners, food council members, extension agents and others March 12-13, 2019 in Charlotte, NC for the 2019 Come to the Table Conference to examine the root causes of hunger and collaborate to build a more just food system. Click here to learn about the keynote speakers, workshops, and workshop presenters from the 2019 Conference – Called to Action: Uprooting Hunger and Cultivating Justice.
Food, Faith and Justice Gatherings
In November 2017, we held the first two gatherings as follow-up events to the statewide Come to the Table conference earlier in the year. The gatherings provided an opportunity for 35-40 participants to network, dive deeper into conversations on racial equity, explore possible collaborations, engage in collective problem-solving, gain practical skills and knowledge, and consult with technical assistance providers. The gatherings are tailored to the region in which the event is held. Discussions focus on how faith-based communities and food access organizations can address issues of hunger and food insecurity through a framework that employs an equity lens and acknowledges historic and present-day racism and classism in the food system.
- Deepening our understanding of how to build equity in our work
- Shifting our lens from charity to social change
- Creating opportunities for regional collaboration and peer learning
- Bringing together key stakeholders for strategic in-depth, issues-based discussion and problem-solving on a regional level
A third Food, Faith & Justice gathering took place in April 2018 for faith and community leaders in Chatham County, NC. We brought together community members to discuss issues of racial equity in our food system. We also examined how faith-based communities and food access advocates can use an equity lens, rather than a charity model, to address issues of hunger and food security. Click here to learn more about our Chatham Gathering.
In May 2019, we held a Justice Gathering for Food and Faith Leaders in Charlotte, NC.
Equity at the Table Fellowship Program
The Fellowship program is designed to equip faith and community leaders who are engaged in food access work to use their passion and influence to positively impact the landscape of work at the intersection of food, faith, and justice in North Carolina. The program supports and invests in faith leaders who are passionate about equity and food access and who are engaged in projects that support these goals.
Equity at the Table Speaker Series
In early 2018, the Come to the Table program launched the Equity at the Table Speaker Series. The series is designed for people who are working at the intersection of equity and food security and for those with the desire to think more critically about equity in their work and volunteerism. The series will consist of lectures, workshops and events addressing topics relevant to our work. We invite people of faith, farmers, activists, and journalists to attend and share their perspectives.
Technical Assistance & Capacity Building
Farmers Markets & Fresh Bucks Program
In Spring 2015, RAFI-USA began working with NC farmers markets and roadside stands to implement SNAP incentive programs at local food retail outlets across the state. The goal was to increase access to fruits and vegetables for SNAP/EBT recipients through the use of consumer incentive programs while also boosting revenues for farmers selling at participating markets.
Fresh Bucks Incentive Program
What are Fresh Bucks? Fresh Bucks tokens are extra market dollars for SNAP/EBT users to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables at the market. Fresh Bucks double the buying power of SNAP/EBT users at the market. For each dollar a SNAP user withdraws from their account to spend at the market, they will be matched an additional dollar, up to a total of $20 Fresh Bucks.
RAFI-USA has grown from partnering with four farmers markets to working with 12 farmers and mobile markets across the state to offer Fresh Bucks to local shoppers. Our current participating markets include:
- Access Connect Mobile Market, Greenville, NC
- GRRO Mobile Market, Henderson, NC
- Garysburg Farmers Market, Garysburg, NC
- Historic Marion Tailgate Market, Marion, NC
- Lenoir County Farmers Market, Kinston, NC
- Local Motive Mobile Market, Wilmington, NC
- Market Square Farmers Market, Reidsville, NC
- Morganton Farmers Market, Morganton, NC
- Richmond County Farmers Market, Rockingham, NC
- Spring Lake Farmers and Heritage Market, Spring Lake, NC
- Windsor Farmers Market, Windsor, NC
- Wilmington Farmers Market at Tidal Creek, Wilmington, NC
Fresh Bucks incentives increase the amount of healthy, local food purchased by SNAP shoppers and puts more money into the pockets of local farmers. RAFI-USA continues to work with participating markets to help increase community awareness of Fresh Bucks. In 2019 we will pilot a Fresh Bucks SNAP Ambassador position at several participating farmers markets. The Ambassador’s role will be to develop outreach strategies that will result in a more inclusive, welcoming market environment as well as higher SNAP and Fresh Bucks sales at the market.
The Fresh Bucks program is currently funded through the USDA-NIFA’s Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives program.
Interested in Fresh Bucks?
Although RAFI-USA is only able to partner with 12-15 local markets each year to offer the Fresh Bucks program, we are available to help markets assess other strategies to help increase food access for customers. Contact Lisa at [email protected] for technical assistance on:
- accepting SNAP/EBT at the farmers market,
- POS terminal equipment options,
- building up market capacity,
- fundraising and sponsorships for incentive programs,
- or other food access strategies.
As a form of technical assistance, we serve as fiscal sponsors for projects that are closely aligned with the program’s mission and objectives. We are pleased to serve as the fiscal sponsor of the Durham Farmers Market’s Double Bucks program, which will allow SNAP customers to receive double the amount of money they spend on tokens for purchases. We also serve as fiscal sponsor for North Carolina Community Garden Partners.
Developing Resources & Publications
“Beyond Hunger Relief” Research Initiative
This question of how we can accomplish the extremely challenging business of building a more equitable food system has been the central question of our work since Come to the Table was founded in 2006.
- Beyond Hunger Relief: Research One-Pager
- Beyond Hunger Relief: Farmer Interviews
- The Impact on Farmers Selling Into Low-Income Communities: A Literature Review [PDF]
- A Guide to SNAP/EBT for North Carolina Farmers Markets
- “Farmers Markets and Faith Community Partnerships: A Guide for Market Managers”
- Case Study: Direct Mailing as a SNAP/EBT Outreach Strategy
- Case Study: Farmers’ Market Challenges in a Rural Setting
- Case Study: Farmers Market Manager Turnover
The Duke Endowment has generously provided sustaining support to the Come to the Table program and Conferences since 2007. We are deeply grateful for a relationship with funders who share a commitment to our mission and whom we consider partners in the work.