2020 Oconee Food Summit
The inaugural Oconee Food Summit was a day-long conference organized by a county grassroots coalition to initiate conversations about local food system issues and explore solutions. The event was held on February 28, 2020, at Trinity Baptist Church in Seneca with 120 community members and stakeholders in attendance — including farmers, teachers, students, public health professionals, entrepreneurs, Clemson faculty, community representatives, and locally elected officials. Programming included a morning presentation, a Q&A panel of local food system actors, and a keynote talk by Dean Leslie Hossfeld of Clemson University. Breakfast and a lunch of locally-sourced ingredients were catered by 313 Cafe of Seneca. In the wrap-up activity for the summit, attendees heard key takeaways from each of the afternoon breakout sessions covering a different topic and voted on three priorities for our local food system work: (1) establishing a food policy council (FPC), (2) forming a farmers' market taskforce, and (3) developing a sustainable land-use initiative for the county.
2021 OFS Regroup Assembly
One year following the 2020 OFS, the organizers held two sessions of a virtual half-day assembly on March 26th and 27th to reorganize after receiving a SNAP-Ed grant to develop a food policy council for Oconee County. Food-related organizations and businesses featured on the summit panel were invited to return and share their experiences responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and April 2020 tornado in a presentation called the Oconee Food Frontline Report. The pre-recorded presentation also featured SDOC superintendent Dr. Michail Thorsland and the school district’s Sodexo Representative April Howe, providing insight on how the school distric responded to provide meals for the county’s students when faced with the nationwide school shutdown. Attendees engaged in break-out sessions to identify, and explore solutions for, the gaps in our local food system. The first priority was forming a solid committee of food system stakeholders and community members to identify the needs for our own food council, which attendees of the 2021 Regroup Assembly and the committee preferred over food policy council, since it expanded the scope to policy, systems, and environmental work. Many thanks to the team that stepped up to serve on this committee to form a council for Oconee County: Trixie DeRosa-Davis, Misty Lee, Gwen McPhail, Srai Melendez, Eric Moxley, Lorilei Swanson, Christian Thormose, Pamela Walker, and Erica Wearing
2021 Food Sovereignty Convening
A mid-June event at Chattooga Belle Farms that grew out of an identified need to know about the history of the land and agriculture in our area — some of which we gratefully learned with the support of locals Jason Davis, Jon Fritz, Les McCall, Jennifer Moss, and Will Moxley – gave our food movement leaders an opportunity to gather for learning, organizing, and networking. At this event, the committee shared the mission statement that had been drafted for the Oconee Food Council: Our mission is to bring together a diverse representation of Oconee County residents and stakeholder groups to develop policies, systems, and environmental changes to restore our local food system. The Oconee Food Council will accomplish this by providing innovative solutions that (1) improve the economic, environmental, social, and nutritional health of the people of our county; (2) ensure equitable access to nourishing and culturally diverse food; (3) promote the rights of residents to define their own food and agricultural systems.
OFS Holiday Social
The Oconee Food Summit hosted our first OFS Holiday Social in December, 2021. Partnered with the Oconee History Museum and 313 Cafe, we were able to showcase some of Oconee’s tradional and culturally diverse holiday fare. While enjoying the food and drinks, attendees were able to speak with OFS organizers about ideas and priorities for the upcoming 2022 Oconee Food Summit.