Wallowa County residents are being urged to complete a local food survey.

“By completing the survey, residents will help provide up-to-date information on where they get their food and the factors that affect local food access (such as price, availability, choice, etc.),” says Joshua Russell, food system development specialist working with the Northeast Oregon Economic Development District (NEOEDD). “Everyone who completes the survey has the option to be entered into a drawing for $25 of Buckskin Bucks which can be spent at any of more than 50 participating local stores,” he adds.

The survey can be completed anonymously and individual responses will remain confidential.

Paper copies of the Consumer Food Access Survey are available at the following locations: Joseph City Hall, Wallowa Senior Center, The Blonde Strawberry, The Bookloft, Enterprise City Hall, Community Connection, Department of Human Services in Enterprise, and Building Healthy Families. An online version is also available and can be found by visiting the NEOEDD Facebook page (you do not have to have a Facebook account to access this page). Surveys will be collected through April 2012.

According to Russell, efforts to improve access to local food and develop solutions to combat hunger in Wallowa County are increasing. He cites various pertinent developments:

• New farmers’ markets planned for Wallowa and Lostine will offer consumers access to local food and provide growers with outlets to sell their goods.

• Local beef, fruit, salad greens and carrots are already on the menu at the Joseph School, with plans to increase the amount of fresh produce grown for the school through the Magic Garden farm-to-school partnership.

• Volunteers with Slow Food Wallowa County have a project to enhance fresh food access by offering a Best Practices guide to community and school gardens.

• Local farms and ranches contribute meat and produce to the food bank at Community Connection, where more than 80 percent of food items already come from community donations.

Russell says these kinds of projects require up-to-date information to provide a better understanding of how food makes its way to eaters in Wallowa County. Much of that information is coming from a Community Food Assessment Russell is preparing with NEOEDD. Russell has been busy interviewing local producers, retail and schools and is now launching the survey to collect information directly from consumers.

When complete in July 2012, the Community Food Assessment will provide a mixture of statistics and trends, and survey results; as well as qualitative information provided by local food growers/producers, retail and restaurants, emergency food services, gleaners, and schools and institutions.

The Community Food Assessment is sponsored by volunteers with the Wallowa County Food System Council, with assistance from the NEODD and the Oregon Food Bank.

To volunteer or for more information, contact Russell at 541-426-3598.

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