Food Security Project helps eradicate food deserts in Virginia

Meredith Ledlie Johnson’s goal in managing Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Food Security project is to make food accessible in communities plagued by a dearth of nutritious affordable food.

But sometimes access to food is not enough to impact the way that people eat. Without culinary training people often don’t know how to cook with fresh produce from farmers markets, so cooking demonstrations are an important component of the Food Security project as well. The Food Security Project is designed to ensure that all Virginians have access to enough healthy, culturally appropriate food in their communities through increasing access to farmers markets and teaching basic cooking skills and container gardening.

“So far the biggest success of the project has been the food demonstrations at farmers markets that accept EBT, and the collaborations that have allowed those to happen between Family Nutrition Program staff, volunteers, interns, market managers, and Family and Consumer Sciences agents and their volunteers,” said Ledlie Johnson.

This past market season was characterized by high participation in the program, with about 1,000 people sampling recipes according to Ledlie Johnson.

The Food Security project partnered with markets in Abingdon, Harrisonburg, Roanoke, Vinton, Salem, Blacksburg, and Richmond.

“My favorite responses were from parents, who often witnessed their children eating a vegetable that they had never eaten before,” she said.