As a way to partake in local food access efforts, members of the Asheville YES! Staff attended the City Council Candidate forum on Food Policy, on Oct. 30th. Having helped organize the event, it was interesting seeing it play out through the perspective of a moderator. Hearing Asheville Mayoral and City Council Candidates lay out their ideas on how they can each progress towards obtaining food security in Asheville and Buncombe County was helpful to me not only as an advocate, but as a citizen who just this year became eligible to vote.
Centered around food and agriculture, the main topics of discussion included the methods candidates would take in supporting andfurthering the advancement of Asheville’s Food Action Plan, urban farming, food security, and a stronger City-County partnership. Stepping forward, a few of the solutions that were proposed included redirecting attention to transit reform, and focusing more on community land use such as through edible parks.
Of the political figures who were in attendance, I had the chance to exchange a few works with Senator Terry Van Duyn about the success of the night and thanking her for her presence to which she responded saying, “Oh no, thank you! I come because everytime I do, I learn something new.”
Forums like these are undeniably informative for all in attendance because they allow for everyone to hear first hand where each official stands and the roles they plan to take if elected. In this instance, their plan of action focusing on the improvement of food policy and agriculture.
The importance of this event can not be stressed enough seeing as Asheville, although commonly depicted and marketed as a foodtopia, has come to know food insecurity as being all too prevalent in the community. Elected officials who encourage food equity supporting policies, and are also willing to pioneer innovative solutions to lessen health disparities are what Asheville and Buncombe County need right now.
-Crystal, AVL YES! Youth staff & Youth Advocate
With the monumental growth in regional population and industry comes gentrification and concerns about unsustainable development. This election run is important to a huge extent, as the next few years may be the tipping point towards a more equitably focused City of Asheville. Food access is among the issues of the highest concern for Asheville. Although the city has newfound wealth in the tourism industry, the local population still suffers; 21.8% of the youth population is affected from food insecurity. This forum focused on questions based around these general concerns to receive answers from the candidates on potential solutions. Because this topic falls under the blanket of our Real Food/Active Living campaign, the YES! Asheville staff worked to co-host the event.
Although I didn’t play as large of a role as Crystal did in the process, the forum was both personally rewarding and informative. I photographed the event, which I believe was an interesting medium for understanding the ideas that each candidate brought to the table.
The beginning of the forum consisted of a meet and greet, in which candidates spoke to community members who had questions about key issues in the area. YES! Staff spoke with State Senator Terry Van Duyn, County Commissioner Al Whitesides, and State Representative John Ager. As the forum began, I snapped photos of each candidate speaking. It was genuinely intriguing to visualize their passion for Asheville through the frame of a camera. So much emotional power was shown that night. Having all but one candidate in attendance, the night was a success for YES!, the candidates, and the Asheville community. I hope that the forum helped to inform those who were in attendance.
-John Kelly, Youth Advocate from Asheville, NC