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On June 3, the City of Indianapolis, Indy Food Council, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and Purdue Extension-Marion County hosted the People’s Food Summit. The objective of the Food Summit was to bring together the people of the City of Indianapolis and Marion County with City officials and subject-matter experts to engage in developing a comprehensive strategy for addressing problems of limited food access. There was an overwhelming show of support and interest from the residents of Marion County with approximately 200 people in attendance.

George Okantey, Community Development Extension educator in Marion County, provided facilitative leadership to the process. The collaborative strategy used was Strategic Doing. Before the summit, 18 table guides received three hours of instruction on how to frame strategic questions, map the assets of collaborators around the table, and how to create networks and form action oriented collaborations around the six summit themes quickly. Also, they practiced and mastered a guided process to move identified opportunities to measurable outcomes, and then adjust along the way.

The Food Summit allowed community members to organize themselves, based on their interests in the food system, by defined strategic topics: 1. urban agriculture, 2. alternatives to retail supermarkets, 3. improvements to food service, 4. health and nutrition, 5. transportation, and 6. hunger relief. Each strategic working group developed a vision, mission, objectives and strategies to create a positive impact on Marion County’s food system.

To stay engaged with the process, the six working groups have dedicated themselves to three subsequent meetings to develop a comprehensive, replicable strategy to address a specific food access challenge. The working groups have developed one primary project that they will proceed with as a group, as well as brainstorming solutions to food access that may need more time and resources to accomplish. By the end of the year, all strategic planning documents will be compiled to create a county-wide, community-based strategy for food access.

George Okantey is a Purdue Community Development Extension educator for Marion County. He can be reached at okantey@purdue.edu.