Tri-COG Partnership Receives Grants for Mega-Region Food System Initiative

Triangle J, Kerr Tar, and Upper Coastal Plain Councils of Governments (COGs) have joined in an unprecedented 17-county mega-region partnership to help fulfill and leverage multiple opportunities and recommendations resulting from the many emerging and growing local healthy food efforts. The effort is called the TRI-COG Food Ecosystem Economic Development Strategy (Tri-COG FEEDS): Understanding and Creating Pathways to Build the Local Healthy Food Value Chain.

UCPCOG Director, Robert Hiett notes, “We are pleased to initiate this planning and coordination process to strengthen our regional food network. This work will help us to identify access and availability to fresh food for regional citizens, help us to understand the additional resources that will be required to strengthen our food economy, and provide recommendations to support Agribusinesses within a 17 county area.”

Triangle J COG Director, Lee Worsley added, “Many parts of the Triangle region are experiencing unprecedented growth, contributing to the loss of farmland and increased reliance on the fragile global food supply chain, despite increased demand for locally grown fresh and value-added products. While this is occurring, our region has many rural areas where agriculture is a significant industry and Triangle J has prioritized rural and urban connections for several years.”

Kerr Tar COG Director, Diane Cox, brings the opportunity into focus, "Our three Councils of Governments, representing 17 counties, will collaborate and lead a mega-region local food system partnership initially anchored by a systems development study to help fulfill and leverage multiple opportunities and recommendations resulting from local and regional food efforts ”

The overarching goal is to create the foundation to dramatically improve the size, resilience, and equity of the local food system in the Tri-COG region with the following objectives.

  • Create increased and new partnership among the diverse stakeholders required
  • Understand the greater region’s current and future local food supply and demand needs
  • Examine the current and needed local food system infrastructure from farm to table including local fresh food producers, transporters, storage, processing, distribution, purchasing, etc.
  • Study and develop various models and options for building out the system to grow the local food sector
  • Place an emphasis on meeting the needs of, and creating opportunity for, small, minority, and underserved farmers, businesses and communities.
  • Study and address current and potential future workforce issues in the agricultural industry such as labor shortages, advanced technology needs, and aging workers.

Counties covered include Chatham, Durham, Edgecombe, Franklin, Granville, Halifax, Johnson, Lee, Moore, Nash, Northampton, Orange, Pearson, Vance, Wake, Warren, and Wilson.

The effort is made possible from generous grants received from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. The project is expected to take 18 months to complete and will involve a wide variety of stakeholders throughout the mega-region. The many stakeholders engaged in designing the effort agree that the outcomes should dramatically aid the mega-region’s understanding of the highly complex local food system, from farm to table, and help determine how to best support the many farms, businesses and consumers wanting to expand the local food sector for a healthier, more equitable, and resilient region.

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Councils of Governments were established under NC General Statute 160A-47. Kerr-Tar, Triangle J and Upper Coastal Plain COGs also serve as Economic Development Districts through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration for their regions. For more information: https://www.ncarcog.com

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust was established in 1947 and is now one of the largest private trusts in the state. The Trust’s mission is to improve the health and quality of life of financially disadvantaged residents. The Health Improvement in NC program area supports community-wide health solutions. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. serves as sole trustee. www.kbr.org

The U.S. Economic Development Administration leads the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation's regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. Housed within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth. www.eda.gov