May 12, 2021
Helping communities across Missouri is the goal of University of Missouri Extension. One of the ways they achieve this is through a program called Missouri EATs, short for Engage, Act, Transform. Part of MU Extension’s Community Economic Development program, Missouri EATs offers a framework to help build stronger communities through healthy, resilient and equitable community-based food systems.
“Missouri EATs starts with facilitated discussions with community members about what’s most important to them about local food issues,” said Bill McKelvey, Missouri EATs project coordinator. “People from all parts of the community come together around issues as diverse yet connected as hunger relief, nutrition and health, local farming, creating markets for local producers and helping more young people stay in a community and make a living off the land.”
With programs in all 114 Missouri counties and the City of St. Louis, McKelvey said, MU Extension is well positioned to support initial planning and assist with projects such as startup urban agriculture centers, farmers markets and community gardens; helping communities apply for grants; coordinating emergency food services and initiating nutrition education programs.
“Whether a community is looking for ways to make sure people have the resources they need to access healthy food — such as a grocery store or community garden, or they are thinking more broadly about developing sustainable food systems, our hope is that some really successful projects come out of these Missouri EATs sessions,” McKelvey said. “These issues connect to, and can address, long-standing issues of community health and resilience, too.”