State of the Plate

The State of the Plate assessment happens every 5 years, and is a chance to take stock of the local food system. 

In the past, we have used our State of the Plate assessments to advocate for mobile market funding and policies that support them, to bring FoodCorps to Charlotte to help schools educate children around healthy food, to ask for SNAP Double Bucks (which we’re now implementing with BCBSNC), and a variety of other policy and project priorities. 

Below is information on our recent 2020 efforts, as well as the 2015 State of the Plate Assessment (SOTP). 

SOTP 2020

What is the State of the Plate? 

In bringing together over 80 organizations and individuals working towards this in Mecklenburg County, this project assesses how COVID-19 and other events have changed our food system, and how they might shape it in the future towards equity and sustainability, as well as what the current needs and opportunities exist within the food system. There is a demonstrated need to understand more about the local organizational challenges to addressing food system issues, and this has arisen as a priority research need from the recent discussions around the 2020 State of the Plate planning undertaken in 2019 by this research team. 

Our project is a collaborative, action-oriented effort to develop a plan for transforming our food system into one that is more equitable and inclusive. The impact of this process will be that we will identify what we need to change and how we can implement these changes, as well as how resilience and adaptation can create the conditions for justice and sustainability in our local food system. What we find will be used in applications for collaborative organizational support grants and assessment processes for multiple organizations and agencies.

Our expected project outcomes include:

  • a map of assets and inventory of remaining gaps and needs
  • stronger connections across organizations that enable collective action
  • capacity-building to position organizations to acquire project funding to advance proven solutions
  • a joint collective vision and roadmap to an equitable, inclusive food system with benchmarks and shared indicators for measuring change

In the past, we have used our State of the Plate assessments (in 2010 and 2015) to advocate for mobile market funding and policies that support them, to bring FoodCorps to Charlotte to help schools educate children around healthy food, to ask for SNAP Double Bucks (which we’re now implementing with BCBSNC), and a variety of other policy and project priorities. 

We feel strongly that this is an investment in the future of our food system, and will have repercussions for decades to come in how we understand, support, and experience our local food system and community. We have continually worked with our partners to develop the research questions, and need to continue to collaborate to develop these more fully as well as the specific survey and interview questions, and other instruments. 

Current questions for 2020 SOTP assessment:

1. What assets and gaps are there in our local food system, what are the barriers to success and the possible solutions? How has this shifted in light of COVID-19? What kinds of strategies and tools, like the Rivendell’s Map, have emerged to address COVID-19 and could these be valuable in the future? In addition, What is the value of our food system for the local economy? What are the experiences, interconnections, and barriers to success? How has this shifted in light of COVID-19? What kinds of strategies have emerged to address COVID-19 and could these be valuable in the future?
2. How has household food security in Mecklenburg County been affected by COVID-19? How is this related to housing, healthcare and health, transportation, or other systems also potentially affected by COVID-19? 
3. What do Mecklenburg County residents want or need from the food system? How has this shifted in light of COVID-19?
4. What is our collective vision for the food system? How does this tie to ideas about justice, equity, resilience, adaptation, and sustainability?

Current planning funding is being finalized through UNC Charlotte, and we’re applying for other funding to support this project. The full proposal is at https://docs.google.com/document/d/10O4AkEYkrPNQzkoL2nIeF18WXp15BdrotxjVQjL5Wsc/edit?usp=sharing

The report from the 2015 state of the plate is here: https://www.charlottefoodpolicy.org/state-of-the-plate.html

Where is the project now?

As a group (online for now), we will refine the questions and methods, review the results, and determine next steps. We will also work to write requests for funding for joint initiatives for organizations or the food system as a whole, based on needs we discuss as a group. This will be through online meetings, google docs, and other tools.

We are planning to meet at the end of August to discuss some preliminary findings from interviews with food system organizational leaders, and to get feedback about other experiences and concerns. We’ll use this session to develop a survey for food system organizations we can get feedback on and share in fall 2020.

We have some preliminary data for #1 through some recent discussions with some of you (thanks for your help with this!). We’d like to present those results, and to use these to talk about how we can understand the assets and gaps of different organizations and businesses in the food system. The initial idea was to use this to develop a survey we can share more widely, and we can discuss whether this makes sense. 

We plan to talk in September about question #2-3, and #4 will be for later (but may be included in how we approach Questions 1-3). 

As part of the planning grant, we are also inviting you to join our grant writing efforts – this is a great opportunity to learn more about grant writing, to help write some grants for the SOTP or to fund some of the needs we identify under question 1. When the planning grant is finalized, those involved in these meetings or online editing will also be compensated for their time.

What are the expectations for experts working group members?


There are not any minimum expectations, except to be involved as much as you want, and to let us know if there are any issues or concerns you have as we move forward. Collaborative projects can be difficult, in terms of figuring out how to contribute, but we’re committed to having people determine the needs and directions for the project, so always speak up!

There will be additional opportunities and working groups (e.g. funding applications, research efforts like interviewing people or analyzing data) which you can join as you want. We know time can be limited, even with some funding for participation, so we appreciate any help you can provide, be it in the group, on a google doc, or in a quick email or phone call.

How else can I get involved?


Invite other people you think need to be a part of this – forward this info, for example. They can contact Nicole Peterson at npeterson@uncc.edu

We have other opportunities beyond the working groups – let me know if you see another role you’d like to take on (e.g. communications). 


2015 State of the Plate Report

Letter from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Food Policy Council

Since our founding in 2010, when the first Charlotte-Mecklenburg community food assessment was completed, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Food Policy Council has advocated for policies that build a sustainable, equitable, and healthy food system. The original community food assessment, often referred to as the “Food Desert Study,” provided stark statistics about the state of healthy food access in our county.

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