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The 2023 Rural Food Forum

presented by the Green Rural Redevelopment Organization

and the Eva Clayton Rural Food Institute

Thursday, January 12, 2023
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

The Vance-Granville Community College
Civic Center

200 Community College Rd, Henderson, NC 27536


View Forum Photos

View Welcome Video from Governor  Roy Cooper

View Message from Attorney General Josh Stein


The 2023 Rural Food Forum will engage stakeholders from across North Carolina in an in-depth conversation about access to healthy foods and the importance of healthy foods to individuals and community health. Participants will also share their experiences and engage with key leaders to help inform future priorities regarding healthy food.


The Agenda
"Healthy Food for All."

Please note that agenda items and times are subject to change. Additional information and speakers will be added soon.

8:30 a.m. | Registration Opens 

9:00-9:30 a.m. |  Welcome/The Launch of The Rural Food Institute 


  • The Honorable Eva Clayton, Former U.S. Congresswoman

  • Ardis Crews, Co-founder of Green Rural Redevelopment Organization

  • Dr. Rachel M. Desmarais, President, Vance-Granville Community College

  • Earline Middleton, Executive Director, Eva Clayton Rural Food Institute

  • Col. Archie B. Taylor, Jr. (U.S. Army, Ret.), Chairman, Vance County Commissioners Henderson, NC

9:30-10:15 a.m.  | Plenary- Setting the Table
This moderated conversation will set the table for what the attendees will experience for the day and share what’s happening in the sphere of food, health and nutrition. 

Moderator: Archie Hart, Director of Small Farms Policy Office, N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services 


  • Deputy Under Secretary Stacy Dean, USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services

10:15-10:30 a.m.  | Break

Morning Breakout Sessions 

10:30-11:15 a.m. |  Session A - The Realities of Rural and the Availability of Healthy Food

A conversation about food systems in our communities. This panel will bring together voices to discuss the realities of rural food systems, the barriers, the successes and the resources that are available. We will also discuss how rural areas suffer from food insecurities and certain health disparities. 

​Moderator: Dianne Cox, Executive Director, Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments


  • Tim Beard, State Conservationist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

  • Lisa Harrison, Director, Granville-Vance District Health Department

  • Mary Jane Lyonnais, Food Systems Regional Planner Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments

  • Walter Smith, Retired Director Farm Service Agency

10:30-11:15 a.m. |  Session B - A Conversation about Research, Resources and Results 
Bringing a panel of institutional voices together to discuss the challenges of programming in rural communities and what currently is being done in rural spaces. 

​Moderator: Angella Dunston, Network Engagement Manager, NC Rural Center

Speakers: ​​

  • Ruby Jones Gerald, Community Health Liaison and Health Educator, NCCU

  • Dr. Carmen Samuel-Hodge, Associate Professor, Department of Nutrition, UNC Chapel Hill

  • Dr. Leonard L. Williams, Director and Professor of Food Safety and Microbiology at NC A&T University Center for Excellence in Post-Harvest Technologies (CEPHT)

10:30-11:15 a.m. |  Session C - Equity and Racism in Food Systems

The role and influence racism plays on health and food systems. Barriers and work that’s being done to overcome. 

Moderator:  Dr. Mariah Murrell, VP of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion at Food Bank of Central & Eastern NC


  • Shorlette Ammons, Program Director, Farm Aid

  • Sharon Berrun, American Indian Studies Coordinator and Teacher, Haliwa Saponi Tribal School

  • Rosa Saavedra, Project Coordinator, Rural Coalition

  • Jen Zuckerman, Director of Strategic Initiatives at World Food Policy Center, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University

11:15-12:30 a.m.  | Lunch and Special Presentation from GRRO & The Eva Clayton Rural Food Institute

11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.   |   “Food For Thought” A Panel Conversation with Thought Leaders

Listen over lunch as we bring together a panel of diverse voices in the food system space to discuss the role public policy plays in helping move the needle as it relates to food.

Moderator:  Bob Etheridge, State Executive Director, USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) in NC


  • Michael Carter, The Carter Farms

  • The Honorable Eva Clayton, Former U.S. Congresswoman

  • Scott Marlow, Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs, USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA)

  • Mikki Sager, The Boss of Me!

  • Dr. Norbert Wilson, Director of the Duke World Food Policy Center, and a Professor of Food, Economics, and Community at Duke Divinity School              

12:30-12:45 p.m. | Break

Afternoon Breakout Sessions

12:45-1:30 p.m. | Session D - School Nutrition: From Kindergarten to Grad School

What does school nutrition focus on, the scope of the role nutrition programs and the educational system plays in talking about food for children, to pantries in high schools and on college campuses. How programs like farm to preschool can work. 

Moderator:  Jessica Whichard, VP of Communications & Public Policy, Food Bank of Central & Eastern NC


  • Morgan Gramann, Executive Director, North Carolina Alliance for Health

  • ​Michelle Schroeder-Moreno, Professor, NC State University and Assistant Director of Educational Programs for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) 

  • Dr. Linden Thayer, Assistant Director, Food Systems Planning, Durham Public Schools

  • Tanya Weary, Executive Director, The VGCC Foundation

12:45-1:30 p.m. |  Session E - Farm for Health, Access, and Profit

The role food hubs play in supporting rural farms/farmers and local fresh food distribution. How farmers and food hubs become profitable through collaboration. 

Moderator: Dr. Alice Ammerman, Professor, UNC Chapel Hill, Director of the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP) and Founder of Equiti Foods, LLC


  • Dr. Gabriel Cumming, Associate Director, Working Landscapes

  • Sandi Kronick, Co-Founder and CEO Happy Dirt

  • Dr. Pamela Gibson Senegal, President Piedmont Community College

  • Ashlyn Smith, The Dr. Andrea Harris Food Hub 

1:30-1:45 p.m. | Break

1:45-2:30 p.m.  | Table Facilitation

Let’s start talking about ideas and solutions that will work in our unique rural communities.

Lead Facilitators: 

Abbey Piner, Program Director, Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) and Angella Dunston, Network Engagement Manager, NC Rural Center

2:30-2:40 p.m. | Break

2:40-3:25 p.m. | Session F - Healthy Opportunities Pilot Project & NC Tailored Care Plans

What is the Healthy Opportunities Pilot Project, NC Tailored Care Plan and how NC will be addressing the needs of food for Medicaid recipients. Also speak on the importance of managing the care of their recipients. How this program will be implemented in rural communities. 

Moderator: Christina Williams-DeBrew, GRRO  


  • Dr. Trasha Black, Executive Director, Genesis Project/Groundwater Solutions, Inc.

  • Deputy Secretary Debra Farrington, Deputy Secretary/Chief Health Equity Officer, NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)

  • Melissa Roupe - VP, Health Opportunities

2:40-3:25 p.m. |  Session G - Emergency Food Providers

The role emergency food providers play in rural communities when it's not an emergency.

Talk about how programs have become normalized and operate on a daily basis. How they’ve had to become more innovative in their programming to ensure they can accommodate the growing number of people seeking their assistance. 

Moderator: Larry Morris, Director of Partner Services, Food Bank of Central & Eastern NC


  • Doris Davis, Concerned Citizens of Tillery (CCT)

  • Melissa Elliott, Founder, Gang Free Inc. 

  • Fred Johnson, Assistant Professor and Vice Chief Division of Community Health, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, Duke University Health System

  • Chester Williams, CEO, A Better Chance A Better Community (ABC2)

3:25-3:35 p.m. | Break

3:35-4:15 p.m. | The Funders 

Talk about the programs you all are providing in rural communities and how you all are addressing the needs of these communities. 

You will also hear from attendees regarding what is needed as far as resources to better serve in these communities. 

Moderator: Seth Saeugling, Co-Founder, Rural Opportunity Institute


  • Jonathan Brereton, Executive Director, Thread Capital

  • Merry Davis, Director, Healthy Food, Blue Cross NC Foundation

  • ​Kahla Hall, Director, Community Benefit Grants Program, Vidant Health

  • Ted Lord, Golden Leaf Foundation

  • Dr. Philip E. Otienoburu, Commercial Lending Sector Leader - Food Systems Financing, Self-Help Credit Union

  • Cheryl Parquet, Blue Cross Blue Shield NC

  • Omari Richins, Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust

4:15-4:30 p.m.  | Closing Thoughts and Next Steps

  • Earline Middleton, Executive Director, Eva Clayton Rural Food Institute

  • Henry Crews, Executive Director, Green Rural Redevelopment Organization

Forum Outcomes

  • The further development of GRRO's Rural Food Institute
    (Information and insight to launch) 

  • The Rural Food Institute will develop trusting relationships to collaborate on other food issues in rural communities.

  • Establish a set of statewide measurable recommendations regarding access to health food in rural areas

  • Further development of a Rural Food Council

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