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East Point Mayor Deana Holiday Ingraham signs the City Agriculture Plan MOU with Atlanta Regional Commission Principal Planner Allison Duncan (left), and Food Well Alliance’s Executive Director Kim Karris, Deputy Director Will Seller and Operations Coordinator Sarah Benedict.

Atlanta nonprofit Food Well Alliance is a collaborative network of local food leaders heading up a new program they believe will be a game changer for urban agriculture in cities across metro Atlanta.

The City Agriculture Plan will do exactly what its name says: bring growers, community leaders and city officials together — guided by the planning expertise of the Atlanta Regional Commission — to develop citywide plans that prioritize urban agriculture.

The end goal? Thriving community gardens and urban farms providing greater access to locally grown food across the metro Atlanta region, which translates to healthier people, environments and communities.

After a thorough exploration process with seven metro cities earlier this year, Food Well Alliance selected East Point to pilot the new City Agriculture Plan. The plan will begin with a community engagement and asset mapping phase led by Food Well Alliance, followed by a six-month planning process undertaken with support from ARC.

Once the plan is developed, Food Well Alliance will guide the implementation of the plan and provide a minimum of $75,000 in funding to help the community bring it to life.

“We are thrilled the City of East Point will be joining us in this exciting new endeavor,” said Food Well Alliance Executive Director Kim Karris. “We believe that East Point is uniquely poised to take bold steps and become a national model for urban agriculture. The work begins today, and it couldn’t come at a more crucial time. Metro Atlanta is one of the fastest growing regions in the country, and our cities are rapidly becoming more developed. This threatens the long-term viability of community gardens and farms. The City Agriculture Plan paves a way for city officials to work directly with growers and community leaders to determine the policies, ordinances, and programs that will move the needle most effectively.”

As the City Agriculture Plan process gets underway in East Point, six other metro Atlanta cities that rallied to pilot the program will receive funding support to catalyze their own urban agriculture initiatives: Alpharetta, Clarkston, Hapeville, Lawrenceville, Lovejoy and Pine Lake.

“The level of enthusiasm demonstrated in all seven cities shows us that we are onto something — that people want community spaces to reconnect to where their food comes from — so we are going to keep building on the momentum,” Karris said.

Nearly 500 people attended Community Food Forums in the seven cities this February and March to learn more about City Agriculture Planning and share their ideas. Over time, Food Well Alliance aims to help develop City Agriculture Plans in all 54 cities in its five-county region serving Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett counties.

Funding for the City Agriculture Plan pilot has been made possible by The Zeist Foundation and Food Well Alliance founding benefactor the James M. Cox Foundation.

“We are truly humbled and honored by being selected to create and implement the first City Agriculture Plan in the region,” City of East Point Mayor Deana Holiday Ingraham said. “This amazing partnership with Food Well Alliance and the Atlanta Regional Commission will be impactful and transform our City. The intense focus on community engagement and leadership throughout our City Agriculture Planning process will help ensure sustainability of the projects implemented to systemically address our food access challenges.”

Brother Holmes leads two volunteers through the Soul Spirit Farmers garden, one of several entities active in the City of East Point’s local food movement.

“The City of East Point is extremely excited about its partnership with Food Well Alliance,” said Maceo Rogers, director of the  Department of Economic Development for the City of East Point. “It marks the beginning of a new collaboration between the city, residents, businesses and metro area organizations all uniting together to take a holistic approach to transforming the overall health of the community through access to local food production, community gardens, and farms.”

“Local agriculture is a key part of developing healthy communities,” ARC’s Community Development Group manager Sam Shenbaga said. “ARC is proud to support community agriculture and put our resources behind initiatives that improve our region starting at the local level.”

The Community Engagement phase of the City Agriculture Plan begins with a kick-off session hosted by Food Well Alliance and the City of East Point at 6:30-8:30 p.m., Aug. 22, at the ArtsXchange, 2148 Newnan St. in East Point.

It will be an opportunity to celebrate the City’s award, share the results of the East Point Community Food Forum, and provide an overview of the upcoming community asset mapping process.

East Point residents, city stakeholders, community and municipal leaders are encouraged to attend. Learn more and register at foodwellalliance.org.

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