Food and Agriculture Systems Working Group

The Food and Agriculture Systems Working Group and the Central Appalachian Network are working together to strengthen the region’s capacity for food system development by connecting funders and practitioners within specific sub-regions and across the region. We have formed a joint working group to achieve the following:


  1. Deepen Relationships

    Create and deepen relationships between grantmakers and practitioners working in local food systems.

  2. Foster Deeper Learning & Analysis

    Create and deepen relationships between grantmakers and practitioners working in local food systems.

  3. Leverage Resources

    Increase resources within the region targeted at creating stronger local food systems.

  4. Enhance Connectivity

    Enhance the connectivity and capacity of the region’s key food system actors.


This working group serves as a collaborative space where funders and practitioners come together as peers to share learning across the region, establish best practices, and explore collaborative opportunities. Impacts include: 

  • We've developed a shared analysis of critical regional issues through in-depth learning activities on topics as varied as Farm to School, Forest Farming, and the 2018 Farm Bill. 
  • We've conducted field-building, research and communications projects conducted on issues related to food access and nutritional health, including the report and video shown below. 
  • We supported planning and implementation for a $250,000 USDA Rural Community Development Initiative grant, matched with an additional $250,000 in funding from AFN members and other sources. This grant helped to build significant capacity in the local food systems of four sub-regions across Appalachia, and has leveraged over $3 million in additional follow-on funding. Read more about this project here.

Resources and Publications

 Food & Ag Systems Working Group Overview

This 1-pager summarizes the background, objectives, and issue areas of our joint funder-practitioner working group.

RCDI Project Summary: Building Food Systems Capacity in Central Appalachia

This one-pager provides a summary of the FASWG's Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) grant, including the project strategies, participating organizations, funders involved, community impacts, and resources leveraged. 

Research Report: Food Security, Access, & Equity in West Virginia and the Appalachian regions of North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio

Authored by the Appalachian Foodshed Project for the Appalachia Funders Network, this report provides data snapshots related to food, agriculture, poverty, and health of the Central Appalachian region and suggests approaches to creating and utilizing data as a means of understanding and addressing food, health, and quality of life issues in Appalachia. 

Video: The Vital Role of Food and Food Systems in Central Appalachia's Public Health

This video presentation by Dr. Randy Wykoff, Dean of the ETSU College of Public Health, provides a data-driven explanation of Central Appalachia's public health challenges, explores the most critical factors impacting our region's health, and proposes an integrated approach to improving Central Appalachia's health that emphasizes the role of food & food systems. The video was made possible through the Food and Ag Systems Working Group partnership with the Health Working Group, with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


Co-Chairs of the Food Systems Working Group

Lora Smith, PhilCap Fund
Amalia Mendoza, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
Christine Laporte, Sacharuna Foundation

Members of the Food Systems Working Group

Food System Funders

Mary Hunt, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation
Susan Beaudry, Osteopathic Heritage Foundation
Kostas Skordas, Appalachian Regional Commission
Sandra Mikush, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation
Trudy Hughes, East Tennessee Foundation
Barbara Wyckoff, The One Foundation
Mary Fant Donnan, Alleghany Foundation
Joe Woody, USDA Rural Development TN
Gerry Roll, Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky 
Susan Zepeda, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
Jen Giovannitti, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
Monica McCann, Conservation Fund
Christine Laporte, Sacharuna Foundation
Darryl Cannady, Appalachian Community Fund
Marlo Long, BB&T Bank
Jane Higgins, Bluegrass Community Foundation
Stephanie Hyre, The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation
Renee Steffen, Sisters of St. Joseph Charitable Fund
Tony Logan, USDA Rural Development OH
Bobby Lewis, USDA Rural Development WV

Food System Practitioners

Kathlyn Terry, Appalachian Sustainable Development
Leslie Schaller, Appalachian Center for Economic Networks
Martin Richards, Community Farm Alliance
Michelle Decker, Rural Action
Martin Jenkins, Natural Capital Investment Fund
Tom Redfern, Rural Action
Sherri Oliver, Live Healthy Appalachia
Alexis Close, Appalachian RC&D
Emily Bidgood, Appalachian RC&D
Emily Jackson, ASAP
Gail Patton, Unlimited Future, Inc.
Sally Causey, Rural Resources
Mary Nally, Community Food Initiatives
Elizabeth Spellman, WV Food & Farm Coalition
Brenda Hunt, Heart and Hand House
Jill Young, Value Chain Cluster Initiative