Local Food Coordinator Peer-to-Peer Resources
Our team (formerly the Local Foods Program) received a USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Professional Development Program grant in 2016. We wanted to build the capacity of local food coordinators* and others working to build stronger local food systems in Iowa.
Right now about three quarters of Iowa’s 99 counties are served by 10 local food coordinators.
With this grant funding, the team piloted three strategies over the next two years (2017-18):
- a mentorship project pairing experienced local food coordinators with beginning coordinators (read the overview and best practices report);
- peer-to-peer (P2P) learning group calls held online using the Zoom collaborative meeting platform (read the overview and evaluation report); and
- individualized face-to-face technical consultations for regional food system working group sites (read the evaluation report).
We also developed a beginning local food coordinator toolkit based on feedback from Iowa local food coordinators.
Why we developed this pilot
The Local Foods Program team invited experienced and beginning local food coordinators around Iowa to a facilitated learning circle in the fall of 2015. The team wanted to learn how to better support practitioners in these unique positions. The coordinators who attended expressed a need for peer and lived-experience support to help them build confidence and foster job retention.
New local food coordinators, especially those who are the first in their position, shared that they can often feel frustrated, isolated, and discouraged. Causes include unclear expectations, differing priorities from stakeholders, and having no one else in their office or region with a similar position to talk to about their concerns.
Learning circle participants came up with the idea of creating peer-to-peer mentorship opportunities. These would match experienced local food coordinators with less experienced ones. Recognizing that most local food coordinators are already over-worked and over-extended, our team set out to obtain funds to compensate mentors. We wanted the project to be mutually beneficial and fulfilling to both members of a mentorship pair.
Read the full overview of the 2015 learning circle and takeaways from this listening session in the extension publication Local Food Coordinators: Survey and Learning Circle Report (LF 17), available as a free PDF download from the ISU Extension Store.
*Local food coordinators support the development of local food systems by bringing together stakeholders, facilitating food systems planning and project management, and increasing community awareness through educational and promotional marketing.
** This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2016-38640-25381 through the North Central Region SARE program under project number EC16-153. USDA is an equal opportunity employer and service provider. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.