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Feast Down East connects low-income residents with limited-resource farmers and fresh, healthy food

farm tour 1

Sept. 2, 2013 – Low-income residents living in Wilmington public housing traveled to Sampson County in August to meet one of the rural, limited-resource farmers that grows the food they buy each week at Feast Down East’s Rankin Terrace Fresh Market.

Feast Down East, a recipient of the Initiative’s 2012 Innovation Fund grant, is a nonprofit economic and community development initiative created to address the massive job loss and persistent high poverty in southeastern North Carolina. Its programs focus on creating a fully integrated local food system by helping small and limited-resource farmers gain access to markets, such as restaurants, grocers, schools and hospitals, and by connecting local residents to local, healthy food.

Feast Down East, through a partnership with the Wilmington Housing Authority, developed the Rankin Terrace Fresh Market to provide local, healthy food options to low-income residents each week. The neighborhood is a designated food desert but, in the last year, the market has provided Rankin Terrace residents with access to 65 varieties of fruits and vegetables from 27 different local farmers. Over 1,900 pounds of fresh foods were purchased by residents living in the community.

“The Rankin Terrace community actively participates in improving their access to healthy foods, through the development of a Leadership Corps, nutrition education and empowerment,” said Erin O’Donnell, food sovereignty coordinator for Feast Down East. “Residents were able to meet with farmers who grow their food and participate in a gleaning, where they harvested surplus crops that the farmer could not take to market.”

Farmer Curtis Cummings gave the residents of Rankin Terrace a tour of his farm and discussed his plans for the fall harvest. Cummings shared his story and spoke about the challenges of farming and growing organic crops. The residents had an opportunity to tell Cummings which fall vegetables they most look forward to seeing at their farmer’s market, and then they enjoyed a lunch made from local ingredients.

Cummings utilizes Feast Down East’s resources to help grow and build sustainability for his farm. In the past, he has participated in educational workshops to become a more resourceful farmer and helped develop a cooperative of African American Organic Farmers. Feast Down East provides packing and delivery of Cummings’s harvest through its processing and distribution initiative in Burgaw, NC, which connects him with chefs, grocery stores and consumers, including the Rankin Terrace Community.

“[Through the tour], consumer and grower were able to connect and better understand the other’s situation and challenges,” said O’Donnell. “The goal of this project is to create a more integrated, vibrant, strong food system in which everyone has a place at the table.”
For more information on Feast Down East, visit

The N.C. Community Development Initiative leads North Carolina’s collaborative community economic development effort, driving innovation, investment and action to create prosperous, sustainable communities. For more information, visit

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