“Taking Back Our Health through Community Gardens and Urban Agriculture,” the first-ever Syracuse Food Justice Symposium, will focus on grassroots urban agriculture and food justice. Scheduled to take place October 2-3, it is organized by a broad coalition of grassroots organizations, not-for-profit agencies, community gardeners, interested stakeholders and Syracuse University partners, including the Department of Public Health, Food Studies and Nutrition in Falk College, the Department of African American Studies and the Humanities Center in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Canary Lab in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, the School of Education, and SUNY ESF’s Department of Landscape Architecture.

Sessions during the two-day conference will explore food justice, regional food systems frameworks, and engaging community youth in good food work, among many other topics. A dinner prepared by local chefs using regional and local farm products will be prepared on October 2, followed by the keynote address by Malik Yakini, founder and executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN), which operates a seven-acre urban farm and is leading efforts to open a co-op grocery store in Detroit’s North End.

The Saturday, October 3 agenda includes a morning address by Carolin Mees, Ph.D., entitled, “The Built Environment and the Urban Garden.” Dr. Mees is an architect, writer and educator currently teaching the Designing for Resilient, Sustainable Systems class at Parsons The New School, School of Design Strategies.

The symposium is focused on jump starting efforts to create an Onondaga County Food Policy Council to coordinate long-term efforts at creating a just and sustainble food system.

In Central New York, and across the United States, people are working to create a cultural shift in how food production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste are addressed. Growing support for community gardening and urban farming strengthen a regional food system to support food justice—that is, where all citizens can afford nutritious food throughout the year, and local communities benefit from all facets of the food system.

According to event organizers, community gardens and urban farms are a natural place to help consumers, producers, markets and decision makers find common ground to build more sustainable and locally beneficial food system opportunities. This event welcomes policy makers, planners, community gardeners, school administration and staff, elected officials, nutritionists and medical professionals, health departments, community organizations, philanthropists, educators, students and the general public to hear nationally renowned speakers, local and regional experts, community activists, and growers discuss how community gardens and urban agriculture can strengthen communities.

This event will take place at All Saints Church, 1342 Lancaster Ave, Syracuse, NY. It will be free for attendees, with a suggested donation of $20 to help offset costs for those who can afford it. Additional support for this symposium is provided by the National Institute of Food & Agriculture, USDA Award # 2014-68004-22166, and the U.S. Green Building Council. For more information visit the symposium website or contact Jessi Lyons at (315) 424-9485, x-233.