Regional Food System Network: Strategic Planning to Enhance Development & Organization

This post was contributed by the Appalachian Virginia Food Systems Network.

The Appalachian Virginia Food Systems Network (AVFSN) is made up of food systems stakeholders from across Southwest Virginia. AVFSN stakeholders are currently collaborating to complete a strategic planning process. Through this process, the AVFSN is working to establish leadership and decision-making structures to support this evolving network of food systems practitioners.

The AVFSN developed an oversight committee in the spring of 2015 to provide leadership for the evolving network. The oversight committee has been meeting regularly to discuss next steps and have agreed on a number of goals to orient their work. The oversight committee was granted authority to make decisions on behalf of the network regarding its development and fiscal management of grant funds. In this leadership role, the oversight committee has also defined a time-bound plan of work for the growing network and has assigned individuals to take responsibility for various elements of the plan. The oversight committee also aims to be accountable to the deliverables presented in current grants projects and those in-kind community partners’ time and effort.  Additionally, they are researching other funding opportunities for continuing the work, while being flexible by adapting to the needs of the region. The oversight committee is working towards further organizing the group in an effort to create a more thorough plan of work that includes connections, relationships, collaborations, facilitation, and action.

As partners in the Appalachian Foodshed Project’s (AFP) Virginia Community Food Security Assessment, stakeholders representing the Network introduced the concept of a food systems network for Southwest Virginia at each of the Community Work Sessions in an effort to gain momentum for the effort. The Network is motivated to learn and adapt based on key findings from the work sessions, and from the community food security assessment more generally. As partners, they have acted as key players in creating the Southwest Virginia Food System Roadmap, with a commitment to maintain a leadership role in working towards the opportunities and objectives identified in the Roadmap.

At the center of the Network’s focus is the goal of developing the Appalachian Virginia Food System Network for the region to highlight community food systems themes and synergies, while improving and enhancing communication, networking, and collaboration throughout Southwest Virginia, as well as with the statewide Virginia Food System Council. The network aims to serve as “the unifier” at the ground level to help coordinate and promote synergy across Southwest Virginia’s diverse food systems-related efforts.

The AVFSN Oversight Committee is working to finalize a strategic plan to fulfill the AFP’s grant deliverables which includes a mission statement and plan of work draft.  This committee is discussing ways to grow the network so that it extends beyond the AFP grant period.  


Contact network coordinator Kelli Scott of Virginia Cooperative Extension by emailing for more information about the Appalachian Virginia Food Systems Network and to learn how you can become involved.