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Convening: Charlotte Food & Social Mobility Summit, May 2019

Summit Purpose

In May 2019, The Duke Endowment, Novant Health and the Winer Family Foundation co-sponsored the Charlotte Food & Social Mobility Summit. The event was facilitated by the World Food Policy Center at Duke. The purpose of the event was to start conversations to bridge economic mobility and food in Charlotte, building on the momentum and on-the ground action already taking place in the Charlotte Metro Area. This one-day event was intended to spur new conversations, catalyze new relationships, and begin to drive the conversation to efforts that build community ownership and generational wealth through food-aligning food sovereignty and economic mobility. The presentations grounded attendees in a historic perspective, to explain how the policies and practices that have created the racial wealth gap are still affecting Charlotte communities today.

Goals for the Summit

  1. Understand the complexity of the wicked problems around food issues and social mobility, and how those two are interrelated
  2. Align funding and activity strategies to move Charlotte and North Carolina forward
  3. Take steps to move towards a community ownership model food community

Call to Action

Set unifying values for Charlotte and catalyze momentum to see progress in those areas (e.g. all the people in Charlotte have access to nutritious and affordable food and increase the likelihood of social mobility as a community).


Speakers & Presentations

Opening Keynote: Food, Social Mobility and Building Bridges: This session provided context for the need for cross-sector food policy, looked at the future of food globally, and outlined the elements of the community-led and institution-supported models playing out in the City of Durham and in Edgecombe County.

Food, Social Mobility and Building Bridges: Dr. Kelly Brownell, Director, Duke World Food Policy Center

Systemic Problems and Intentional Connection: this session set context for the systemic problems of food systems and social mobility by exploring the feedback from communities in Durham related to a “Model Food Community”, and provided context such conversations in Charlotte.

Lessons Learned in DurhamJen Zuckerman, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Duke World Food Policy Center

A Historical Framing to Plan for the Future:  this panel provided a historical framing of the policies and practices at both the federal and state levels that created the racial wealth gap. Speakers explored the connections between the racial wealth gap and the systemic food-related issues affecting Charlotte. The panel will also offer a community-led solution of how to change the conversation from seeing food deserts as a naturally occurring feature to understanding food apartheid and the need for community-led solutions for sustainable change. Moderator: Reggie Singleton, Founder and Director, the Males Place

Benchmarking Charlotte: To set the stage for the afternoon, we will hear from both the City of Charlotte and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Food Policy Council to benchmark the Charlotte metro area on key issues related to local food production, community development through food, and food insecurity.

Food Insecurity as a Marker of Community Health – Issues and Opportunities Moving Forward: According to the Southeastern University Consortium on Hunger, Poverty, and Nutrition, in 2015 19.5% of children in Mecklenburg County were living in food insecure households.  Food security is critical for forming a foundation for cognitive development in children and food insecurity can create a dual burden of both hunger and obesity.  Understanding that there is a level of immediate need for emergency food assistance and government nutrition programs, this panel will discuss why food security is so critical, means for achieving food security, and the future of moving from charity to justice in food security efforts. Moderator: Whitney Tucker, NC Child

  • NC Early Childhood Action Plan: Food Insecurity and Ensuring Healthy Starts: Safiyah Jackson, Smart Start
  • Innovative Approaches In the Food Banks: Mike Darrow, Executive Director, Feeding the Carolinas
  • Barriers to SNAP and WIC Participation, Stigma and Opportunity: Dr. Carolyn Barnes, Duke University School of Public Policy

Community-Driven Solutions – Building Community Wealth and Connection: Communities understand what they need to solve their own issues.  From faith, to culture, to neighborhoods, these leaders are examples of the community-rooted solutions already taking place throughout the Charlotte metro area. The leaders assembled on this panel will discuss the holistic nature of their efforts, the results they are seeing, and how institutions can offer support as opposed to intervention.

Moderator: Nadine Ford, Little Sugar Creek Community Garden

Deeper Dive – Connection and Priorities: Deepening the Conversation

To end the day, attendees will self-select into areas where they have a sphere of influence to affect change in Charlotte and where they would like to start building the conversation and deepen connections started throughout the day. Topic areas will be defined by attendees throughout the day via Reach NC. Conversations during this time will inform where this group might like to go beyond the summit. Facilitated conversations and group report outs.

  • History
  • Agriculture
  • Early Childhood
  • Faith Community
  • Food Insecurity
  • Health
  • Economic Development
  • Marketplaces



  • Jen Zuckerman, M.S., Duke World Food Policy Center
  • The Duke Endowment
  • Novant Health
  • Winer Family Foundation