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Wyoming Food Advocates Attend Social Change Conference In South Africa

Gayle Woodsum

Solutions to hunger and obesity are often best developed by local community groups. That’s the message a delegation of food security advocates from Wyoming took to a global meeting in South Africa last month.

The conference, called the Action Learning Action Research Congress, brought together advocates from all over the world to discuss how to create lasting social change. 

Gayle Woodsum is the founder of Feeding Laramie Valley, a community gardening organization. She says they went to South Africa to present their work on addressing food insecurity on the Wind River Reservation and in Albany County.

Woodsum says in Johannesburg, her group was inspired by a woman running an urban garden.

“She works 12 hours a day, seven days a week in her urban farm,” Woodsum says. “She has taken what used to be, during the Colonial period in South Africa, a lawn bowling area for the privileged. She managed to get them to give her that land and it’s at least five acres.”

Woodsum says Feeding Laramie Valley is currently negotiating with the city of Laramie to start a similar farm on the Monolith Ranch outside city limits that would offer opportunities for research and community food production.

Woodsum says, although social change advocates attended the conference from all over the world, her delegation was the only one that brought community organizers to the conference, not just academics.

“My message was, we believe strongly in community designed and led action research that makes change in the world. But it was also a call to all researchers that those partnerships need to be equitable.”

Woodsum says her group went to South Africa to represent “The Food Dignity Project,” a collaboration with researchers in Wyoming, California and New York studying how sustainable food systems can combat problems of obesity, hunger and other food related issues.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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