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How Practicing Connection Can Cultivate Food Security Collaborations


Like many of the issues that impact our families and communities, food security is complex. There are multiple factors that affect the issue, including economic, social, environmental and political factors. Interrelated issues like poverty, healthcare, and climate change make food security even more complex.

Complex issues can only be addressed from multiple perspectives and by a wide range of people and organizations. Obach and their collaborators write, “Building networks allows for sharing information, knowledge, and resources (Laforge et al., 2017), as well as identifying social problems within communities, determining practical solutions, and providing important services (Provan et al., 2005), especially when those services are not reliably provided by the government. Forming networks of individuals and organizations in local or regional food systems also can be important to improving local, state, or federal policy” (2023).

For those of us interested in reducing food insecurity, that means we need to engage with people and organizations working on the issue from at all levels of the socio-ecological model: individual, interpersonal, organizational, community and public policy.

Communicating, engaging, and collaborating effectively with people and organizations from such diverse perspectives and approaches isn’t easy. It takes practice.

The Practicing Connection initiative provides a place for that practice.

Practicing Connection offers a podcast, monthly newsletter, workshops and webinars that can help you develop the skills and connections needed to better support families and communities, and address complex issues by:

  • Helping you show up differently in your current teams and organizations.
  • Sharing examples of collaborations working to improve career, social, financial, health and community well-being.
  • Providing alternative practices and structures you can use to bring people together and guidance on having collaborative meetings, navigating conflict and building relationships.
  • Discussing how we can shift our focus upstream by building community capacity to address root causes of an issue.

Together, we explore the skills and practices that can prepare us to work together and grow personally and professionally. If we can apply these ideas, skills and practices to the issue of food security, here’s what it might look like.

  • Each of us knows that addressing complex issues like food security requires us to seek out and build relationships with each other..
  • Using practices for bringing people together, we engage families to learn about their needs, any barriers to nutrition security, and assets they have used to become more food secure.
  • Using what we’ve learned about building relationships, we seek out opportunities to work with others to address food security.
  • Inspired by the collaboration stories we’ve heard, we connect with others to learn how food security is being addressed in the community.
  • Recognizing the need to build community capacity to address food security, we approach organizational leadership about engaging in food security as a community issue.

The complex issue of food security can only be addressed from multiple perspectives and by a wide range of people and organizations on installations and in communities. We invite you to join the Practicing Connection community to hear from practitioners, build your collaboration skills, and connect with others who want to address this important issue.

Join us at


Laforge, J. M. L., Anderson, C. R., & McLachlan, S. M. (2017). Governments, grassroots, and the struggle for local food systems: containing, coopting, contesting, and collaborating. Agriculture and Human Values, 34, 663–681.

Obach, R., Schusler, T., Durkin, S., Vaca, P., & Sheikh, M. (2023). Connectivity and racial equity in responding to COVID-19 impacts in the Chicago regional food system. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 12(2), 305–320.

Provan, K. G., Veazie, M. A., Staten, L. K., Teufel-Shone, N. I. (2005). The use of network analysis to strengthen community partnerships. Public Administration Review, 65 (5), 603–613.

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About the Extension Foundation

The Extension Foundation was formed in 2006 by Extension Directors and Administrators. Today, the Foundation partners with Cooperative Extension through liaison roles and a formal plan of work with the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) to increase system capacity while providing programmatic services, and helping Extension programs scale and investigate new methods and models for implementing programs. The Foundation provides professional development to Cooperative Extension professionals and offers exclusive services to its members. In 2020 and 2021, the Extension Foundation has awarded 85% of its direct funding back to the Cooperative Extension System, 100% of funds are used to support Cooperative Extension initiatives. 

This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Agriculture Extension grant no. 2020-41595-30123 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and membership funding. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the content are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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