A two-day conference at the Rocky Mount Event Center is bringing together 250 community leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, farmers, youth and local government and health professionals who seek to strengthen communities through food.

The event, “Cultivating Community Through Food: NC Food Council Gathering,” is allowing participants to discuss some of the state’s most pressing matters related to the production, use and availability of healthy foods.

According to the NC Local Food Council website, the organization is a statewide food council comprised of individuals working collaboratively across organizations and agencies to support local food producers and the state’s retailers. Its mission is to serve as a collaborative network that fosters successful farms, fisheries and markets, greater availability of wholesome food and resilient ecosystems.

More than 35 local food councils exist in the state and are comprised in the Western Region, the Triangle Region, the Triad Region, the Northeast Region, the Southeast Region and the Charlotte Region.

Gini Kinght, program coordinator for Community Food Strategies at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, said 38 of North Carolina’s local food councils as well as participants from South Carolina are learning from each other at the event and building strategies for their communities.

“We have people from all across the state in many lines of expertise and experience,” Knight said. “We are thrilled to have this event in Rocky Mount honoring the community work that has been going on for decades in this city. Rocky Mount is a great connection point between the east and the western part of the state.”

The sold-out event is featuring a span of 16 workshop topics, including “The Faces of Poverty in North Carolina,” “Lessons on Preserving Farmland Alongside Development,” “Ancestral Awakening: Waccamaw Siouan Tribal Healing Greenspace” and “Youth and Food Justice in North Carolina.”

Other sessions are exploring racial equity principles, stories of black farmers, the financial realities of farming and lessons learned from food councils across the United States.

The event also is offering two keynote presentations.

Natalie S. Burk, president and CEO of CommonHealth Action, who is a speaker, strategist, master facilitator and public health leader, is speaking on “Cultivating Interconnection: The power of equity work to catalyze connection.” Jessica N. Holmes, an attorney, is a workers’ rights advocate, policy expert and fighter for fairness and social justice. Her topic is “It Takes a Village: Facing the challenge of hunger head-on through policy, passion and people.” Holmes also is a member of the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

Community Food Strategies, its partners and over a dozen sponsors are hosting the event, which began Thursday and will conclude today at the event center.