A local nonprofit group is sponsoring a Just Foods Fair community event from 1-3 p.m. Saturday at the South Rocky Mount Community Center.

The theme of the gathering is “Squashing Local Food Insecurity Through Partnerships and Awareness.”

Hosted and organized by the Twin Counties Just Foods Collaborative, the gathering is a chance to share fellowship, eat a locally produced and prepared barbecue meal and enjoy music and games for children, as well as discuss the needs, desires and vision for affordable and healthy food in the community. Free, locally grown fresh vegetable boxes also will be provided by area farmers on a first-come, first-served basis.

“One of the biggest challenges so many residents in our community face in Rocky Mount and throughout eastern North Carolina is getting good, affordable, fresh food,” said Sue Perry-Cole, who serves on the Just Foods Collaborative’s advisory council. “This includes in small neighborhood markets, at many day cares, in community centers and other places folks go to eat. And since transportation is also a challenge for so many, going outside the neighborhood to get fresh, healthy food is not always practical. We need better, more affordable food in many areas and need to be talking together as a community about how to make that happen.”

The Just Foods Collaborative formed when stakeholders wanted to work together to ensure healthy food equity, distribution and access for everyone throughout Nash and Edgecombe counties. Partners consist of small farmers, community service providers, local government agents, health care providers, nonprofit leaders, concerned citizens and others. They are focused on challenges around food access, improving the local food system “value chain” — how farmers, businesses and institutions can connect to get food to people — and public awareness and education.

Rocky Mount Councilman Richard Joyner said he is participating in the collaborative because of his similar work at the Conetoe Family Life Center.

“At the Life Center, part of our mission is to improve the health of the youth and community by increasing access to healthy foods,” he said. “The goal is to change the poverty cycle in families through improved resources. This food fair at the South Rocky Mount Community Center is important for residents to come out, have a good time, eat good food and be heard by people who are willing to do the work to change a system that has not historically benefitted many of our communities.”

The Just Foods Fair is free due to a grant provided by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems that supports developing a more equitable and inclusive healthy food system. The Just Foods Collaborative is chaired by Cooper Blackwell, resource development coordinator at the OIC of Rocky Mount.