Tackling everyday struggles: Fiber & Food Initiative to begin hands-on programming

By Chandler Holland
Times-News correspondent

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Tiffanie Crisafulli Jackson, director of the North Carolina Fiber and Food Accelerator, poses for a photo. [Stephen Jackson / Special to the Times-News

  SAXAPAHAW — As we go about our everyday lives, there are a couple things we need. The essentials      include clean drinking water, clothes on our back, food on our table and a roof over our head. Tiffanie  Jackson experienced challenges in her own life that she saw reflected in many people around her.  Throughout time, she realized these struggles fell into two distinctive categories — apparel (fiber) and food.
“I think no matter how much money you make, or where you live, most of us have made a shift away  from eating at home, and from really thinking about the things that we wear,” Jackson said.
As a result, she formed the North Carolina Fiber and Food Accelerator (NCFFA), a nonprofit  collaborative for anything healthy food and sustainable apparel-related.
Partnering with a variety of local agencies and organizations, the NCFFA will accomplish two separate  but related goals.
“One part helps provide resources to people in the food or apparel industry to start a business, while  the other provides community classes related to food and apparel. This helps make our community  stronger by understanding healthy eating, and by making the shift back to understanding that not  everything is disposable, especially as it relates to apparel.”
The first NCFFA food-related program is focused on parents who want healthy food for themselves and their children, but don’t have time to prepare it on a routine basis. Parents who take this program will gather in a certified kitchen every two weeks, with the assistance of student chefs from the community college’s culinary school. They will spend half of a Saturday together, preparing healthy meals that are then stored in plastic bags to place in their freezer. When they want to make a meal at home, in the morning before these busy parents go off to work, they toss the contents of a bag into their CrockPot, and then have a delicious, healthy meal waiting for them when they come home in the evening.
To help support this program, Jackson has planned a fundraiser picnic where NCFFA will partner with over a dozen local chefs. The chefs will prepare well-balanced dishes made with whole ingredients anyone can buy at a local grocery store that accepts WIC and SNAP — and each serving must cost a $1.50 or less to make. Attendees will get a tapa-sized serving of each dish, and every bit of the profit from ticket sales goes toward NCFFA’s program.
Apparel is moving back to the U.S. and NCFFA also has things in the works on the fiber side of the equation. In North Carolina, there are currently jobbers who are trying to manufacture apparel, but the people who used to service and operate their machines left here some time ago. Jackson has begun conversations with the community college system about a certificate program for students who will operate and service machines in the apparel industry. The “fiber side” of the Accelerator will have a presence at the upcoming Burlington Maker Faire this spring, where participants will have an opportunity to try their hand at one of the machines.

For more information about NCFFA and their upcoming programs — or to share food and apparel related needs that you see in our community — contact Tiffanie Crisafulli Jackson at tiffanie@ncfiberandfood.com or ncfiberandfood.com.

Chandler Holland is a senior home-schooler and a Teens & 20s writer. She looks forward to attending Warren Wilson College, and will obtain her NC Environmental Educator Certification during her gap year.

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