Skip to main content

Dara Bloom, PhD

Associate Professor; Director of CEFS

Local Foods Extension Specialist

512 Brickhaven Drive, 220F

Bio

Dara Bloom is an associate professor and Local Foods Extension Specialist at NC State University. She is also Director of Community Based Food Systems for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS). Dara was inspired by her time doing community gardening on the US/Mexican border to learn about the structure and policies of the larger agri-food system, as well as how community-based projects can enhance local food security. Dara earned her degree in Rural Sociology at Penn State University, with a focus on the Sociology of Agriculture and Food Systems. Her graduate research revolved around the challenges and opportunities of “scaling up” local food systems, including the interactions between social, environmental, and economic values as alternative movements are incorporated into conventional systems. Her current work includes providing support through Cooperative Extension and CEFS to develop local food value chains as part of community-based local food projects that integrate low-resource consumers and support local farmers. This has included exploring how to strengthen immigrant/refugee communities’ capacity to participate in local food production and preparation, and how to connect food pantries with local food sources. She is currently conducting research about how to build relationships between local farmers and childcare centers and senior centers.

Programs and Initiatives

  • Extension Master Food Volunteer Program
  • Local Food Online Course
  • Farm to Early Care and Education
  • Farm to Senior Services

Primary Teaching Responsibilities

  • AEHS 590: Intro to Local Foods

Contributing Websites

Professional Honors/Offices/Recognitions

  • 2018 – Rural Sociological Society Early Career Award
  • 2018 – NC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Specialist Award
  • 2018 – North Carolina Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, Excellence in Teamwork Award, Extension Master Food Volunteer Program
  • 2018 – North Carolina Association of Cooperative Extension Specialists, Outstanding Subject Matter Program by a Team Award, Extension Master Food Volunteer Program
  • 2018 – North Carolina Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, Family Health and Wellness Award, Cooking Local Foods Made Simple Agent Training

Selected Publications

  • Ammons, S., Blacklin, S., Bloom, D., Brown, S., Cappellazzi, M., Creamer, N., … Ukah, B. (2021). A collaborative approach to COVID-19 response: The Center for Environmental Farming Systems community-based food system initiatives. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2021.102.004
  • Bloom, J.D.(2020). “Spiraling up”: Using ripple effect mapping to evaluate how an extension volunteer program increases community development capacity. Community Development, 1-20.
  • Bloom, J. D.,Lelekacs, J., Hofing, G., Stout, R., Marshall, M., & Davis, K. (2020). Integrating Food Systems and Local Food in Family and Consumer Sciences: Perspectives from the Pilot Extension Master Food Volunteer Program. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development9(2), 197-220. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2020.092.013
  • Dunning, R., Bloom, J. D., & Brinkmeyer, E. (2020). Making a Market for On-farm Food Loss: Exploring Food Banks as a Market for Southeastern Produce. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development9(2), 185-195. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2020.092.014
  • Bloom, J. D., Hardison-Moody, A., & Schulman, M. (2018). Bonding and bridging: Leveraging immigrant and refugee community assets to support healthy eating. Community Development, 1–20.
  • Bloom, J. D., Lelekacs, J. M., Dunning, R., Piner, A., & Brinkmeyer, E. (2017). Local Food Systems Course for Extension Educators in North Carolina: Summary of an Innovative Program. Journal of Extension,55(4). Retrieved from https://www.joe.org/joe/2017august/iw2.php
  • Bloom, J.D., Hinrichs, C.C. (2017).  The Long Reach of Lean Retailing: Firm Embeddedness and Wal-Mart’s Implementation of Local Produce Sourcing in the US. Environment and Planning A.  49(1), 168-185.
  • Bloom, J.D., Gamble, E. (2017) Farm to Food Bank Resource Guide for North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Raleigh, NC: NC Cooperative Extension. https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/farm-to-food-bank-resource-guide
  • Bloom J.D.,Alford, Z., Mansure, M. (2017). Best Practices for Integrating Local Food into Nutrition Education and Cooking Classes. Raleigh, NC: NC Cooperative Extension.  https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/best-practices-for-utilizing-local-food-in-nutrition-education-and-cooking-classes
  • Bloom, J. Dara and Lelekacs, Joanna M. 2014. Eat Local. Eat Healthy. Local foods program brochure. https://localfood.ces.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/EatLocalEatHelathy-091114-FINAL.pdf?fwd=no

View More Publications

Education

BA Swarthmore College

MS Penn State University

PhD Penn State University

Area(s) of Expertise

  • Local Food Systems
  • Food Access to Community-Based Food Systems
  • Value Chains and Supply Chain Governance

Grants

Date: 10/31/21 - 10/30/24
Amount: $993,825.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA AMS)

This project will build a statewide Collaborative to connect local food systems and early childhood partners for the purposes of value chain coordination. The Collaborative will include Early Care and Education sites, including Head Start Centers, family child care homes, and independent child care centers, as well as local farmers, Cooperative Extension agents, and non-profits representing local agriculture. These teams will explore best practices in local food procurement.

Date: 09/30/21 - 9/29/24
Amount: $749,839.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA AMS)

The goal of this statewide project is to help the 1300+ small-scale independent meat producers in North Carolina (avg. head of beef processed annually is <15 and pork <30, NCC 2021 Niche Meat Survey) adapt profitably throughout and post-COVID by developing, expanding, and coordinating direct-to-consumer market opportunities for new and existing meat producers. This project will ensure meat producers have the tools, marketing, pricing, and processing capacity, and the know-how to take advantage of the increased direct-to-consumer market demand and expanded processing services that also comes as a result of COVID.

Date: 03/01/22 - 2/29/24
Amount: $533,988.00
Funding Agencies: Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust

Agriculture is the leading industry in many rural communities in North Carolina, including Bladen, Columbus, and Robeson Counties, despite declining numbers of farming operations and food access points. At the same time, food insecurity rates can be high in these rural areas and associated with chronic disease and poor health outcomes within the community. Many strategies for addressing food insecurity include supplemental cash and emergency food assistance programs. We would like to ask the questions: Could community-led food system infrastructure development compliment these food assistance programs in addressing food insecurity? Could supporting farm capacity, a farmer cooperative, and local food market diversification increase healthy food access points in the community? What strengths do existing community leaders and assets bring to the table and what is needed to build place-based strategies for resilient economic development and healthier communities? To answer these questions, we propose an inclusive, community-led process of food system evaluation, planning, and farmer capacity building with direction from the Center for Environmental Farming Systems and NC Cooperative Extension in coordination with the 3-county region’s community stakeholders and leaders.

Date: 09/30/20 - 9/29/23
Amount: $496,642.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA AMS)

County-based institutions, like senior centers, have the capacity to increase access to local food products and expand market opportunities for local farmers. We propose to facilitate six county-based teams to build farm-to-institution pathways for local food sourced through local intermediaries (food hub, aggregator, farmer group). The project activities would include the following: create a county local food campaign, assess farmer readiness to sell to the institution, provide a baseline procurement report to the institution, provide a summer supply chain apprentice and marketing assistance to the local food intermediary, work with food policy councils to explore food procurement policy shifts, and facilitate information sharing and networking among stakeholders of the six county teams.

Date: 06/01/17 - 5/31/23
Amount: $988,645.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)

ABSTRACT Childcare Outdoor Learning Environments as Active Food Systems: Effectiveness of the Preventing Obesity by Design (POD) Gardening Component Long-term project goals: 1) To improve the health trajectory of Americans by increasing physical activity (PA) and consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables among vulnerable preschoolers attending U.S childcare centers, and 2) To use research findings to further support the Preventing Obesity by Design (POD), gardening component to influence state policy makers with compelling arguments to promote and create hands-on gardening opportunities at more than 120,000 licensed U.S. childcare centers. Supporting objectives 1. Research. Using a waitlist/control group, randomized controlled trial (RCT) research design, assess the impact of the Preventing Obesity by Design (POD) Gardening Component intervention on 300 children, 4-5 years old, enrolled in 15 childcare centers in Wake County, North Carolina. Assess the impact on: a) children’s physical activity; b) FV consumption; c) FV liking; and d) FV knowledge. 2. Education. a) Disseminate the POD Education Modules: Gardening Component, created for the North Carolina Community College System, embedded into community college courses (early childhood, culinary arts, movement education, horticulture, landscape design and construction) as defined in the NC Combined Course Library; b) Suggest potential Module adaptations to serve additional community college approved courses; c) Disseminate modules via community college/higher education faculty professional organizations; d) Identify early adopters and provide technical assistance for implementation; e) Transfer modules to organizations replicating POD in South Carolina, Texas (see letters of support), and other states as appropriate. 3. Extension. Disseminate information, tools, and resources to support parents, community leaders, technical assistance providers, extension agents, community college instructors, and public health professionals to implement evidence-based, children’s FV gardening and other health-promoting activities to impact childcare outdoor quality at local level. a) Disseminate FV gardening tools developed by the project; b) Develop online resources for delivery via eXtension and other distance/higher education systems, professional and collaborators’ networks, Farm-to-Preschool, and related state level and national organizations; c) Train extension agents, technical assistance providers, and early childhood educators to deliver children’s FV gardening/micro-farming technical assistance and trainings to create an evidence-based community of practice; d) Offer Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) cooking series activities in Year 4 & Year 5. Need. Preventing obesity from an early age has become a major public health priority in the developed world. Strong evidence supports beneficial effects of various child obesity prevention intervention programs, however, the majority of these programs are targeted to children aged six to 12 years (Waters et al., 2014). The effectiveness of intervention programs for preschool children (four to five years of age) is relatively understudied. Since a large number of preschoolers are enrolled into regulated childcare facilities where they spend a majority of their waking hours, childcare intervention programs are crucial in childhood obesity prevention.

Date: 05/01/21 - 4/30/23
Amount: $100,000.00
Funding Agencies: Duke Endowment

A majority of children under the age of six years old are enrolled in child care programs, where they consume a significant portion of their daily meals. It is essential that meals and snacks provided meet children’s daily nutritional requirements for normal growth, development, and maintenance of healthy body weight. However, research shows that child care meals and snacks do not adequately meet nutritional requirements. The Solid Rock Community Kitchen will address this issue by utilizing a central kitchen to prepare and deliver healthy meals to 10 local child care centers. The goals of the kitchen are to improve meal quality for young children, reduce workload on child care providers, provide a source of local economic development, and build community involvement. We propose to conduct a disciplined evaluation of the Solid Rock Community Kitchen to better understand best practices and disseminate this model to other communities across the state.

Date: 10/01/21 - 9/30/22
Amount: $38,620.00
Funding Agencies: Cherokee Preservation Foundation

EmPOWERing Mountain Food Systems: Cultivating a Profitable Local Food Industry Cluster through Entrepreneurial and Business Support, Infrastructure Development, Training, Leadership Development and Capacity Building Project Objectives Regional Food Assessment: Conduct a regional food assessment to identify gaps in supply chain, local food infrastructure, technical knowledge, marketing and agritourism opportunities. Train-the-Trainers: Provide training support and curriculum resources for regional food, farming and business leaders to expand knowledge and expertise on a variety of county and region-specific local food system topics. Product Development and Distribution Support: Support food and farming business product development and distribution with the Center for Agricultural and Food Entrepreneurship (CAFE). Collaboration with Community Colleges and Western Carolina University Faculty and Staff: Assist culinary, agriculture and business continuing education and curriculum programs as they seek to add course materials, guest lectures, and site visits to food and farming businesses. Provide Advanced Business and Programmatic Consulting: Development of advanced business and programmatic consulting framework providing up to 40 hours of commodity, valuechain specific, and marketing assistance to food and farming businesses. Provide infrastructure development support. Grants and low interest loans are available to fund farmer, business and organizational infrastructure such as cold storage and processing equipment. Support the development of new, direct, wholesale/retail, and institutional markets. Making connections with colleges, schools, hospitals and wholesale markets through site visits and grower-buyer meetings. Support the development of Agritourism resources in the region. How can we connect agritourism to the growing regional recreational trends? We will support existing farms in their efforts to add tourism and assess promotional opportunities region wide. Career Ladder - Paid Internships: Provide career ladder opportunities for community college, and university students and others in the region by providing paid apprenticeship opportunities. Assist with land access with WNC FarmLink. As farmers are seeking ways to retire and keep their land in production, FarmLink helps to connect new farmers with existing farms aiding in lease agreements and more.

Date: 09/01/20 - 8/31/22
Amount: $100,000.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)

The backbone of the FSRU will continue on: replicated plots of farming systems managed with farm-scale equipment. Within that context, new research questions have emerged. This research involves measuring outcomes never before measured or nesting new subplots within the experimental framework. From the social sciences, we can ask how these systems interact with sustainability in the real world. How do farmers weigh the choices in selecting farming practices from these various systems? What factors play roles in farming practices that cannot be captured in an experimental protocol? In this proposal, we have attracted researchers new to CEFS who have fresh ideas on relating this experiment to the sustainability issues of our time. Most of these questions were never envisioned when the experiment was first designed. From research on which farming systems emit the most greenhouse gases, to work on how land tenure affects the ability of farmers to adopt sustainable practices, the new research projects run the gamut of disciplines.

Date: 09/01/19 - 8/31/22
Amount: $100,000.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)

The backbone of the FSRU will continue on: replicated plots of farming systems managed with farm-scale equipment. Within that context, new research questions have emerged. This research involves measuring outcomes never before measured or nesting new subplots within the experimental framework. From the social sciences, we can ask how these systems interact with sustainability in the real world. How do farmers weigh the choices in selecting farming practices from these various systems? What factors play roles in farming practices that cannot be captured in an experimental protocol? In this proposal, we have attracted researchers new to CEFS who have fresh ideas on relating this experiment to the sustainability issues of our time. Most of these questions were never envisioned when the experiment was first designed. From research on which farming systems emit the most greenhouse gases, to work on how land tenure affects the ability of farmers to adopt sustainable practices, the new research projects run the gamut of disciplines.

Date: 10/01/18 - 8/31/22
Amount: $14,962.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)

The Community Food Share (CFS) project is a cross-sector collaboration between Farmer Foodshare, Reality Ministries, Transplanting Traditions Community Farm, Communities in Partnership, and other local farms. It uses innovative and entrepreneurial approaches to promote long-term food security among low-income, food-insecure community members in 3 diverse communities in the Triangle region of North Carolina: 1. Mixed-income, demographically diverse families and adults with developmental disabilities in Durham County who identified isolation and a predominance of unhealthy food as key challenges. 2. Primarily low-income African American families in the Old East Durham neighborhood who identified cuts to SNAP and lack of fresh food in their neighborhoods as a challenge. 3. Low-income Burmese and Karen refugees living in Chapel Hill (Orange County), who come from an agrarian culture and seek ongoing access to nutritious and familiar foods in an unfamiliar country. To address these needs, the CFS project proposes using variations on a collective buying model designed and implemented by community members to source the foods they want in ways that work for them. The project also involves creating learning opportunities to help community members learn to grow or cook food and build their capacity to engage their communities, building self-reliance. CFS methods and services are democratically developed, giving voice and influence to primarily low-income participants in naming how best to offer their communities access to locally grown food and nutrition education. They also constitute a replicable model for equitable, community-driven food access and education that can last beyond the period of the grant.


View all grants 

Groups