2019 Local Hero Awardee: Liz O’Gilvie

Liz O’Gilvie wears many hats as an advocate within our local food system: she is chair of the board at Gardening the Community, the youth development and urban agriculture organization here in Springfield that some of you toured before this meeting. In that role, she has provided leadership that helped GTC buy their own land and to take the bold step of building a permanent, year-round farm store on Walnut Street – both the result of a big vision. I can’t summarize all the amazing work that is happening through GTC – can people here from GTC raise their hands? Please talk to these folks and learn more about their work!

Liz is also the chair of the steering committee and working director of the Springfield Food Policy Council, and there’s so much to say about that work, including school gardens and Breakfast in the Classroom at Springfield Public Schools, and advocacy for the brand new Springfield Culinary and Nutrition Center, which will bring scratch cooking to Springfield and Holyoke public schools, and which is finally opening on April 12th! Liz and the Springfield Food Policy Council have also advocated for HIP, the Healthy Incentives Program, and founded the City Soul Farmers’ Market, and over the next year she is working with CISA on a project designed to identify resource gaps for food businesses in low-income areas and communities of color. Again, there’s too much to say about the work of the Springfield Food Policy Council – can I see a show of hands from other SFPC reps in the room? Please talk to these folks too!

So obviously, Liz’s work is varied and vital, and so much of it has happened in partnership with other amazing people and organizations and businesses. But I want to name something about Liz that really deserves the spotlight: to all of this work, whether she’s focusing on urban agriculture, school food, or food access programs, she brings nuanced, inclusive, big-picture, systems-level thinking. Liz is rooted in her hometown, Springfield, but she is always reaching across geographical boundaries, organizational siloes, and racial divides to find common ground and build coalitions that are so much stronger and more effective than working apart. She is tireless about working to undo racism in our food system and calling others in to do the same, and so often her voice is a clarion call to participate bravely in hard conversations, expand narrow thinking, and to dream broadly about possible futures. So for all that, I am proud to present Liz O’Gilvie with a 2019 Local hero award.

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