JOHNSBURG Food prices are increasing dramatically, and a local agency is rounding up neighbors in area communities to strategize how they can combat the problem. On Wednesday, July 23, the North Country Outreach Center will host a discussion about local food security for Johnsburg, Chester, Horicon, Warrensburg and the surrounding communities. Rising costs of food, driven in part by soaring fuel and transportation costs and increased demand, may soon be reaching the point of threatening household budgets regionally, Outreach Center President Andrea McKee said Tuesday. To guarantee long-term food availability and affordability, she said, people and enterprises in the North County need to take a more active, personal role in food production and distribution. We need to go back more toward how our grandparents lived, with much more self-reliant ways of getting things done, she said. Food grown here in the Adirondacks avoids most transportation- and petroleum-related expenses which drive up the costs for local families, she said. Growing food in local gardens and family farms avoids corporate profit-taking and other expenses which also bloat the costs to consumers, she said. Garden grown foods tend to be remarkably more nutritious, too, because they are not artificially engineered for ease of transportation. One possible step with food security in mind, she said, is to encourage gleaning of area farms, or harvesting of produce that would ordinarily go to waste due to oversupply, lack of transportation or a ready commercial market. Although theres plenty of fresh food available from gardens during summer, local produce is difficult to obtain off-season, she said. One solution is large-scale, affordable preservation of food, whether its canning, freezing or dehydration, according to McKee. She said that the Outreach Center is planning to make available to the public pressure-canning and dehydrating equipment. The July 23 event will include a presentation from Anna Dawson, of Hometown Foods, an enterprise from Herkimer, NY, that freezes or vacuum-packs large volumes of foods produced in particular localities. Dawson, a food preservation educator, will talk about regional efforts to bring fresh fruits and vegetables from local growers to residents of the North Country, McKee said. Dawson is working with Second Harvest a national network of food banks plus the regional food bank here in central New York to develop community solutions for food preservation and distribution, McKee said. McKee said the discussion group will also be talking about a new farmers market for the North Creek area, expanding the Outreach Centers community garden concept to other interested hamlets of North Creek and Chestertown, as well as devising ways to encourage more local growing and sales of fresh food. Farmers, gardeners, entrepreneurs and interested residents are encouraged to attend the July 23 gathering. The meeting will be held at the North Country Outreach Center on state Rte. 28 between Wevertown and North Creek at 6:30 pm. Those seeking more information may call 251-3481, McKee said. People need to think of food security as our shared problem, so we can come up with totally new ways of doing things to get through the long-term food crisis, she said. Self-reliance is a long-standing part of Adirondack culture.