Food policy councils: Who’s represented in their membership?
Food policy councils are often comprised of a network of people representing the many sectors of the community food system.
When reviewing the membership roster of a food policy council, it should read as a who’s who of those representing the food system network (partners from the production, processing, distribution, consumption and waste management sectors). Facilitating dialogue between these diverse view points and different priorities is paramount when addressing food policy issues. Often, resources or assets can be pooled to enhance programming efficiencies or reach, validating the need for collaborative work.
Mark Winne, formerly the food policy director of the Community Food Security Coalition, identified two central reasons for food policy councils as coordinating the work in all these sectors within the food system of a specific geographic area and to influence policy or work within the government.
As explained in “Food Policy Councils: Lessons Learned” report, food policy councils generally function:
- To serve as a forum for discussing food issues
- To foster coordination between sectors in the food system
- To evaluate and influence policy
- To launch or support programs and services that address local needs
Ideally, each food system sector would be represented to participate in this forum, fostering open dialog and collaboration. Some of the potential members from each of the food system components might include:
- Community gardeners
- Agriscience educators and students
- Food processing industry
- Emergency food providers/pantries/banks
- Community or faith based organizations
- Food retailers
- Government agencies (townships, counties, state)
- Public transportation reps
- Anti-hunger advocates
- Business or economic development groups
- Food hub managers
- Farm to School/Institution advocates
- Recycling and waste management
- Farm Bureau
- Environmentalists or conservationists
- Schools and educators
- Local business leaders or chambers of commerce
- Health and wellness organizations
- Land use
In our state, the Michigan Food Policy Council (MFPC) convenes representatives from many of these sectors of the food system to collaboratively address policy at the state level. The MFPC also provides networking for the more than 40 local food policy councils throughout the state.
Michigan State University Extension staff who focus on community food systems are available throughout the state to assist individuals in getting connected with a food policy council in their area or working to establish one.