Michigan Food Policy Council and MSU Extension team up to link local food councils

Collaboration will result in the identification of local food councils and greater access to helpful resources.

The Michigan Food Policy Council, the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems and Michigan State University (MSU) Extension are collaborating to identify local food councils throughout Michigan and to provide a means with which councils can communicate and access resources available to support their work. The Local Food Policy Council taskforce formed in January 2012 with several goals in mind:

  • To develop a Michigan food policy council directory
  • To identify and make available resources that will assist local food councils
  • To explore the interest amongst current and aspiring local councils in forming a network
  • To build alignment with the Michigan Good Food Charter, a policy initiative thatpresents a vision for Michigan’s food and agriculture system and outlines 25 agenda priorities for the next 10 years

The taskforce is comprised of members from the Michigan Food Policy Council, MSU Extension, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michigan Department of Community Health, a Northern Michigan Food Service director and the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems. A recent statewide survey conducted by the taskforce resulted in the identification of 20 existing and emerging councils around Michigan.

What is a Food Policy Council?
Food policy councils are comprised of stakeholders from various segments of a local food system. These councils are innovative collaborations between citizens and government officials. The primary goal of many food policy councils is to examine the operation of a local food system and provide ideas and recommendations for improvement through public policy changes. Councils can create a forum in which people involved in all different parts of the food system and government can meet to learn more about what each does – and to consider how their individual actions impact other parts of the food system.

A food policy is any decision made by a government agency, business, or organization that effects how food is produced, processed, distributed, purchased and protected. This includes the types of foods consumers have access to, information available pertaining to place of origin, and the rules and regulations that influence many aspects of farming.  Examples of food policies include:

  • A decision by school officials whether to purchase foods raised by local farmers
  • The eligibility standards that allow low-income residents to participate in food assistance programs
  • The regulatory health and safety requirements for food based business
  • Food ingredient labeling

In the Good Food Access Report of the Michigan Good Food Charter, it is mentioned that local food policy councils are one way that communities in Michigan are taking up the task of ensuring that needed policies are in place to support their communities’ food system values and initiatives. Michigan is fortunate to have a state-level food policy council that gives food-related stakeholders a forum to identify policies that harness the potential of the food system to aid in communities’ economic development, provide children and those in need greater access to fresh and nutritious foods, and support stewardship of our finite land and water resources. 

The Local Food Policy Council task force is busy planning an interactive and informational webinar to be held from 10:30 a.m. to noon for the recently identified local food council groups, and to explore the value and interest in a statewide network. Additional details, when available, will be posted on the Michigan Food Policy Council website.

For more information on the Michigan Good Food Charter, including an upcoming Michigan Good Food Summit on June 14 in Lansing, visit their website.

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