The role of a local food policy council
Local food policy councils have the ability to affect change without having to enact legislation.
Local food policy councils can serve many purposes. The Michigan Food Policy Council states that local food policy councils, often established by state or local governments, bring together a broad array of food related public and private stakeholders to investigate every stage of the food process from seed to table. While some focus on legislative changes at the local or state level, there are many other ways these groups can be effective in their communities.
By having a variety of stakeholders around the table, local food policy councils can serve as a tool for collaboration. Sometimes just providing a forum for different organizations to share what they are working on opens the doors to new opportunities to work together or leverage the work other organizations are doing.
If tackling large system wide issues seems overwhelming, local food policy councils provide an opportunity to impact communities on a less formal level. A local group can work with schools to change their policy on what types of products are carried in vending machines or sold at concession stands. They can coordinate or support community gardens or farmers markets. They can encourage local restaurants and schools to purchase locally produced foods. In most instances, none of these actions require an organization or community to pass any new laws or policies.
The Michigan Food Policy Council has shared the following as sample goals for local councils:
- Increase and improve access to nutritious, affordable and culturally suitable foods
- Promote healthful eating
- Encourage nutrition education in schools
- Promote household and community gardens
- Promote buying/utilizing local food
- Promote local farmers markets
Michigan State University Extension has educators focused on community food systems that have resources available to help communities interested in developing a local food policy council. More information on resources can be found at MSU Extension’s Community Food Systems webpage.