This past year marked several growth spurts and critical shifts in the world of food policy councils. First and foremost was the incredible leap forward from 111 active North American food policy councils in 2010 to 193, as indicated by the May 2012 census conducted by the Community Food Security Coalition.
This jump in city, county, state, and tribal level councils sends several important signals to policy makers and food system activists. Perhaps most obvious is that citizens and stakeholders want a bigger role in shaping the direction of their food systems through the policy making process. Just as important, food policy is occupying ever more “real estate” on the radar screens of non-federal policymakers like city mayors, county commissioners, and state political leaders. At least at the local and state levels, there is an evident surge in food democracy.
The second major FPC-related event was the closing of program operations at the Community Food Security Coalition this past August. Unfortunately, this ended any formal organizational support for food policy council capacity building. As both CFSC’s former food policy council program director and the principal with Mark Winne Associates, I have been attempting to maintain assistance for North America’s food policy council movement.
Being a single staff person with no funding dedicated to that task has its limitations of course. While I have been able to offer a platform for some of CFSC’s FPC services like the FPC listserv, the North American Food Policy Council Directory, and several food policy resource documents that were in the pipeline at the time of CFSC’s demise, I have not been able to respond as fully as I would like – and as I think is necessary – to the many requests for assistance. The good news, which I cannot yet say too much about, is that I’m optimistic that an organizational partner who can shore up the capacity building needs of the FPC community is on the horizon.
In spite of limited resources, however, Mark Winne Associates has been able provide FPC development support to a number of communities and states that have received grant assistance from foundations and government agencies. Throughout the Fall of 2012, I have worked with groups in places as diverse as Utica, New York, New York City, Yolo County (Davis), California, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Tennessee to build strong foundations for new food policy councils. Prior to this fall and under the auspices of CFSC, I served dozens of communities by giving keynotes, conducting on-site workshops, participating in webinars, and consulting through email and phone calls. These services were directed at a variety of places from statewide initiatives in California, Georgia, and Wisconsin to communities like Dallas, New Haven, and Omaha.
Looking at the outputs for 2012, we see the number of people and unique communities participating in FPC capacity building events:
- January to August (through CFSC and Mark Winne Associates): 2,097 participants in 28 communities
- September to December (Mark Winne Associates): 1,485 participants in 17 communities
- Totals: 3,582 people in 45 communities
As evidence that the food policy council movement is now international, the above numbers include consulting trips to South Korea, Australia, and Canada where food policy council initiatives are underway and, interestingly, receiving more government support and interest than they do in the United States.
In addition, the following achievements are also noteworthy:
- There are currently 503 food policy council listserv subscribers (to subscribe, contact Mark Winne at firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Published the “how-to” FPC manual Doing Food Policy Councils Rights: A Guide to Development and Operation
- Co-produced with the Harvard Food Policy and Law Clinic the Good Laws, Good Food policy guides, one on local food policy and one on state food policy
The above guides are available for free download at www.markwinne.com.
Looking ahead, I expect to see a continued increase in the number of food policy councils as well as growing demand for capacity building assistance, both for development services as well as improving their response to ever expanding policy opportunities. Due to more citizen interest in local and state food policy issues as well as the recognition that just and sustainable food systems don’t happen without intentional action by activists and policy makers, food policy will find itself occupying more space on public policy agendas.
Finally, I am hopeful that a new partnership between Mark Winne Associates and a major institution will lead to a substantial expansion in the ability to serve both the existing and emerging food policy council movement. Until that time, Mark Winne Associates is happy to assist individuals and organizations with their food policy council needs.