Food Policy from the Grassroots

(A Central Appalachian Foodshed Conference Session Topic)

Session Host: Abbey Piner, Community Food Strategies

This session addressed questions of: what is happening around policy? Is it working? What is the structure? How to find best policy practices? What policies are out there? Navigating local politics? How do we get the general consumer increasingly involved? Participants discussed the ways that food councils can be organized toward filling the ‘engagement gap’ of getting consumers involved.

Session participants provided insights into what they perceived to be indicators for success in organizing around food policy. These insights included the ability to identify a common thread, and to bring diverse voices to the table around this common thread, while maintaining awareness of and addressing potential tensions. They also discussed the idea of beginning with short term goals and low hanging fruit while building relationships and participation, as well as the need to develop a broad base of participation that includes both those not typically represented, and those that hold power in a community.

The session also included a discussion of potential pitfalls for organizers to be aware of. One participant cautioned that a ‘food policy council’ is not tied to a firm definition, and that the term may be co-opted by state agencies and other institution that may attribute different meaning and goals to a ‘council’. Another identified the difficulty of operating with limited capacity and the difficulty of engaging diverse sectors of the population. They also discussed the particular difficulty of organizing in rural areas that lack access to Internet, and noted that urban models of success may be inappropriate for rural areas.

Key Issues and Questions:

  • How do we engage diverse sectors of the population in organizing around the issue of food policy?

  • How do we reconcile internal and intra-community power dynamics to move forward in a way where all voices are heard?

  • How do we involve consumers in this work?

  • What models for success exist (especially for rural areas)?

Additional notes from the session.