The cultural schisms in the U.S.— rural versus urban, liberal versus conservative—are hardly new. So what’s the best way to make positive, progressive food system change in rural, politically right-leaning communities? The people who have been negotiating this divide through food policy councils (FPCs), task forces or other multi-stakeholder initiatives have advice. Read More >
A better title for this post might be “More Bubbles, Less PowerPoint,” because that was my greatest takeaway from the conference I attended in Minneapolis and Red Wing, Minnesota, in late November/early December. To that point—
Bing! As I hurried to catch the elevator, Melvin held the door and greeted me with an electric smile. His bright yellow African-print shirt was a welcome contrast to the rain in Minneapolis. I didn’t know we were both headed to the Convening of Food Network leaders’ meeting on the second floor. He was blessing colorful packages of blowing bubbles, the kind I used to buy for my sons’ birthday parties, to use at the start of the event. Read More >
Have you ever considered getting up before dawn to stand in line for a new grocery store? Residents in East Baltimore did just that on November 3, 2016, to welcome the Save a Lot opening at 2509 East Monument Street. The line to enter the store extended down the block and around the corner well before the store was scheduled to open at 7am.
This area of East Baltimore was one of the most entrenched food deserts in the city before the Save a Lot opened. It had been years Read More >
Peri-urban areas are an inherently difficult concept to define: they are neither totally rural, nor are they fully urban. They are associated with sprawl and with suburban development. While definitions and theories vary, most agree that peri-urban areas are dynamic transition zones between the city and countryside, display diverse land uses and uneven development, and operate under many different jurisdictions. Indeed, scholars and researchers have recognized that the urban-rural binary is not helpful and that peri-urban areas are part of a continuous spectrum from urban core to rural periphery. Using these characteristics as a starting point, we worked to outline these understudied areas as part of a USDA–funded project in order to increase the understanding of what role peri-urban areas play in the food system. Read More >
“How should we structure our council?” That’s a question frequently uttered by people working with food policy councils (FPCs) And, as with so many questions out there, there is not a clear and easy answer. Decisions like this depends on many factors such as the mission and goals for the group, who is involved, what resources are available, policy objectives and the culture of the group. Deciding the structure will be one of several decisions you make in the process of organizing. Your structure might also be influenced by your relationship with government. By clarifying the mission and goals for the council, you attract members to get involved. Having a clear structure helps members understand their role of the council in making decisions about food policy. Read More >
The Umatilla Tribal lands in northeastern Oregon are a wash of golden yellow in early July. The 172,000-acre reservation at the foot of the Blue Mountains is in the middle of wheat country, a fertile grain belt and major agricultural hub that spans Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. The wheat harvest is underway early this year, prompted by record heat and an early summer. From a distance, a cloud of chaff follows a combine and looks like smoke against the harsh blue sky.
The Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), near the border of Washington, is a prosperous tribe and one of the largest employers in this part of the state. The tribe has retained their hunting and fishing treaty rights, owns and manages the Wildhorse Casino and Resort, operates the Wildhorse Foundation, and has invested strategically Read More >
People trickled in, greeted each other, and introduced themselves. Conversation peppered the room. By the time we started the meeting, all chairs were taken and the room was full of energy that happens when a group of dedicated, creative and passionate people come together.
All this took place last week in the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council (PFPC), located at the Penn State Center Pittsburgh in the Energy Innovation Center, a newly renovated former trade school, now a LEED-certified green energy and sustainability teaching institution. The Council hosted Mark Winne and myself for two days. Read More >
Take the seven-minute underground train ride from San Francisco to Oakland and you’ll emerge in West Oakland. The historically low-income neighborhood has a long record of industrial development and racial tension. Now it’s become the face of gentrification on the West Coast. But despite the influx of artists, coffee shops, and an ever-lengthening wait for soul-food brunch at Brown Sugar Kitchen, West Oakland is still lacking one major signifier of urban investment: a grocery store.
“We can say West Oakland is gentrifying but there’s still no grocery store here. Read More >
How can local food policy councils in Ohio band together to enhance effectiveness? Can they increase access to healthy, affordable foods? Can they ensure equitable engagement? These questions were a few of many explored at the Ohio State Food Policy Council Summit, held earlier this month. The Summit brought together members of local and regional food policy councils from across the state and gathered in Columbus, Ohio, for their annual meeting.
This past December the Michigan Food Policy Council was abolished through an executive order by Governor Rick Snyder. The alleged purpose of this move was to have the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) absorb the efforts of the Food Policy Council.  According to the Governor, the reorganization is supposed to increase the effectiveness of projects taken on by the Council , but in my opinion the re-org will not accomplish great efficiency. Instead, it will stifle opposing viewpoints.
Since 2005, the Council has been supporting the growth and diversification of the state’s food system by synthesizing local and regional goals. Its many successes include increasing the number of small farmers at local markets who are eligible to accept SNAP benefits; helping Read More >