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Food Policy Councils

“Food policy council” is one of a variety of designators assigned to committees of community leaders and stakeholders that evaluate and address food system problems. Groups are commonly created by local, state, or federal governments, but they can also be established by non-governmental agencies. Stakeholders vary in their background and knowledge of the food system, but most groups include leaders from agriculture, health, environment, and economic development sectors. Research conducted by CDC and 25 state health departments shows that food policy councils can increase access to healthy foods.

Food policy councils' key objectives are to:

  • Evaluate local food systems
  • Provide collaborative solutions to system problems
  • Increase coordination of food system resources

Food policy groups mainly provide policy-based solutions to food system problems. For example, North Carolina passed the Healthy Corner Stores Act in 2010 after it was recommended by their statewide food policy group. However, food policy councils' actions are not limited to making policy recommendations. Food policy groups can:

  • Build educational campaigns
  • Lead fundraisers
  • Connect people with system resources

For example, the Kansas Food Policy Council connected rural citizens to SNAP resources by extending outreach in those areas.

Some evidence suggests collective impact is an effective strategy in designing food policy councils. You Can’t Rush the Process: Collective Impact Models of Food System Change, from the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems provides theory behind this method and highlights eight examples across the country. Rural communities have special considerations when it comes to using collective impact, such as expanding existing collaborations and leveraging existing resources, including staffing, technology, and funding.

This model requires strong relationships with community stakeholders and policymakers. Food policy groups are most successful when they build credibility among the community and maintain their trust. Comprehensive evaluations of food policies take time, and council members must be upfront about their commitment. Grants are available to help fund food policy group activities and assist with sustaining programs.

More information on evaluating food policy councils can be found in RHIhub's Rural Health Networks and Coalitions Toolkit.

Resources to Learn More

Drafting a Resolution to Create a Food Council
Document
Guide for local governments on how to create a food policy council. This brief includes templates, tips for choosing council members, example resolutions, and more.
Organization(s): Public Health Law Center, Kansas Food Councils
Date: 9/2014

Food Policy Council Directory
Database
Searchable directory of current food policy councils in North America. Each link includes contact information, program priorities, and notable accomplishments.
Organization(s): Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Date: 2016

Food Policy Councils: Helping Local, Regional, and State Governments Address Food System Challenges
Document
Brief describing the purpose of food policy councils and their overall role in the food system planning process.
Author(s): DiLisio, C.
Organization(s): American Planning Association's Planning and Community Health Research Center
Date: 2011

Municipal Strategies to Increase Food Access
Document
Presents multiple strategies that municipalities and food system advocates can use to increase access to healthy foods.
Organization(s): Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Massachusetts Association of Health Boards, Massachusetts Municipal Association
Date: 2017

State of the Research: An Annotated Bibliography on Existing, Emerging, and Needed Research on Food Policy Groups
Document
Annotated bibliography describing current and needed literature about food policy groups.
Author(s): Santo, R., Bassarab, K., & Palmer, A.
Organization(s): Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Date: 2017

Using Food Policy Councils to Address Rural Food Issues
Document
Research brief about using food policy councils (FPCs) to address food access problems in rural areas. Various sections help define FPCs, identify challenges and opportunities, and highlight policy implications related to FPC use.
Author(s): Eicher, B., & Eicher-Miller, H.
Organization(s): Purdue Extension Center for Rural Development
Date: 4/2015