Saturday, January 12, 2013

Food Activist Mark Winne Sees Movement Toward More Democratic Food Systems

Mark Winne's passion is to create systems where people are able to buy most of their food at the local level.  He has written books, articles about nutrition, poverty, food access and food justice, including a pieces on hunger that we have posted in this blog.

The Santa Fe-based author and advocate discusses many of these same topics in his blog called Mark's Food Policy Blog,

The move toward promoting consumption of local food has resulted in the increase in the number of food policy councils in North America over the past year or two, a trend that Winne discusses in his latest post.  According to census data released by the Community Food Security Coalition in May 2012, there were 193 such councils, compared with 111 in 2010.  That means that 82 new councils were created during this period.  There are councils for an entire state, a region of a state, and cities like Oakland and Chicago.

Here is what Winne says in his blog

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. 

Winne provides a link to the existing network of food policy councils.

Just to give you an example of the role of a food policy council, here is a description from the Chicago Food and Policy Advisory Council. The Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council (CFPAC) facilitates the development of responsible policies that improve access for Chicago residents to culturally appropriate, nutritionally sound, and affordable food that is grown through environmentally sustainable practices.  

The Oakland Food Policy Council tries to address a common problem in many low-income neighborhoods (and rural areas), which is the lack of  grocery stores to buy nutritious foods.  These areas are known as food deserts.  The US Department of Agriculture even has a Food Desert locator.

And the Central Oregon Food Policy Council says its mission is to strengthen our Central Oregon communities by securing the future of the local food system through efforts in the following strategic areas:  Healthy Food Access, Networks & Knowledge Sharing, and  Land Use Advocay

And this is from the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council, which has been around since 2003. The New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council is a democratic organization composed of groups and individuals working on issues around food and agriculture systems. It educates those affected by these issues and develops and advocates for specific policy recommendations and alternatives at the local, state and national levels. 

Winne, who offers technical assistance to Food Policy Councils around the country, expects these type of local organizations to remain a strong voice in the creation of food policy.  "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," said Winne.

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