Food Policy Councils: Take Action

Find out how to get involved: launch a food policy council or join an existing council near you.

The dominant food system is so powerful and omnipresent that local food initiatives struggle to succeed without greater political support. Local food policy councils are an emerging institution both in the US and internationally to create this support.


Getting Involved in an Existing Council

 To get involved in an existing food policy council in your city or state, approach the contact for that council to find out about membership requirements and selection. Writer and food policy council expert Mark Winne has a clickable map to help you find a council near you.


Laying the Groundwork for a Food Policy Council

To help start a food policy council in your city or state, begin by learning about how councils get started and operate through the resources in the rest of this topic.

Once you have done some initial research, contact other stakeholders to assess who likely participants for a council might be, and perhaps organize an initial planning meeting. Keep in mind that establishing a food policy council is a significant organizing effort that will require building broad support and participation and developing a clear policy strategy.

Tips on Starting a Food Policy Council

(Source: Community Food Security: A Guide to Concept, Design, and Implementation.
Mark Winne, Hugh Joseph, and Andy Fisher. Community Food Security Coalition, 2000.

  • The process of starting a FPC is usually politically-inspired, and as such varies from place to place. It incorporates many of the aspects normally associated with politics, such as:
    • Citizens making demands on the government; gaining public input into the process;
    • Crafting an argument that is tailored to the specific situation of the local community as well as being politically astute;
    • Gaining the buy-in of council members and other prominent individuals;
    • Developing a plan responsive to the specifics of municipal structures, resources, and needs, as well as community needs and resources.
  • The process described above can be incorporated into a drive to organize public support for an FPC. Many food policy councils have begun as a response to a study that indicates food system deficiencies, such as high levels of hunger or poor access to food.
  • A needs assessment that demonstrates problems and resources that can be addressed by a local planning entity such as a FPC can be very helpful in gaining media attention and stating one’s case credibly. See the section on needs assessments for more information.
  • Building community support and input into the process is very important. Convincing a city agency to sponsor public hearings represents one method of gathering public opinion and buy-in.
  • Gaining the support of influential city figures such as council members or the Mayor is essential to making the FPC happen. Identify sympathetic “movers and shakers,” in tune with the political process to help craft a proposal and steer it through.
  • Cultivating media personnel is key to getting editorials, articles, or op-ed articles in the local paper. These clips can help in marketing one’s work to other potential allies as well as legitimize it in the eyes of policy makers and the public.


Getting Organized and Staying Organized

 Getting organized and staying organized are the most difficult yet essential steps in the formation of food policy councils. There are many levels of action you can take as a citizen and a community member when you join a local food group, Food Policy Council, or Food System Council. You can bring your energy and experience to one or more of the many pieces of the local organizing puzzle. Organizational variables central to the success of local groups include leadership roles, work styles of groups, funding needs, and administrative approaches preferred by the group. Projects could include a food assessment, analyzing local needs and opportunities, and a visioning project to develop goals and values for the group. For more on the process of getting and staying organized, see Food Policy Council FAQs.


Updated 12/2014