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Center for a Livable Future


Exploring Food System Policy: A Survey of Food Policy Councils in the United States

Allyson Scherb, Anne Palmer, Shannon Frattaroli, and Keshia Pollack
Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 2012

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Food policy councils (FPCs) have become a popular way to organize various food system stakeholders at the local, municipal, and state levels. FPCs typically build partnerships with stakeholders; examine current policies, regulations, and ordinances related to food; and support or create programs that address food system issues. While FPCs have the potential to affect policy change and often include policy-related goals in their missions, the literature on how FPCs engage in the policy process, what policies FPCs address, and the policy impacts of their work are very limited. We conducted an electronic survey of FPC leaders to describe FPCs, their level of engagement in policy processes, and the scope of their policy activities. We invited all U.S. FPCs that were included in an FPC database (N =92) to participate. Of the 56 FPCs that completed the survey (64 percent response rate), 52 percent had been in existence for at least 3 years and 85 percent were engaged in policy activities at the time of the survey. Most FPCs engage in policy work in multiple venues (88 percent) and on multiple topics (79 percent). Many FPCs reported participating in the policy process through problem identification (95 percent) and education (78 percent); few mentioned evaluating their policy work. Those not engaged in policy most often cited lack of resources and technical expertise as barriers. These results suggest that while most FPCs are engaging in policy, why and how they engage varies greatly. Since FPCs are frequently cited as an effective way to address local and state food system issues, there is a need for more rigorous evaluation of the processes, outcomes, and impacts of their work.

Related Links

Baltimore Food Policy Advisory Committee
CLF Project

Hopkins study looks at efforts to improve local food systems through policy
CLF Announcement