County Food Policy Council Being Formed

Creation of a food policy council – with the goal of supporting and coordinating activities in the county’s local food system – was given initial approval by Washtenaw County commissioners at their March 7, 2012 meeting. The board had been briefed on this effort at a Feb. 16 working session, and several commissioners praised the effort. Final approval is expected at the board’s March 21 meeting.

According to a staff memo, the Washtenaw Food Policy Council would support local “small and mid-sized farmers by fostering policies that encourage local food purchasing and production.” Among other activities, the council could also: recommend policy changes at the local, state and national levels; provide a forum for discussing food issues; encourage coordination among different sectors of the local food system; evaluate, educate, and influence policy; and launch or support programs and services that address local food needs.

Partners who have been working on this initiative include the Y of Ann Arbor, Growing Hope, Food Gatherers, the Food System Economic Partnership (FSEP), Slow Food Huron Valley, Eat Local/Eat Natural, Michigan Farmers Union, Ypsilanti Food Coop, and the Washtenaw County public health department.

The resolution given initial approval by the board of commissioners creates a 15-seat membership roster, with members drawn from the following sectors: agriculture, nutrition, education, emergency food system, health care, food services, food manufacturers and distributors, waste management, planning or transportation, retail/business or economic development, human services, faith-based organizations, local governments (board of commissioners), public health, and at large community member(s). The county public health department will be responsible for recruiting members. A draft set of bylaws also was provided to the board for review. [.pdf of of food policy council draft bylaws]

The council will convene its first meeting later this spring using grant funds from the Michigan Dept. of Community Health, passed through to the Washtenaw County public health department. The council eventually expects to secure financial support from private grants and philanthropic funds. The project will also seek significant in-kind and volunteer support, according to a staff memo.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building, 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]