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Formalizing the Initiative: Foundations & Baselines

Foundations and Baselines poster

Highlights from Day 1 of SUMMIT, May 11th:

•    Participants in general think that a Food Policy Council is a good idea.
•    Want to make sure its representative and make sure to include youth.
•    Concern about who is going to do the work and ensure there is follow-through.  A lot of state level commissions and councils are created but need to figure out answers to big questions around staffing & resources.
•    How do we make sure the local food policy councils and local efforts feed into the state policy council?
•    A lot of terms and issues need to be defined.  What is local?  What is sustainable? Still some ambiguity and they need to be defined.
•    Importance of research and data – make sure we understand how we are doing now, document economic impact and return on investment.

Original WIT meeting Facilitator: Charlie Jackson, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project

Staff: Nancy Creamer & Warren Miller

SUMMIT breakout Leader:  Charlie Jackson, ASAP



ee the WIT’s state-policy-council-one-pager

Formalizing the Initiative:  A Food Policy Council is an officially sanctioned body of representatives from various segments of a state or local food system, and selected public officials, asked to examine the operation of a local or state food system, and provide ideas or recommendations for how it can be improved.   A Council initiative tries to engage representatives from all components of the food system- consumers, farmers, grocers, chefs, food processors, distributors, hunger advocates, educators, government, researchers, waste stream managers, etc.

A focus on a goal of enhanced sustainable local food systems requires a baseline assessment, and appropriate measures of success over time. A baseline can include such indicators as amount of food produced annually in the state by commodity, the amount of food that is purchased and consumed by state residents, the extent to which the food produced is processed, distributed, marketed and consumed by local individuals and businesses, and whether all citizens have access to fresh local products.  Public health issues such as identifying the extent of nutritional deficits and dietary related diseases and conditions may also be included in baseline assessments.

North Carolina Perspective

Food Policy Councils.  In 2001, Drake University Agriculture Law Center in Iowa was awarded a USDA grant to assist with establishing statewide Food Policy Councils in some key states, including North Carolina.  The Council was housed in the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  The Council was active through the grant cycle but because it lacked a legislative mandate it was disbandedToday, local Food Policy Councils are emerging in NC, with plans to establish one in Cabarrus County, and one as part of the Southeastern NC Food Systems Project.

In North Carolina, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) based in Western North Carolina recently completed a Baseline Food Assessment to determine food and farm products are currently produced in the region; how much of what is produced is  consumed in the region; the potential for increasing local consumption of locally-produced food and farm products as a way to strengthen the regional farm economy; and how barriers currently impeding the purchase of local food could be eliminated. Other local initiatives   have begun or been funded to conduct baseline assessments as well.


Issues Under Discussion

There are benefits to establishing a statewide Sustainable Local Food Policy Council with diverse representation that could have the following functions: Establishing baselines (as described above) and benchmarks for success, promoting local and regional efforts by providing an information and engagement hub that assists entrepreneurs and farmers in working around barriers and pursuing opportunities, identifying and developing solutions to regulatory and policy barriers in developing a strong local food economy, strengthening local infrastructure and entrepreneurial efforts, and ensuring access to fresh local products for all North Carolina citizens.

The initial WIT meeting produced the following ideas, to discussed, developed, and expanded further at the SUMMIT:


Game Changer

Through legislation, we seek to establish the North Carolina Sustainable Local Food Policy Council. A sustainable agriculture promotes environmental stewardship, provides a more profitable farm income for producers, and promotes stable and prosperous farm families and communities. The council will address four local food policy related areas including: 1) Health and Wellness; 2) Hunger and Food Access; 3) Economic Development; and 4) Working Lands and Working Waters. (see state-policy-council-one-pager for more info)


Other Statewide Action Plan Ideas

The scope of the North Carolina Sustainable Local Food Policy Council will be focused in the following areas:

  • Establishing baselines and benchmarks for success as North Carolina works to achieve the goal that sustainable local food comprises 10% of food consumed by 2015.
  • Promoting local and regional efforts by providing an information and engagement hub that assists entrepreneurs and farmers in working around barriers and pursuing opportunities;
  • Identify and develop solutions to regulatory and policy barriers in developing a strong local food economy; and
  • Strengthen local infrastructure and entrepreneurial efforts.
  • Ensure access to fresh local products for all North Carolina citizens

Committees will be assigned as needed to specific tasks to carry out the work of the council. The council will prepare and submit an annual report to the North Carolina General Assembly and provide recommendations to the Governor. The council will consist of no more than 25 individuals and include broad representation of the North Carolina Food System with regional and diverse representation.


Local Action Ideas

Establish county based food policy councils. There is much information that can be provided to assist county governments with this, and good summaries of information available, for example, ASAP overview of food policy councils, and “How State and Local Food Policies can Promote the New Agriculture, in the Drake Journal of Agricultural Law”: Also, see:

  • County or regional food assessments can and should be conducted. These can feed into a North Carolina statewide assessment, also planned. Community or county food assessments can range from being community-driven and focused on engagement or non-quantitative measures to comprehensive data collection efforts across a range of factors. Background can be found at and an excellent regional assessment conducted by Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project can be found at: A very useful website that serves as a clearinghouse for this information and assessment tools is:
  • Implement community-based leadership through the NC A&T SU Community Voices Program. Community Voices is a leadership development program designed to help limited-resource and other non-traditional leaders develop skills to solve community problems. The program is supported by a four-volume curriculum and a video. The participative approach used in the curriculum allows adults involved in the program to actively participate in a series of learning experiences, analyze those experiences, and determine their application to life situations.

Notes from Baseline WIT SUMMIT Breakout Session:

Game Changer Idea:

Through legislation, seek to establish the NC Sustainable Local Food Policy Council. A sustainable agriculture promotes environmental stewardship, provides a more profitable farm income for producers, and promotes stable and prosperous farm families and communities

Overall Comments

  • Participants generally think that a food policy council is a good idea – it will raise awareness at state level
  • How will it address food security?
  • Want to be sure the council is representative.  Youth representation on the state council is important
  • Need to quantify the value of keeping local foods in state
  • How do we make sure the local food policy councils and local efforts feed into the state policy council and state efforts
  • A lot of terms and issues need to be defined.  What is local? What is sustainable? Still some ambiguity and that needs to be defined.
  • Need data-statewide on supply and demand
  • SMART based action plan, end of 2 yrs
  • Importance of research and data – make sure we understand how we are doing now, document economic impact and return on investment.


  • Develop a true business plan- understand the return
  • Examine the model- look at new methods

Table-top Comments & Ideas

  • Include department of labor which includes migrant housing
  • $$$$ Immediately address all existing funding needs to achieve statewide action plan ideas
  • Economic advantage to buying locally, tax incentives
  • How does state collect information- standardize methodology
  • Break out money advantage to small, medium, large farms
  • Support sustainable operations and define support (environment, economic, social)
  • Synthesize county state information
  • Diversity of commodities
  • Incentives for local government task force on farm to fork
  • Create institutional to reduce uncertainty and risk for local and regional growers
  • Leadership resources identified
  • Incentives for private landowners to provide land for food use, local infrastructure support
  • Schools are central
  • Lessons from last NC food policy council effort- no state agency has clear mandate to lead and implement
  • Multiple levels of policy decisions; state, federal, local. Need to clarify levels of influence
  • Need to define sustainable and local to create an effective baseline- there are no good state data collection examples. ASAP regional study is best example
  • Social issues need to be examined as well- broad definition of baseline at beginning
  • Council process for public input on policy recommendation needs to insure broad access
  • ? Distribution
  • ? Affordability (not just access)
  • Local Infrastructure (equipment)
  • Make sure priorities that come out of other WIT’s are considered by the FP Council
  • Establish communication between NC Sustainable local food policy council and local county FP Councils
  • Interact with national trust for historic preservation and other preservation programs to bring healthy foods to inner city areas
  • Is this the only way to keep this initiative running forward? We need additional grassroots efforts
  • Young farmers
  • Infrastructure rebuilding (slaughter houses) supported by community and state
  • Health insurance and retirement
  • Increase farm income without increasing food prices
  • Increase % of food grown in NC
  • Scale appropriate regulations
  • Assistance for appropriate certifications
  • Food insecurity
  • Raise level of concern for food safety/accessibility to the same level of ______ /air
  • Make sure there are opportunities for grassroots efforts
  • Regional approach

Goal of 10% local by 2015

  • Council sets minimum local food purchasing goal real targets, measurable SMART institutional local food purchasing goal becomes separate legislation

Solutions to regulatory and policy barriers in developing a strong local food economy

  • Provide recommendations for the reduction of barriers
  • Use data analysis to set action plan for council

Strengthen local infrastructure and entrepreneurial efforts

  • Cost benefit of pilot entrepreneurial projects

Other Ideas

  • Recognize urban v. rural counties
  • Focus and coordination are important
  • Understanding the capabilities of each region/community
  • Focus on relationship building
  • Looking at community development block grants
  • Find non-traditional partners
  • Create a system to bring producers and consumers together
  • Replicable operational definitions
  • Identify land available for community food use
  • What is bought from where

What is important for us to know about this game changer idea? Additional questions, strategies, concerns?

  • Bottom line will be whether or not there are adequate regional (due to climate/environmental issues) farmland and production opportunities so local data collection will be essential if goals policies are anti-agriculture then we’ll have a problem
  • Huge difference between urban and rural focus and coordination
  • Local people there to implement
  • Connecting with other non traditional organizations that are established and can obtain funding or conduct assessments
  • Bring people together to talk relationships
  • Farmers and youth representatives should be paid a stipend for attending meetings and representing
  • Slaughterhouses & dairy at the county level
  • Seems there is a perception issue with small farmers feeling under represented- I don’t think this is a substantive problem, but it requires continued outreach/ communication
  • Another perception issues; absent concrete action items and early successes translating recommendation- policy change, the council could be written off as ineffective
  • Make sure the council incorporates representative from the rural/urban traditional/progressive etc. so the results will be ‘heard’ by all action leaders in ag and political circles
  • Concerns about the council being co-opted by large agribusinesses. Removing barriers is most important priority
  • Cost-benefit is most important feedback to spur state investment
  • Affordable housing and land conservation needs to work together
  • Low income communities have little access to high quality food, but farmers need a fair price
  • Bio regionalize
  • Farmers and ____ to sit on FPC local or state, local assessments should be consistent. Need representation

What is important for us to know about other discussed ideas? Any additional state action ideas?

  • State council needs to open communication lines with local and regional councils about their priorities and whether or not food security is a local mandate
  • Chance systems to work across state instead of just locally
  • We seem to keep skirting the issue that many small/medium farmers might not be able to support their families off full-time farming. Need to address non farming economic opportunity in rural areas in concert with agricultural support in order to help farming families prosper while still farming
  • What is our agricultural policy for NC?
  • Recognizing the distinct regionality of the state

Any suggestions for local action ideas presented today? Any additional local action ideas?

  • Allow for local communities to use different leadership/community device tools
  • Incentives for county-based policies
  • Rising community development block grants for funding at the community level
  • Establish alternative CDC’s developing holistically, not just putting roofs over peoples heads
  • Population change needs to be tracked geographically so that land use and zoning can be taken without consideration when planning for local food systems

Goal: Form Food Policy Council to take statewide uniform measurements, assess availability, procurement issues, and more

  • Where are we? Where can we go? When?
  • Policy council provides a way to come to a consensus on formulation of research methods and implementation strategies
  • Ag and Environment Committee to discuss tomorrow, Senate version may go straight to floor.

Food Policy Council

  • Structure is in place, but the legislation is still subject to change before passing. The debate is over what the policy council will actually do. What issues will it address? What will be prioritized? Mission? What kind of groups will be represented on the council? How can we ensure that the policy council has a mandate to act so that the recommendations can be implemented? Where will labor be represented? How do we prevent the policy council from being controlled by those who are not interested in a local, sustainable food system?

Representation issues: more farmers, members of seafood industry

Definitions within the bill: What is local? What is sustainable?

  • Policy Council Priorities: Establish specific desirable outcomes, Address food security/access (low-income), youth representation (including young farmers), measuring benefits of locally-spent food dollars (economic baseline), regional approach to implementing food policies specific to NC’s 100 counties, better state data on supply and demand of the food production economy (indirect costs, etc.), assessment and action plan with specific goals and how the goals will be accomplished (funding, etc.), data collection based on questions like: Where do you live? Where do you work? Where do you consume food? Work to raise concern at the state level about food safety to that of air, land, and water, develop a business plan for the entire state—look at barriers, gaps in the supply chain, how to reconcile an influx of population with a desire to preserve existing farmland

Local Strategies to Take Home

1) What do we need to know about local action ideas (questions, strategies, concerns)

  • County specific food policy councils
  • How will the food policy council from the state connect with ones from respective local counties?

2) What other local action ideas do you suggest?

  • Local information can be compiled by the state and ideas from the state can be evaluated and implemented at the local level
  • Institutional buying can be addressed by local councils to establish relationships between farmers and institutional buyers
  • Relationships need to be fostered and data needs to be compiled on a local level

Local Action Ideas

  • Allow for local communities to use different leadership/communication devices/tools
  • Population change needs to be tracked geographically so that land use and zoning can be taken into consideration when planning for local systems
  • Using Community Development Block grants for funding at community level, establish alternative CDC’s that develop holistically, not just putting roofs over people’s heads