Local Food Northland is exploring how a food policy council might work for Northland. In 2015, there were 282 food policy councils in the U.S. and Canada. We anticipate that a food policy council will complement the grass roots initiatives supporting the shift to sustainable food systems.
So what do food policy councils do? The Center for a Livable Future Food Policy Network project, run out of John Hopkins university monitor the performance of food policy councils through an annual survey.
The image below reveals the range of achievements by food policy councils.
- Food production including action plans, input into legislation and the retention of farm land.
- Food procurement with most of the activity focusing on measures to ensure increasing proportions of food for schools is healthy and locally sourced. An important initiative was promoting legislation to give preference to locally grown, processed and prepared foods. This is relevant to Northland where our DHB resisted Ministry of Health policy to have packaged meals delivered from out of region kitchens.
- Environmental sustainability including bans on bee killing neonicotinoids, zero waste initiatives and purchasing policy supporting recycled, reusable or compostable packaging.
- Economic development including financial incentives for local food initiatives and the provision of tax credits to support grocery stores in “food desert”locations.
- Food access initiatives support better health. Examples are the promotion of healthy mobile food vending legislation, promotion of the North Carolina Healthy Corner Stores Act and funding to support access to healthy food in New Orleans.
- Food processing initiatives generally focussed on ensuring that legislation didn’t disadvantage smaller producers.
- Food recovery initiatives support composting, food recovery and better waste reduction practices.
- Labour initiatives focussed on raising minimum wages.
You can access the report here and its infographic here.
The United States has an advantage that legislation can be passed at local, state and federal government levels. This enables the emergence of innovative policy and regulation that can be observed and replicated by others. This contrasts with our much more centrally controlled system. So for us the solution could include keeping a close eye on international initiatives and establishing a network of food policy councils throughout New Zealand.
These sound great however, I think it will take persistent, committed activism at a local and national level to ensure the freedom to organically grow non-GMO food with locally saved seed and for people to have the right to water. My reason for saying this is watching the trend of corporations increasingly buying the support of politicians to centralise decision making, power and the production of food, water and services. We are already seeing a global trend by corporations to own the farmland, to privatise seed, to make seed saving illegal, to buy and control the content and research output of universities, to make water a commodity rather than a right, to construct government and human-rights disabling TPPA agreements, and to continue to pollute land and water with unsafe, carbon intensive mining methods which externalise the costs. And I cannot see these sorts of initiatives making much difference unless we also choose to reduce our consumption because if we do not then we are giving tacit support and approval to corporations and governments to continue as usual.