Aotearoa Food Policy Network

This week the Aotearoa Food Policy Network was born!

While we have been working on plans for a food policy council in Northland, there has been activity happening around the country. People and Groups in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, the Bay of Plenty and Auckland have, or are forming groups focussing on food policy.

The Northland Food Policy Network has its inaugural meeting at The Orchard, 85 Cameron Street, Whangarei.

The national network will initially work together through a Loomio site. It is in the very early stages of development, so nothing is finalised yet, including the name. Collectively, we will have more impact to support advocacy to influence changes to food policy and accelerate the shift to sustainable food systems.

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What do food policy councils do?

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 Policy Council activity.png

Activities include:

  • 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.