“The issues we face as a region are, in many ways, no different than those facing communities nation-wide: the need to build fertile soil, preserve farmland, and address hunger, food insecurity and health disparities. What sets this community apart is the ways in which we come together to address these issues”. Central Oregon Food Assessment
The high plateau of Central Oregon is nestled in the rainshadow of the Cascade Mountains. It is home to agriculture, mainly commercial, with a smattering of small farmers and ranchers who maintain the local food culture. As in many areas of the US, land use policies affect farm and ranch activities, both constructive and un-constructive. This coupled with limited urban markets forces producers to get creative with their food products. Add to this the high unemployment and school lunch programs, but one of the better Farm to School programs in the state, and one begins to realize the complexities that exist in our food system.
Central Oregon Food Assessment
In an effort to understand these complexities, a food assessment was conducted and published in 2009/2010. An amazing Americorps staff member of Wy’East Resource Conservation & Development provided a comprehensive snapshot of our food system (see below for a link). In coordination with the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, OSU Extension Service and NeighborImpact, a steering committee was formed from the process. This committee hosted the Food Summit in 2010 with the keynote speaker and author Mark Winne. When he spoke of the food system and the formation of a Food Policy Council as a sea change, ears perked and eyebrows were raised.
The enthusiasm that grew from the Food Summit and from the already snowballing local food movement was the perfect storm for the creation of the COFPC. Throughout 2011, many voices came together to debate and create a plan. With the good graces of many wise and strong willed citizens a strategic plan was formulated, and in February of 2012, a 13 member board unanimously passed the bylaws and the approved the formation of a new non-profit organization.
The COFPC is organized as an Oregon nonprofit corporation and recognized as a tax exempt organization under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Service Code.
What is a Food Policy Council?
Food Policy Councils (FPCs) bring together stakeholders from diverse food-related sectors to examine how the food system is operating and to develop recommendations on how to improve it. FPCs may take many forms, but are typically either commissioned by state or local government, or predominately a grassroots effort. Food policy councils have been successful at educating officials and the public, shaping public policy, improving coordination between existing programs, and starting new programs. Examples include mapping and publicizing local food resources; persuading government agencies to purchase from local farmers; and organizing community gardens and farmers’ markets.
While FPC’s are not a new concept, their structures, practices, and policies are still evolving. Although the first Food Policy Council started 30 years ago in the city of Knoxville, only in the last decade have Food Policy Councils really gained momentum, and today there are over 100 councils nationwide (see a full list).
Currently no U.S. government entity has a Department of Food, so food-related issues are addressed by various agencies. This severely limits the potential for coordination, and for government to address broad goals such as improving access to healthy foods. Since they bring together a cross-disciplinary group of stakeholders, Food Policy Councils can help to bridge this gap and identify ways to address interconnected issues and improve the food system.
What Other Food Councils Exist in Oregon?
Lane County Food Policy Council
Governance: Independent (maintains government liaisons to the council)
Portland-Multnomah Food Policy Council
Contact: Steve Cohen
City of Portland, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, Food Policy and Programs
Phone: (503) 823-4225
Governance: A citizen-based advisory council to the City of Portland and Multnomah County
Interested in Learning More?
For more information about Food Policy Councils, visit the North American Food Policy Council