Let’s Talk Food Policy

Amy Radding, former Rural Community Foods Systems Specialist at the Center for Rural Affairs and currently a grant writer for us, contributed this article.

What governs our food system? In the United States, we have a huge array of laws, policies, and regulations at the federal, state, and local levels that affect how food is grown, processed, labeled, and sold, all the way from the farm to your plate. Collectively, this is called “food policy.”

Food policy is very important in our food system. It can ensure that our food is safe, consumers know what they’re eating, farmers reach markets, and so much more. Smart food policies have potential to create new opportunities for our food systems and our communities.

What could we change if we enact policies that make it easier for schools to buy from their local farmers? Or initiatives that build healthier food environments in low-income areas? Or an ordinance allowing dairy goats in town?

With many different policies at different levels of government, food policy can be hard to navigate. Because of this, it can be hard to build better policy and make change. That’s where food policy councils come in.

Food policy councils are groups of stakeholders from across all sectors of the food system, including farming, processing, wholesale, retail, restaurants, public health, anti-hunger, government, and more. Council members come together to study their local food system and develop new policy recommendations that will benefit their economy and the participants in their food system. Food policy councils then interact with local government (in a variety of different ways, depending on the council’s structure) to help make those changes happen.

Food policy councils can exist at many levels: small towns can have them, and states can too. Today, there are local councils operating or developing in almost every state, and statewide councils in 30 states. Coordination between food policy councils brings even more opportunity to develop cohesive policies that benefit farmers, consumers, communities, and others.

On August 18, the Center for Rural Affairs is hosting “Food Policy Opportunities for Nebraska: Growing Healthy Food Systems,” a public event to explore the potential for food policy councils in Nebraska. The evening will include a keynote presentation from Mark Winne, nationally renowned food policy council expert, and a panel discussion with food system stakeholders.

Please join us as we address these questions and more: What are our challenges and opportunities to create a food system that works better for all of us? How do food policy councils function in other states and local areas, and what is the right approach for Nebraska?

Our food system affects all of us. Your answers to these questions will inform the work that is to come.

Event Details:
Food Policy Opportunities for Nebraska: Growing Healthy Food Systems
Tuesday, August 18, 7-9 PM
Unitarian Church of Lincoln - 6300 A St, Lincoln, NE

If you are unable to participate in-person, keep your eye on our blog and social media channels for reports on the event and what we learn from the discussion. And please feel free to chime in with your opinions. Send an email to us here.