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AHA fosters and supports community efforts to make healthy eating and physical activity the way of life in Wake County.

Developing a Local Food System in Wake County: Food Policy Council Task Force Update

Written by Carol S. Mitchell, PhD, RD, LDN, NC Cooperative Extension, Wake County  Center  and Member, AHA Board of Directors

Food System (image courtesy of Community Food Lab)

Food System (image courtesy of Community Food Lab)

A food system. What, you may ask, is that?  A food system refers to all aspects of producing, buying, selling, and eating food.  There are multiple benefits of a community food system including economic, health and social benefits.

In July 2013 over 50 Wake County residents responded to a county-wide invitation and attended a presentation on food policy councils where attendees learned that Food Policy Councils have three main functions:

  •  to facilitate connections by engaging people in the conversation,
  •  to focus attention by making sense of complex issues, and
  • to drive action by providing impetus and support for food-related change.

From that gathering, a small group of volunteers stepped forward to form a Food Policy Task Force; AHA and other partners have been involved in the effort since its inception. This Food Policy Task Force is a self-organized, diverse group dedicated to launching a Food Policy Council for Raleigh and Wake County.  Building on years of increasing local awareness in food policy and food planning, the Task Force is part of a statewide trend in the development of food councils as a response to the growing need to integrate expertise and resources from all parts of the food system for effective decision-making at all levels of government, community, and the private sector.

The Task Force has created a resolution and charter describing the purpose and possible structure for the Food Policy Council and has solicited public comment.  The Food Policy Council will exist as a partnership between community groups, municipal governments, and county government to effectively use resources, provide community groups with institutional support and offer local government ongoing opportunity for proactive community engagement.

The Task Force envisions the Food Policy Council taking a comprehensive approach, pursuing long-term strategies, offering tangible solutions, and advocating on behalf of the larger community.  The Raleigh Wake Food Policy Council’s goal will be to grow a robust community food system and a healthier population.  This will be done through assessment, education, convening and recommending.

Moving Forward

This summer the Food Policy Task Force is working with the City of Raleigh and Wake County requesting Joint Approval for the adoption of the resolution and charter supporting the establishment of the Raleigh Wake Food Policy Council.

On, behalf of the Task Force, Sara Merz, AHA director, and Erin White of Community Food Lab  and an AHA Board member, presented the resolution to the Raleigh City Council on June 17. Mayor McFarlane and the City Council members were receptive to the Food Policy Council concept and will share with the city attorney and manager, and then likely invite the Task Force to return in the near future for further conversation.  Stay tuned for updates as this effort moves forward.

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