Advancing food democracy: The potential and limits of food policy positions in local government
Keywords:Food Policy, Food Democracy, Coordination, Local Government, Food System, Food Policy Council
For several decades, food policy councils (FPCs) have led the effort to place food on local government policy agendas. While FPCs are making progress in supporting local food systems, they also face institutional and organizational challenges. In recent years, a handful of cities and counties have endeavored to further food system reform with the establishment of full-time government staff positions focused on food policy. As of spring 2020, there were 19 confirmed food policy positions housed in local governments across the United States. While there is considerable literature on FPCs, little research has been published regarding food policy staffing in local governments. Accordingly, this study uses original in-depth interviews with 11 individuals in municipal or county food policy positions to understand the purpose and function of governmental food policy staff positions and their impact on local food systems. Our findings suggest that these positions help to coordinate and nurture local food programs and policies and have the potential to facilitate meaningful participation of individuals and groups in the community in food system reform. We discuss the potential benefits and challenges for governmental food policy positions to support food democracy, and provide the following recommendations for communities interested in establishing or strengthening similar positions: (1) identify and coordinate existing opportunities and assets, (2) foster and maintain leadership support, (3) root the work in community, (4) connect with other food policy professionals, and (5) develop a food system vision.
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