Food Policy Councils and Local Governments: Creating Effective Collaboration for Food Systems Change
Drawing data from comparative case studies of 10 California food policy councils (FPCs), this paper describes the nature of the relationships between local governments and FPCs and examines how these relationships support policy-related activities and food systems change. We focus our comparisons on distinct organizational structures, resource flows, and policy activities. All but one of the 10 councils is organized as a multisector community collaborative, rather than as an independent nonprofit organization or a government advisory body. Each includes local government personnel as members and most depend on government resources for their operations, including meeting spaces, facilitation, information, and/or direct funding. All 10 councils feature regular meetings at which information is shared to build awareness, relationships, and trust, all of which can indirectly shape policy agendas and initiatives. This policy relevant work is feasible even for small councils with few resources. FPC leaders can also seize opportunities by considering the stages of the policy process they hope to influence, the types of policy issues they wish to address, the time frame it may take to realize different types of policy goals, and the degree to which they will seek incremental or more fundamental changes. We find that structural autonomy—being organized outside of the government while maintaining strong collaborations with the government—helps food policy councils retain their independence while promoting more inclusive policy making processes that link community members to the government.
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