news feature
February 29, 2008

 

 

 

Coalition moves forward on
food policy council

by Vicki Walker

KC Healthy Kids (www.kchealthykids.org) will become the umbrella group under which a food policy council may form, the result of a year-long set of monthly meetings between growers, distributors of food, public health workers, schools and other groups who have some association with food.

Mark Winne, author of Closing the Food Gap, founded one of the first food policy councils in Hartford, CN and now assists other cities in organizing their council. He recently gave a talk at the KC Library about his book, and worked with the local food group on their initiative.

Some people came to hear Winne because of their concern over children’s health. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), one in three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes. If they are Hispanic, the odds are one in two will develop the disease.

Because of increased number of child cases, the word “Adult” in Adult-Onset Diabetes has been dropped. Yet the disease can be easily avoided and reversed by lifestyle and diet changes, according to the CDC. One of those lifestyle changes is eating the right kinds of food.

Lisa Markley, who is with KC Food Circle and a registered dietician, has been attending the meetings since the inception.

“We got to know each other and figured out we could work together to build a food policy council,” Markley said. “I think this is an awesome opportunity.”

Markley said that as a dietician, she understands the crisis facing families with children. Schools must take a long look at what kinds of food they are serving school children daily. A food policy council can help formulate that policy.

Mary Hendrickson is with the University of Missouri Extension Service and manages a program called the Food Circle Networkers Project, which connects farmers, eaters and community. She brings farmers and eaters together, and saw a perfect synergy using KC Healthy Kids.

“I helped plan the forum last year because I’ve done work in KC to increase the connection between farmers and healthy eaters and markets,” Hendrickson said. “The Farm Bill plays a big part in this connection — it dovetails with what KC Healthy Kids is trying to do.”

Those involved, said Hendrickson, are trying to keep the portion of the bill intact that allows people on welfare to use food stamps at farmers markets. There are few, if any, markets that sell fresh fruits and vegetables in the inner city, and one group member said, even bad food costs more.

Many Missouri farmers are trying to stay in farming and to do so it may require a change of practices to find and enter new markets, Hendrickson added. A food policy council is a good vehicle for those farmers.

Dan Dermitzel, an urban farmer, runs KC Urban Farms in Kansas City, KS. “If we would have the same focus that we had on creating the micro chip and apply that to sustainable farming who knows where it would take us?” he asked.

While the group is ready to bring a new organization into fruition, Winne helped guide them through a series of questions. For instance, what kind of governance do they see this council working under?

Some suggested that MARC (Mid-America Regional Council) might be the appropriate venue since it already works across county and state lines. Others wanted to be a self-organized and independent entity but one where both state legislatures sanction the council with a supportive resolution.

Another question involved policy issues. What issues does this group want to become involved with? Many said school food policies because of the crisis in childhood diabetes. Others saw a food policy council as a network around the local food system, which could include policies on available farmland, rural water rates for urban farmers, incentives for farmers and food distributors, and for promotion of local organic food.

A core group will make decisions on those questions and others, and bring them to the larger group for approval. Many of the hopeful food practitioners left with the feeling that a food policy council may be the tipping point for change.

Vicki Walker can be contacted at vwatsonwalker@gmail.com.


              
              
                 

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