"If I was starting out to build a local economy, I'd focus on people who know how to code & food." -Mayor Soglin, Madison, Wisc #npsgfood— WKKF (@WK_Kellogg_Fdn) February 12, 2014
More than 170 planners, local elected officials, business leaders and representatives from community organizations gathered in Denver on Feb. 12, 2014 for the New Partners for Smart Growth pre-conference workshop on Advancing Healthy, Equitable Food Systems: Building Capacity, Partnerships and Resources. A focal point of the gathering was the role that local government officials and cities can play in supporting the development of equitable food systems.
Local governments can re-shape food ecosystems in partnership with communities – working within zoning rules, dedicating public park land to community gardens and connecting communities with services. Paula Daniels, a founder of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, and Paul Soglin, mayor of Madison, Wisc. discussed how community advocates and elected officials could work together to create healthier local food systems.
In another panel, Haile Johnston, executive director of Common Market Philadelphia – a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grantee – and Coby Gould, executive director of The GrowHaus, shared how they create and implement food distribution systems in underserved communities while also strengthening regional food systems. Both Johnston and Gould noted that building strong relationships with funders, community members and local government officials was critical to their success.
The day closed with Elanor Starmer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s national coordinator and advisor for local and regional food systems; Bridget Dobrowski of Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders and Judith Bell of Policy Link – a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grantee – discussing financial tools and resources available for smart growth opportunities through healthy, equitable food systems.
A key takeaway? There is funding available for local governments, but it’s helpful to know where to start. For example, the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) supports projects that increase access to healthy, affordable foods in communities that lack these options. In Cleveland, Green City Growers used HFFI funding to partner with local hospitals to provide fresh, healthy foods for the hospital’s food service locations while hiring low-income members of the community to create stable jobs and strengthen the local economy. Similarly, the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food program helps communities scale up local and regional food systems by providing funding and resources covering more than two dozen program areas.
For more information about the workshop and to see presenter presentations and materials, visit: http://newpartners.org/program/healthy-food-systems. This workshop was made possible by the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems, through funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Food and Community program, with additional support from LiveWell Colorado and the Local Government Commission.