FOOD POLICY FOR A HEALTHY ROCHESTER

 

Everyone has a right to healthy food. At its best, food helps children develop, nourishes adults, and strengthens our immune systems. Data from Common Ground Health’s My Health Survey shows that while residents across all demographics think diet and nutrition are important, many still struggle to access healthy food.

Rochester 2034, the City’s new Comprehensive Plan, has an emphasis on equity and healthy living, including a goal to increase access to healthy food and reduce the abundance of unhealthy food in the community.  To work toward achieving this goal, Common Ground Health, Foodlink, and the City of Rochester were selected to receive a grant through the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge to engage the community to envision and establish a local food policy council. A food policy council can help focus community efforts towards policies that support a more equitable and healthy food system to create a long-lasting, sustainable impact on the overall health of the community.

 

What is a food system?

Yale Office of Sustainability. (2020). https://sustainability.yale.edu/explainers/yale-experts-explain-sustainable-food-systems

 

The food system is everything that is involved in growing, processing, transporting, sourcing, marketing, selling, and purchasing food, as well as managing food-related waste. All of the relationships, businesses, workers, policies, and programs that relate to food shape our food system. A healthy food system ensures that foods are accessible and affordable for all, and supports community health, social equity, and the natural environment.

 

What is a food policy council?

In many cities across the country, food policy councils have been formed to work on improving their local food systems. A food policy council is an organized group of stakeholders, such as community members, non-profits, education, businesses, and/or government, working together to implement or change policies that impact the food system. Food policy councils can be an official part of government or independent of government. Issues that food policy councils work on can include increasing access to affordable, healthy food; improving food procurement standards for schools and other institutions; supporting healthy food businesses; and reducing food waste.

There are many different kinds of food policy councils, so what will work best in Rochester?

Common Ground Health, Foodlink, the City of Rochester, and local residents are working to determine what model of food policy council will work in Rochester. Questions include how many people should make up the council, who needs to be represented, and how the council will function. We are also exploring what food system issues the council should prioritize to work on. It is essential that the community provide input and inform this work. In the end, this will be the community’s food policy council, so we need your help throughout this planning process! If you would like to get updates on our progress, or contribute your own knowledge, skills, and ideas, please join our mailing list.

 

To date, we have already heard from hundreds of community members. Take a look at these resources to get an idea of the input that has already gone into this project:

-          In August 2020, we held a series of public meetings to discuss the local food system and this project. Read about what we learned here and watch the webinar here.

-          Rochester seeks ideas for new citizen-led food policy council. WXXI News. Aug. 5, 2020.     

Cooking Up Change, a series of web events held in April 2021, were an opportunity for community members to provide feedback and input on the Food Policy Council structure and application process. Over 100 people took part in these events. You can learn more about how we envision the Food Policy Council being run and structured by watching a recording of the webinar here.

Interested in learning more about food systems and food policy councils? Once a month, we will update this webpage with a few articles, videos, or learning opportunities that we think are interesting. Take a look at what we are learning this month:

-          Interested in learning more about the potential benefits of bringing fresh, local food to schools and other institutions? Check out this report from The New York Academy of Medicine.

-          Spring is here! Are you planning to grow your own food this year? There are tons of great resources online, including planting calendars and tips on container gardening (en Espanol).

-          The New York Times recently profiled a few inspirational figures in an article called The Activists Working To Remake The Food System.

-          Every year, the biggest food companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbying and political donations. A new report from Feed The Truth and Maplight tracks some of the money spent to shape food policy.

 

If you would like to get updates on our progress, or contribute your own knowledge, skills, and ideas, please join our mailing list. Sign up by emailing rocfoodpolicy@commongroundhealth.org.