What is a Food Council?
2021 NC Food Council Network
What is a Food Council?
Food councils are community-based coalitions, created to help build a more just and sustainable food system. Each council supports a specific community – usually a county or region, and sometimes a town, city or neighborhood. A local or regional council is made up of individuals and organizations from that community who represent multiple sectors and work together to build relationships, leverage resources, and learn from one another. The goal of a food council is to influence the redesign of their food system.
Food is a fundamental need for all people, and touches our lives in the most basic ways. When food systems are out of balance, people do not have access to healthy food, do not have a connection to where it is grown or distributed, and do not have a voice in rectifying these problems. Local food councils work to solve these crucial issues, as well as to improve health outcomes, protect natural resources, support economic development, and aid the work of farmers and fishermen.
” Food is a fundamental need for all people, and touches our lives in the most basic ways.”
Who is involved?
Food councils are made up of community members. They are intentionally made up of people and organizations from different sectors and industries. They, ideally, also aim to include the voices of people with lived experience of our food system’s challenges in addition to the organizations and institutions that serve them. By coming together with diverse perspectives and differing strengths, members of food councils are able to give their communities greater control over the food they consume and solve broader food system issues.
Members of councils often include representation from these groups –
Local government officials • Farmers/fishermen and/or agricultural organizations • Restaurants and local businesses • Public health professionals • Cooperative Extension staff • Soil and Water Conservation District staff • Faith communities • Public schools • Interested parents and consumers • Food pantry and food security advocates • Community colleges or universities
Ideally, councils reflect the makeup of the community they serve including similar demographic representation across race, class, and rural and urban localities.
What do food councils do?
The work and impact of food councils varies by community. Not every area has the same needs or values around food, so no two councils are the same.
Councils try to shift the system by encouraging and influencing policies (and practice) that are designed with health and community wellness as an end goal. In general, councils:
- Create space for people in their community to share stories (a form of data) about food and how it impacts their lives
- Reflect the themes of community stories to offer and build a shared understanding of the way food impacts and connects their community
- Engage experts to help better understand our interconnected food system
- Educate leaders and community members about issues surrounding food
- Connect decision makers and stakeholders to help create more alignment across programs and initiatives
- Recommend program and policy changes that affect local food systems in order to create lasting change
- Work together with people in the community, especially people with lived experience, to build solutions that create equitable outcomes
North Carolina food council network
Our state is leading the charge for food council development and capacity building. With the support of statewide entities such as Community Food Strategies and the Local Food Council of North Carolina, food councils have access to resources like system expertise, trainings, development opportunities, and a thriving network.
Over the past decade, the number of local and regional councils in North Carolina has grown from four to over 35. Community Food Strategies is dedicated to fostering collaborative partnerships with and between these groups to help create greater impact in communities across the state.