Food councils are developing across North Carolina and the nation. Food councils form differently in each community; and we have found that these groups do follow a similar arc to becoming an established community coalition. Community Food Strategies developed a basic road map for food council development to support growing interest and to share lessons learned. This is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but does offer some best practices and a general order in which activities might happen. Contact us with questions or for assistance in applying these concepts in your community.
These ‘food councils’ often progress in these stages.
During the SEED Phase, a community considers whether a food council might be worthwhile.
During this phase, the idea of a council takes formation in a community. Key stakeholders express interest in initiating a cross-sector group to address food and farm issues and form an organizing group or task force to consider the feasibility of council development.
Explore the idea of a food council
Host a meeting to gauge interest
Learn about past efforts
Identify community assets
Talk with local government
Listen to community interest
During the START-UP Phase, a task force begins to design the council while engaging the community.
The organizing group learns more about food councils and engages the community to hear their experiences. By the end of this phase, the community at-large, including its local government, has provided feedback and shown support for the council. A group has worked to create a structure for the council, members are identified, and the council is born.
Share gathered information
Enlist government support
Draft food council charter
During the GROWTH Phase, new council members finalize their structure and prioritize issues.
Newly formed councils finalize or refine their council structure, finalize and/or approve their council charter, and initiate public communications. They build support systems and identify community priorities. During this phase, the council is beginning to take action together and develop more strategic partnerships.
Finalize food council charter
Build social capital
Engage the community
During the MATURE Phase, the council develops strategic plans and collaborates with other councils.
Typically after the first 3 years, a council has developed systems to support changing membership, leadership, and priorities over time. Evaluation and assessment become critical aspects of this phase. Is the council doing what it set out to do? How can it improve? Mature councils update their strategic plans, make adjustments to their systems, and both contribute to and rely on the network of food councils for support.