The eighth step in the start-up phase of food council development is to obtain formal recognition of the council.
What does formal recognition mean?
As a way of celebrating their work and further raising awareness of community food systems issues, and the council among local elected officials, the organizing group may choose to present their final charter in the form of a resolution for the board of commissioners and city councils to pass.
This is essentially a proclamation by the local government leaders that the food council, as described in the charter, is important to the community. It is largely ceremonial, as a resolution does not give any special powers. But getting a resolution passed signals that local government is aware of the council and expects the council to do what the charter describes.
Most importantly, institutionalizing the council, through formal recognition AND clarified relationship with local government, can help the council establish long-term viability.
What does the process involve?
Presenting to elected officials will typically involve:
- Choosing a date when local government convenes that is conducive to this type of agenda item
- Working with county or city manager staff to get on the agenda
- Create a brief presentation to be delivered by an organizing group member or two
- Draft a resolution (local government staff can help with how to structure this) based off the charter
- Compile a packet of materials for the elected officials that may include:
- Any reports on food that exist for the community, such as existing assessments, recommendations, etc.
- Brief history of the organizing group’s work
- Charter and feedback from community
- Copy of the presentation
- Copy of the resolution
What else should you consider?
Legitimacy comes from the community. AND it comes from local government. Gaining formal recognition is sometimes looked down upon by grassroots groups, who feel their legitimacy comes from the community, not from government.
Because a community is made up of many important voices, gaining government recognition is a way of opening doors, and also providing clarity for the community at large. Councils can certainly succeed without formal recognition, although these councils have varying degrees of influence over local government policy and programming; generally speaking, their influence is lessened without the formal recognition. The inroads that are established in the process of engaging support for the work of the council serves to raise awareness and understanding among leaders in the community. The local government now have an expectation to hear about food issues from the council.
Another reason to consider formal recognition is to avoid splinter groups.
In some communities multiple councils have organized – some through the city, some through the county, some through grassroots. If an organizing group follows the suggested seed phase tasks and really works to get community feedback around the charter, other groups operating in the community should be known well in advance of securing official recognition.
If splinter groups are ignored, the work of all groups can suffer due to the confusion of multiple groups doing seemingly the same thing in parallel. At the very least, leadership of each group should try to work out a shared message to explain the reason for multiple groups to the community-at-large.
If there are already multiple groups forming within your community, contact the Community Food Strategies team to learn more about how this situation has been addressed in other communities.
Tools & Resources
The following tools and resources are helpful in thinking about securing formal recognition.
Ordinances & Resolutions
- Austin TX Ordinance
- Champaign County Resolution
- Missoula City/County Resolution
- Santa Fe Food Policy Resolution