Group touting locally grown food selected for nationwide project

The Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council has been selected to participate in an 18-month nationwide project that will explore how regional food systems work and how to improve. Fifty councils from around the country applied but only 11 were invited.

The Food Policy Council is a collective impact organization, where many come together in a structured way to achieve change. The group works to get quality, locally grown food to people who can benefit from their services.

The Council grew out of an alliance with Green Umbrella, the tri-state’s green sustainability organization.  They currently examine ways to efficiently deliver locally grown food from a 10-county area of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana to clients in the area, and also how to benefit the growers. The main beneficiaries of the food network are institutions like schools and hospitals, as well as area chefs, farmers markets, and SNAP recipients.

“A more competitive, fair, and resilient food system requires investment in regional supply chains, and food policy councils can play a critical role building bridges between rural communities and consumer markets,” says Tricia Kovacs, deputy administrator of the transportation and marketing program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Marketing Service.

The council is working on a number of projects. They work with area schools to provide fresh food connections and instruction for their students. They also offer guidance about nutrition and food preparation guidance for parents and clients. 

Maddie Chera is director of the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council
“When we think about food systems, it makes sense for us to work regionally, as our food distribution networks cross state and city boundaries to bring food through the value chain,” says Maddie Chera, director of Cincinnati’s Food Policy Council (FPC). “We are excited that the timing of this community of practice coincides with the implementation of our new strategic plan, role changes in our Food Policy Council, and growth in our parent organization, Green Umbrella.”

On the surface, it may appear to be a simple process to connect farmers to consumers, but there are often barriers, such as regulations or local policies that interfere, which complicates the process.

FPC has had some success influencing policies in schools and local governments, Chere says. “Cincinnati changed zoning ordinances to offer more opportunities for urban agriculture," she says.

In essence, they are using food to build better communities. Over a five-year period, Green Umbrella and the Food Policy Council's collaboration with partners saw annual sales increase from a baseline of $21,500 to $734,843 at the project’s completion.
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Chuck Keller is a former educator and columnist working now as a community organizer for social and environmental concerns. He enjoys coffee, conversation, bicycling, kayaking, hiking, gardening, and relaxing under a good tree.