DOAG: The Connecticut Food Policy Council

This article appeared in the November 13, 2013 edition of the Ag Report.
 
 

The Connecticut Food Policy Council

Chelsea Durkota, Intern, Bureau of Agricultural Development and Resource Preservation

 

The Connecticut Food Policy Council (CFPC) was established in 1997 through Connecticut General Statutes Section 22-456, making it the first state in the nation to legislate such a council.  The law places the CFPC within the Connecticut Department of Agriculture for administrative purposes.

 

The council’s statutory charges are as follows:

1. Develop, coordinate and implement a food system policy linking local economic development, environmental protection and preservation with farming and urban issues.

 

2. Review and comment on any proposed state legislation and regulations that would affect the food policy system of the state.

 

3. Advise and provide information to the Governor on the state’s food policy.

 

4. Prepare and submit to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to the environment an annual report concerning its activities with any appropriate recommendations concerning food policy.

 

Membership is made up of representatives from the state, private, and academic sectors.  Voting state agency representatives include the commissioner or his or her designee from the following departments:  Agriculture, Administrative Services, Education, Public Health, Social Services, and Transportation. 

 

Other voting members are appointed by specific leaders of the Connecticut General Assembly and represent agriculture or agricultural organizations (two members), an anti-hunger organization, a food retailer, a produce wholesaler, and University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension.  This wide range of expertise has allowed different agencies to work together towards common goals. 

 

Over the years, the council has been involved in the creation of many important programs, including the Connecticut Farm Map and EBT technology for SNAP benefit redemption at farmers’ markets. 

 

In Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty, author Mark Winne, longtime director of Hartford Food System and original advocate for and member of the CFPC, states “Perhaps the Connecticut Food Policy Council’s most important role is to serve as a place where the state’s food system experts and representatives, in both the private and public sectors, can sit down together, develop mutual trust, and identify where the food system needs strengthening.” 

 

The council has also played a helping hand in the formation of other organizations such as the Working Lands Alliance and the Connecticut Farmland Trust. 

 

Another ripple effect of the CFPC is the birth of many local food policy councils across Connecticut.  Some councils work within town lines, while others take a more regional approach.  Some require town residency in order to become a council member; some are open to all.  These local councils have had many accomplishments including the formation of community gardens, farm-to-school programs, farmers’ markets, events, and more.

 

To bring these local food councils together around common goals, the Connecticut Food Policy held a forum on October 17, 2013.  The goal shared by all is to strengthen Connecticut’s food system by increasing the access to healthy foods and preserving and increasing the production of healthy foods in the state. 

 

The event’s keynote speaker was Mark Winne, who served as a member of the CFPC when it was created.  Today Mark works with Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future as a senior adviser in addition to writing, speaking, and consulting extensively on community food systems. 

 

He talked briefly about his career and experience working to shape food policy, and then moved to an interactive discussion. 

 

Together the different councils shared their ideas, difficulties, and achievements with one another and with municipalities looking to form local food policy councils. 

 

Representatives were eager to share data and resources that had been successful in their areas.  The event was a great opportunity for networking across the state. 

 

The CFPC is strategically focusing on the future.  Over the next year it plans to formalize a response to the Food Security Report, working on the State Nutrition Access Committee, and strengthen and expand council participation.

 

The council meets the second Thursday of every month, except August, for approximately two hours.  The next meeting will be held on November 14, 2013.  For agendas and minutes please visit the Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s website, www.CTGrown.gov, and click on “Boards, Councils, and Commissions” at the left of the page.