Minutes from the Public Forum on September 29th, 2014

Orange County Food Council Public Interest Meeting

September 29th, 2014


  • Sign-in and opportunity to share thoughts on OC food system via sticky-note activity
  • Presentation about food councils
  • Q&A

Getting a sense of who is in the room:

Some people raised their hand for multiple sectors. Numbers are approximate.

  • Retail/restaurant – 1
  • Farmer/producer – 10
  • Elected officials -5
  • County staff – 5
  • Public health-20
  • Community – all
  • Food system/food culture researchers – 5
  • School food – 3
  • Non-profit – 15
  • Community gardens – 10
  • Student – 10


Jared Cates, a community mobilizer working at the Carolina Farmer Stewardship Association, is working to support new councils and existing councils across NC, in collaboration with a group at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems at NC State University.

A small group (Sarah Blacklin, Larissa Calancie, Molly DeMarco, Carl Matyac, Ashley Mercer, and Christy Shi Day), along with Jared, organized this public meeting to engage lots of members of the public and gauge interest in developing a food council in Orange County

More about food councils (FCs):

Here is a link to a webinar with many of the slides used during the presentation – link (click “buy” since it’s free through 2014 and follow the instructions)

This is the first step of developing a FC with lots of community input

Food councils, or often-called food policy councils, can take many forms:

  • Non-profit
  • Advisory board
  • “Network of agriculture”

Community decides what the group should look like, and what it should do

Food spans many sectors

FCs bring people from different voices together – collaboration and solutions

Food systems have many working parts

Think of all the regulations and policies influencing the production, processing, transporting, selling, consumption, and waste disposal related to food.

Some groups see FCs as a way of developing a community food system.

A community food system is place-based, relationship-based, transparent food system.

Here are two links with more information about community food systems:

  • Primer on community food systems – link
  • Community food system initiatives at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems at NC State University – link

There are many parts of the community food system

Sometimes hard to see how all our paths align, and how we can work together

FCs can act as catalysts

May not focus on action in the traditional sense – imagine observing a dance from the balcony

FCs can create space to stand, observe, and then figure out collaborative solutions

National groups see FPCs as beneficial to communities:

  • Centers for Disease Control – link (also, see strategy #1 here – link)
  • American Planning Association – link

Growing numbers of councils across the country and across NC

  • Here is a link to the Food Policy Network at Johns Hopkins University that maintains a directory of food policy councils – link

FCs – Facilitate connections between silos and focus attention on important info

Collective action can happen as social capital builds

Broad engagement is critical for systems change

Gave examples of FPCs across NC

Here is a link to a website that has resources for food councils in various forms of development: communityfoodstrategies.com

Jared concluded and asked meeting participants to sign up for a task force if they are interested in working together to form a food council

Q&A and Whole group discussion:

We must consider equity in the food system early

  • Yes, it’s very important to have a broad base of engagement early during council development

Questions about funding

  • Funding needs depend on council structure and goals. One part of the task force might want to focus on determining funding needs and options.

Question about examples of what FCs do:

  • Cabarrus County – 10% procurement policy of local foods during government functions
  • Sheep grazing on solar farms
  • Here is a link to more examples from Cabarrus County – link

Examples from Oregon – connecting farmers with faith communities to hold farmers’ markets after worships

  • Double bucks programs to promote use of EBT benefits at farmers’ markets
  • Demo project looking at what grains grow in the area
  • Funded through USDA funds, churches, foundations, volunteer work

New FPCs – what is a budget?

  • Facilitation fees
  • Often need help with admin – might have in-kind help
  • There are creative options

Closing comments from the whole group:

What might be the benefits of developing a food council in Orange County?

  • Coordinating hunger relief in the county
  • Talk to older farmers to think of new strategies and diversify products
  • Involve schools and institutions
  • Bring diversity of voices of to the council
  • Food system assessment – see where holes are and low-hanging fruit *critical role of the council
  • Ask what’s driving local food movement – better quality foods, and brings younger people into farmer – nutrition and taste difference. Food has been selected for high yield and long shelf life
  • Collaborating between organizations and building network
  • Working with parents and school food
  • Cooking ethnically diverse food
  • Food access and downtown development
  • Capture a lot of $ into our local economy
  • Looking at existing plans that may not be fully facilitated
  • Farming is a struggle – how can we support farmers?
  • Need to include processers and retail in this conversation
  • Take responsibility for creating local sustainable food system
  • Consideration of efficiency and looking at food waste
  • Policy advocacy – making things cost what they really cost
  • Health Dept. has a lot of data on food availability – who do we give the data to? Depts. have policies they could suggest to a council
  • UNC is a big “citizen” in the county – LARGE buyer – could coordinate to provide affordable options
  • Promote community gardens – coordinating and getting grants together
  • Food justice
  • Conserving farmland
  • Mitigating climate change – better survive through uncertain time

Next steps:

  • Please sign up for the task force that will meet over the next 6-12 months to develop a food council in Orange County
  • Check the website for updates and more information: wordpress.com

Thank you!


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