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What is a Community Food Council?
A Community Food Council (CFC) is a forum where diverse groups and individuals come together to better understand their food system and coordinate actions designed to increase access to healthy food for everyone in their area.
CFCs study, identify, and propose innovative approaches to developing a healthy food system, focusing on those that are socially just, environmentally sound and economically viable. Ideally, they bring together representatives from all aspects of the food system. CFCs take a “systems approach” to improving food and nutrition in the community.
The goal of the CFC is to create a robust and resilient local food system that provides affordable, accessible and nutritious food for everyone, and strengthens local farms and communities, and protects the land, waters and workers that feed us.
What do Community Food Councils do?
Typical food council activities include:
- Educating the public and providing a forum for discussing issues;
- Fostering coordination between sectors in the food system;
- Evaluating, influencing, and developing policy;
- Launching and supporting programs that meet local needs; and
- Serving as a clearinghouse for research and resources related to the local food system
What are some of the other Food Councils in Maine doing?
Formed to create and support improvements to the food system of the Lewiston-Auburn community, the group educates the public and serves as a forum for discussing issues, fosters coordination between sectors in the food system, evaluates and influences policy, and supports programs that meet local needs.
Building a movement in the greater Bethel region that encourages all community members to grow, prepare, serve, purchase and consume local foods, the group supports garden and cooking education projects, and helps bring farm fresh produce into schools and institutions. The group plans to reach out to seniors to identify barriers to purchasing local food, invite area farmers to sell through the buying club, and conduct a community food assessment.
Involving diverse stakeholders including anyone with an interest in our regional food system such as agencies or organizations involved in healthy living, health care, nutrition; support services to agriculture and the fishing sectors and; individuals or businesses involved in providing access to food and the production/harvesting, distribution, and processing of food in Washington County.
Where can I learn more?
The Maine Network of Community Food Councils (MNCFC) Kickstart Guide is an incredible resource. It is accessible here.
Your Land Trust is working closely with the leaders of this project to help make it happen.
If you want to learn more, the Portland Press Herald has an excellent article about the Brunswick FoodShed:
Or, hear it from the great mind behind the project. Maina Handmaker’s TedTalk explains the inspiration:
Thanks to recent grant funding facilitated by Access Health, the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market at Crystal Springs Farm now accepts EBT (electronic benefits transfer) cards, so more local residents are able to purchase items using their SNAP/food stamp benefits. Making the healthier food options available to more people helps to support community growers and provide better nutrition for local families.
Persons interested in using their EBT cards, or any electronic debit cards, can visit the Market Information Booth to receive Market Money Tokens in any amount requested.
“The goal is to allow everyone access to a larger variety of nutritious foods, including fruits, veggies, meats, cheeses, and breads from local Maine farms,” said Melissa Fochesato, Director of Access Health. “Increasing intake of healthy foods is directly linked to prevention of chronic diseases and can lead to a healthier lifestyle.”
“The Land Trust has been exploring options for being able to accept EBT cards at our framers’ market for a number of years. We are thrilled to be able to begin offering this community service through the partnership with Access Health.
This program has been made possible with Community Transformation Grant Small Communities funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in partnership with MaineHealth and Access Health, a Healthy Maine Partnership coordinated by Mid Coast Hospital.
Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) and Kennebec Estuary Land Trust (KELT) have formed a strong regional partnership to enhance the local food economy, raise awareness of the benefits of local food, and increase farmland conservation in the region.
The partnership is currently working on:
- conserving active farmland
- organizing educational events for children and adults promoting local food
- studying the potential for a food hub in the area
- developing and promoting a CSA savings account program with local banks
- assisting farmers’ markets in our service area with their promotional needs
- increasing EBT availability at farmers markets in our service area
- working with restaurants, institutions, and distributors to increase local food use
- investigating the need for and feasibility of a Community Food Council in our region
By cooperating on this innovative project, BTLT and KELT are helping to forge a path toward a more accessible, organized, diverse, and collaborative food system in the Merrymeeting Bay region.