After a successful interest meeting this week, Orange County residents are gearing up for the creation of a local food policy council. In a recent survey, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future found there were 200 active food policy councils in the United States.
“We were able to provide an overview of what a food council or food policy is like,” said Molly De Marco, project director at the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at UNC. “We were able to get a lot of questions answered and also get some good feedback on what they think issues in our community are and also what our assets are here in Orange County.”
De Marco, who helped organize the meeting, said food councils serve many purposes, from advising elected officials on food policy decisions to hosting nutrition discussions for county residents.
Forty of the 84 people who attended the meeting signed on to participate in a task force that will decide the direction of the council. The task force must decide if the food council will function as a nonprofit or an advisory board.
Sarah Blacklin, N.C. Choices project coordinator for the N.C. Cooperative Extension, said the group’s next phase is to get the task force up and running.
“The formation of an actual council, optimistically, could take minimum one year,” Blacklin said. “But it could take a couple years or more depending on how quickly the formation of the task force happens.”
Event organizers said they are positive about the community’s reception to the potential council, and Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich said the group’s emphasis on merging different residents is a sign of positive things to come.
“I think having people in all different sections of the food chain in the task force is really great — from the farmer to the seller to the consumer and then back into the solid waste cycle,” Rich said.
“If we can identify those folks and get them all together, I think the task force will be very successful.”