October 2017

What Are Food Policy Councils?

Join In and Make a Difference


Pam Roy and Helen Henry


For most people the question of where their food comes from stops when they enter their local supermarket. There, on the carefully stocked shelves, are rows and rows of food and related items. Easy. But if you looked at all of the factors that influenced where that food comes from and the choices that were made in the process, you would find a more complex story.


The truth is, your local supermarket is the tip of the iceberg. We all know that somehow, somewhere, farmers are growing food, but most of us are removed from the process. Recent emphasis on labeling where food comes from (in fact, even what county it comes from) helps to give some context, but the process is still very abstract.


Enter the local food policy council. The purpose of a food policy council is to provide an integrated approach, involving government, non-profits and food and farming businesses in a common effort to improve the availability of safe and nutritious food at reasonable prices for all residents, particularly those in need. But it doesn’t stop there. Having access to good nutritious food is equally important. Transportation, affordability and availability of healthy food are all part of the factors in which food policy councils can play a role in creating a comprehensive food system.


Examples of this include the Santa Fe Food Policy Council’s support for the new Mercado del Sur, a farmers’ market on the south side of Santa Fe. Southside residents can now have easier access to fresh, locally grown produce in season. This, coupled with the Fresh RX program, a pilot project of the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market in partnership with La Familia Health Clinic, gives people an incentive to shop at the farmers’ market for fresh fruits and vegetables. The “Fresh Rx” or prescription for fresh produce is like a coupon given by healthcare providers and is redeemable at farmers’ market.


More than 345,000 children in New Mexico participate in school nutrition programs. Through the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council’s work on federal policy change, schools can now buy fresh fruits and vegetables from New Mexico farmers, providing students with fresh local options, while meeting federal school meal guidelines.


These are just some examples of how organizations and agencies can work together to build integrated approaches to both creating sustainable income for farmers and connecting people with fresh healthy food at the source. At the heart the work of food policy councils is partnering with numerous stakeholders throughout the community to understand problems that can be changed through coordinated policy and advocacy efforts.


This can result in overarching goals and recommendations that affect decision and policy makers, and help streamline systems of distribution and influence buying patterns. The overall goal is healthy food and a healthy economy.


Pam Roy, executive director and Helen Henry director of communications of Farm to Table, provide coordination for the Santa Fe and New Mexico Food Policy Councils. Contact pam@farmtotablenm.org. More information can be found at www.santafefoodpolicy.org and www.farmtotablenm.org. Join the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council, Farm to Table and the New Mexico School Nutrition Association for “New Mexico Food and Farms Day, New Mexico School Nutrition Day and the New Mexico Farm to School Awards at the 2018 Legislature,” Jan. 23, 2018. For information, contact: Pam Roy, Farm to Table and the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council, pam@farmtotablenm.org and Kendal Chávez, Farm to School Director, Farm to Table, kendal@farmtotablenm.org




Farm to School Month


October is National Farm to School Month, a time to celebrate the connections happening all over the country between children and local food. From taste tests in the cafeteria and nutrition education activities in the classroom, to farm visits and school garden harvest parties, school, early care and education sites, farms, communities and organizations in all 50 states and D.C. join in the celebrations. 


Schools across New Mexico engage in educational activities, school gardens, and farmers’ fresh fruits and vegetables in schools meals from Grady and Corona to Los Lunas, Santo Domingo Pueblo, Bernalillo, Las Cruces, Española, Albuquerque and Santa Fe.  

National Farm to School Month was designated by Congress in 2010 to demonstrate the growing importance of farm to school programs as a means to improve child nutrition, support local economies and educate children about the origins of food.


Join the celebration of National Farm to School month and its network in New Mexico. For information about programs in your community, contact Kendal Chávez, Farm to School director: Kendal@farmtotablenm.org, www.farmtoschool.org




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