Convening and collaborating are central to how we work, so we seize the opportunity to share what we've learned and get new ideas from peers and partners when we can. This June, we've had several such opportunities, and the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council has been well-represented at events near and far.
Midwest Regional Sustainability Summit
Panels and 5-Minute Presentations
Green Umbrella's annual Summit provided the opportunity for Food Policy Council members, partners, and stakeholders to gather and discuss projects and issues facing our region on June 16, 2022. Activities throughout the day highlighted themes and issues that cross-cut sustainability, resilience, climate, and equity topics, including food.
But there were several food-focused sessions, including a panel that the Food Policy Council hosted, called "A Food Secure Community: Resilience Through Relationships, Trust, and Local Solutions." The panel featured passionate leaders working in food and community in our region (pictured right to left in the photo below, and working in nested scopes from the hyperlocal neighborhood level to the county level and beyond):
Mary Delaney, Executive Director, Community Matters
Mona Jenkins, Cooperative Food Justice Coordinator, Co-op Cincy
Tony Staubach, Food Waste Diversion Coordinator, Hamilton County R3Source
Food Policy Council partners, including our panelists, are pioneering small, localized food system solutions that connect neighbors and meet their food needs. These neighborhood-led efforts include buying clubs, co-operative grocery stores, food access points, and education and support in reducing wasted food. By reflecting on their successes in the larger context of the region, the session strived to make the intersection of food equity and sustainability more evident and inspire attendees to join us in this impactful work. Making time for relationship- and trust-building, avoiding one-off transactional approaches, and understanding that community members know their priorities best were some of the key points the panelists emphasized.
The Summit also featured a well-attended session about collaboration among Cincinnati's various composting organizations and advocates, including Compost Now, Queen City Commons, and Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation.
In addition to panels, two of the Food Policy Council's long-running members took to the main stage for lightening round five-minute presentations. Tony Staubach mobilized the audience around Hamilton Co. R3Source's Wasted Food Stops With Us campaign through poetic verse, and Prof. R. Alan Wight continued on in the artistic vein by sharing about the Cincinnati's Foodshed: An Art Atlas project.
Digital access to recordings of the Summit's main stage sessions is available for purchase now, in case you missed it!
American Public Health Association
Policy Action Institute and Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge Workshop
As recipients of the American Public Health Association's (APHA) Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge grant, we were invited to attend the APHA's annual Policy Action Institute in Washington, D.C. Our Director, Maddie Chera, and Healthy Food Access & Consumption Leadership Team member, Malika Smoot (City of Cincinnati Health Department), represented us at the Institute and also participated in the workshop for grantees the following day.
The Policy Action Institute covered a range of topics, but some highlights included hearing from Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, listening to a panel about addressing mis- and disinformation in public health, and encountering youth leaders in public health, for whom equity and access are obvious priorities. Our takeaways included:
focus on systems change and the built environment so that healthy choices are easy to make
prioritize clear and consistent messaging, and
engage people around public health issues before asking for action in a particular crisis.
At the workshop for our Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge cohort, the primary highlight was meeting members of our peer communities! This grant project launched just as the COVID-19 pandemic started, so many of the originally planned opportunities to gather with other cities and counties working on the Challenge switched to online-only.
This workshop allowed our Cincinnati team to network and share tactics with other food policy councils, health departments, non-profits, and policymakers from places like Pittsburgh, PA; Deerfield Beach, FL; and Cumberland Co., NC. It also gave us focused time to work together on plans for continuing to build on the community-centered work we've accomplished through the Challenge and to counter White supremacy culture in food systems. Go #Communities4Health!
School Nutrition Association of Wisconsin Annual Conference
Farm to School Metrics Panel
We have been participating in the National Farm to Institution Metrics Collaborative efforts for a couple of years. The Collaborative works to align local food procurement data collection and reporting around shared metrics. This month, we were honored to present as an invited speaker on a panel all about Farm to School work in this area at the annual conference of the School Nutrition Association of Wisconsin. The association has over 1,150 members, mostly professionals working in school food service, and it advocates for children's quality nutrition through education.
After preparing with our Farm to School team and partners at food hub and distributor What Chefs Want!, our Director, Maddie Chera, presented virtually to the in-person event. Alongside representatives from the National Farm to Institution Metrics Collaborative and NOFA-VT, we discussed how good data and shared metrics can help schools tell a meaningful story about their local purchases. Shared metrics allow us to
evaluate and compare progress, challenges, and impact across sectors and regions;
provide consistency and transparency in reporting;
support strategic development of regional, equitable value chains;
and offer new ways to learn from others in the Farm to Institution world.
The audience was interested to hear about how one of our partnering school districts, Cincinnati Public Schools, has led the region as an adopter of the Good Food Purchasing Program. We also shared how our capacity to use data effectively has grown over time and in close collaboration with other organizations, like schools and local food distributors. Data on schools' procurement of local food has helped our team identify which schools might be interested in expanding their comprehensive Farm to School offerings, not only in food service, but also through the integration of local food into the curriculum, support for educator professional development, and provision of communication tools to support food service staff and school administrators.
It was exciting to learn more about what other regions have done to advocate for Farm to School spending and how the national shared metrics could take our use of data for change in the food system to the next level.
That's a wrap on a flurry of conferences this June, but we look forward to the next round of opportunities to networking, sharing, and learning!
Participation in the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge activities was supported by APHA, a membership association that champions the health of all people and all communities, with support from the Aetna Foundation, an independent, charitable, philanthropic affiliate of CVS Health. The views presented here are those of the author and not necessarily those of the American Public Health Association or the Aetna Foundation, its directors, officers, or staff.
Funding for much of the other activities discussed here was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant AM190100XXXXG181. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.
🗣️ Do you have an opportunity to share and learn with the Food Policy Council or a recent conversation our members should know about? Get in touch to let us know!