The Johnson County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) recently approved the establishment of the Johnson County Food Policy Council (JCFPC). The JCFPC’s goal is to increase access to healthy, fresh and affordable food for all Johnson County residents. This is important because the Feeding America Map the Meal Gap reports that, in 2013, Johnson County had a food insecurity rate of 12 percent, with over 65,000 individuals not knowing where their next meal was coming from.
What Will The Food Policy Council Do
To begin, the council will take a comprehensive look at the county’s food system, which includes everything from growing and production to distribution and food service. The JCFPC will then narrow their focus and look at parts of the food system that need further examination, such as:
- Are there areas of the county that residents have difficulty accessing affordable, healthy food?
- Is there a need for community nutrition and food education?
- What can be done to increase access to fresh produce for lower income residents?
“The availability of nutritious food for all citizens is essential to the health and well-being of the community,” says Lougene Marsh, Johnson County Department of Health and Environment director. “Recent data shows that 61 percent of Johnson Countians are overweight or obese. We also have a 12 percent food insecurity rate (over 65,000 individuals) who may not know where their next meal is coming from. Something needs to be done to address these issues at all levels.” The JCFPC will be actively looking for solutions and policy recommendations that will ensure all residents of Johnson County have access to healthy, fresh and affordable food. Additionally, the JCFPC will advise the BOCC on policies and practices that could effectively address food access, hunger, obesity, community development, economic development, agriculture, food waste, and nutrition and food education.
Growth of Food Policy Councils
Over the last thirty years, the food policy council model has developed as a way to address gaps in food policy and planning. There are over 100 food policy councils across the United States in cities, counties and states with growing food movements. Food policy councils bring together diverse stakeholders to study the local food system and offer recommendations for policy change. A food policy council includes members who represent local government, agriculture producers, anti-hunger organizations, retail food outlets, local health systems, school districts and charitable organizations.