Rochester Food Policy Council
Healthy Food, Healthy Lives
May 3, 2022
A core strategy for improving health and food security is developing and implementing local food systems plans that reflect regional and local circumstances, strengths, and deficits.
Local food systems plans tackle issues such as: engaging health care systems to advocate for and provide healthier institutional food; starting new farmers markets and urban farms; changing zoning to allow the establishment of new supermarkets and other food access points; strengthening farm-to-school programs; expanding nutrition assistance programs; establishing or scaling local food hubs; and educating government officials and community members about what the food system is and why it is important. Most local planning groups are run by volunteers and are loosely organized. Full-time dedicated staff and organizational structure are needed to accelerate and improve the development of local food systems plans. In 2022, NYHealth awarded Common Ground Health a grant to help develop a formal local healthy food plan tailored to the Finger Lakes region and advocate for policy changes to make healthy, local, and affordable food more available to New Yorkers.
Under this grant, Common Ground Health partnered with the Rochester Food Policy Council (FPC) to develop a local food action plan. FPC engaged in workshops, trainings, and visits to local food system sites to increase learning and build relationships and capacity. Common Ground Health expanded community engagement work and retooled its website to create more interaction with the public. By committing itself to equitable representation, compensation for resident participation, and robust community engagement, FPC developed policy decisions that were informed by and benefited communities of color. FPC worked with a wide range of partners on the food policy action plan, including businesses, farmers markets and food hubs, faith communities, the health care sector, academic institutions, and the urban agriculture sector. Residents were also deeply involved in the planning process. The project demonstrated successes in resident-led food policy decisions and provided models and practices that can be used in cities across New York State.
NYHealth is also supporting complementary food planning initiatives with Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rochester Food Bank of the Southern Tier, Adirondack Health Institute, Equity Advocates, and Newburgh Urban Farm and Food Initiative.