Jun 15, 2023
Collaboration across the country in a community of practice
On May 16-17 HVADC Deputy Director Mary Ann Johnson and associate Sarah Salem traveled to the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus Ohio to represent the Hudson Valley Food System Coalition (HVFSC) at the Regional Food Policy Council Community of Practice. The event brought together regional Food Policy Councils (FPCs) from across the country to participate in seminars, share experiences and build best practices. Salem is HVFSC’s Founder/Director, and Johnson is a workgroup facilitator.
HVADC has been an enthusiastic leading member of the HVFSC since its inception three years ago and supports its mission to realize a more equitable and regenerative Hudson Valley food system by connecting food production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste management practices while encouraging the use of our region's food resources to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of our community.
“As more FPCs, like ours, pop up across the country it’s clear how valuable their role to collaborate and address food system problems really is,” said Johnson. “For Ohio State to bring us together and study this emerging field of service is an immense value to our shared endeavor.”
Through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA AMS), researchers at Ohio State University’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs launched a collaborative research project to support the creation and management of FPCs, like HVFSC, working to strengthen food and agriculture development regionally. The opportunity was won through a competitive application process after a review of over 50 organization application. HVFSC was one of 11 selected to form a community of practice for the 18-month project. The conference in May was used to gather data towards this endeavor.
FPCs bring together stakeholders within varying geographic regions from state level to a single city or county. However, there is growing recognition that effective food system development requires collaborative approaches that expand beyond the political borders of individual cities or counties. For example, the HVFSC is, by design representing Dutchess, Columbia, Ulster, Putnam, Orange, Sullivan and Greene Counties.
“Regional food policy work has emerged as a promising approach to developing equitable, sustainable and vibrant food and agriculture systems,” explained Jill Clark, the project lead and an associate professor of public administration in the Glenn College, in an article published by Ohio State University, November 2022.
The researchers acknowledge that implementing FPCs on a regional level presents unique challenges in a number of ways, including coordination and policy adoption.
“There is need for more resources and information to support food system practitioners working at this scale, including strategies and best practices for equitably engaging diverse stakeholder across larger regions,” Clark said. Over the course of the research project, researchers at Ohio State will collaborate with USDA AMS, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Colorado State University and food policy practitioners from regional FPCs selected to explore effective strategies for regional food system development. Findings and resources from this research will contribute to the creation of training and technical assistance materials to guide local practitioners in the development of regional work and inform the deployment of $400 million in additional funding that the USDA is investing in regional food and agriculture development.
Johnson said the meeting in Columbus offered a unique opportunity to see what other organizations are doing and see how the HVFSC can grow and adapt moving forward. “There was some great discussions around inclusivity and equity,” She said. “We thank the organizers of the gathering for their work. The event was inspiring and highlights that our regional food system coalitions are actually a part of a national network supporting each other’s success.”