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Ohio Creates New Food Policy Council

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Food Policy Council - State Fair
Photo Credit: Ohio Dept. of Agriculture

Ohio's long rural and agricultural heritage is finally poised to rejoin its long urban and industrial heritage. The Ohio Food Policy Advisory Council, unveiled by Gov. Ted Strickland at the 2007 Ohio State Fair, seeks to repair lost links between rural food producers and urban consumers, and to create new food and agriculture jobs in cities and farm towns.

“The food policy council will bring together government, private industry and civil society organizations in a collaborative approach to identify both the barriers and the policy innovations necessary to build food systems,” said Strickland in the Aug. 7 executive order creating the council, on which AFT will have a seat.

In signing the order during a sweltering noontime ceremony in front of the fair’s administration building, Strickland noted that the loss of prime farmland could pose a threat to Ohio’s $80 billion food and agriculture industry. He said strengthening Ohio food production would help preserve the land, feed hungry Ohioans “and provide greater access to fresh and nutritious foods.”

The council's mission is to find ways to boost the production, processing and distribution of Ohio agricultural products, and a key goal is for Ohioans to eat more Ohio food. The council includes officials from several state agencies, including the departments of Agriculture, Development, Job and Family Services, Administration, which will ensure that state institutions, such as prisons and universities, buy more food grown and processed in Ohio.

Ohio Food Policy Council - 2007
Photo Credit: Ohio Dept. of Agriculture

Amalie Lipstreu of The Farmland Center, in northeast Ohio, spearheaded a coalition that included AFT, the Ohio Farmers Union, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Food Banks, and Ohio State University. The informal group researched similar councils in other states and outlined goals for an Ohio model. Within its first four months in office, the Strickland administration embraced the idea in April and began working on details.

“Ohio now has a framework to create jobs and prosperity by tapping into the growing demand for local foods,” Lipstreu said. “Food policy councils focus on food systems as an economic development strategy that links farm production, conservation and farm viability with public health, food security and community well-being. The Strickland administration has taken a proactive step in planning for health and prosperity in the state.”

Brian Williams, AFT's Ohio State Director, and Lipstreu will represent farmland-preservation interests on the council, which is expected to have about 25 members, plus ex-officio members from Ohio departments of Agriculture, Development, Job and Family Services, Administrative Services, Health and others. Others represented on the council include the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, farmers, legislators, food processors, distributors and retailers.

In addition to offering policy recommendations to Strickland, the council will work with the efforts of local food policy councils that operate in some Ohio counties.

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