Food policy councils
This issue of the Urban Agriculture magazine (PDF) by RUAF explores the experiences of Food Policy Councils (FPCs) and similar entities, with a particular focus on their approach to inclusiveness, documented impacts, and challenges faced. The governance of food systems is changing. Where once food supply was a matter of top-down planning for national governments, often heavily influenced by market forces, today food systems governance at all levels – from the international to the local – is shifting to more participatory and inclusive forms. A growing number of cities and regions are forming Food Policy Councils (FPCs) and similar groups known by other names, such as multi-stakeholder food forums/platforms, food policy networks, food boards, food coalitions, food partnerships, and food labs. These groups bring stakeholders together to share perspectives on food systems challenges, to develop innovative solutions, and to influence food-related policy and planning. Most FPCs in this issue seek to include a spectrum of stakeholders from across the food system, such as farmers, distributors, processors and vendors. There are also often representatives from different municipal departments or programmes, and from different levels of government. Other non-governmental stakeholders are civil society organisations, NGOs, and citizen representatives, trade unions, research and academic institutes. Some FPCs are instigated by civil society groups that seek to engage local government actors; others are created through local government procedures. Sometimes, though, FPCs struggle to involve stakeholders whose presence would be helpful. A number of challenges faced are: 1) identifying the right moment to set up an FPC or to formalise an existing informal group; 2) determining the ideal structure and institutional home; 3) incorporating as a legal entity; 4) shifting the scale at which an FPC operates and; 5) promoting durability of the FPC over the long term. The experiences in this UA Magazine demonstrate that FPCs (and similar entities) everywhere have lessons to share – no matter whether they were founded 30 years ago or just last year, or what part of the world they are in.