Our Region is Ready for an Office of Food Policy – Are Our Elected Officials up to the Challenge?
With the upcoming election on the horizon, we have an opportunity to talk with our public officials about the importance of locally produced food. This letter has been crafted to help get the conversation started.
We are fortunate to have many people in our local food community working to build a better agri-food system in the greater Cincinnati area. Organizations and Governmental offices such as Green Umbrella, the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council, Green BEAN Delivery, Ohio Valley Food Connection, Our Harvest Cooperative, CORV Local Food Guide, Cultivate! Ohio Valley, the City of Cincinnati's Office of Environment and Sustainability, and a wide array of farmers, chefs, and health advocates are developing our food system as a resource to improve the well-being, wealth, sustainability, and livability of our region.
A robust local food system offers solutions to severe problems we face in our communities, such as diet-related disease, food insecurity, poverty, and environmental degradation. A regional ecosystem grounded in family farms and processing facilities means widespread access to healthy foods and a growing job market anchored in an agroecological and sustainable relationship with our land.
The challenges we face are complex, making this a time of opportunities. Creating an Office of Food Policy to provide coordination and leadership for the region will be a huge advancement. Governments on this path are in Minneapolis, Louisville, Portland, Baltimore, Boston, and New York City, to name just a few around the country. They coordinate and oversee a variety of initiatives related to food security, sustainability, urban agriculture, healthy food, etc. Offices such as these are crucial to establishing, growing and advancing local and regional food policies and related businesses.
It is estimated that Hamilton County has a $173 million unmet demand for local fruit and vegetables alone. This is 40 times our current local production. There is a huge economic potential waiting to be met. We need our leaders to push policies and programs for expanding production, processing, and distribution of locally grown foods. Strong, committed support for agriculture related economic initiatives must come from elected officials.
Six years ago, prophetic writer and farmer Wendell Berry and agricultural researcher and writer Wes Jackson called for a 50-year farm bill. They wrote:
Thoughtful farmers and consumers everywhere are already making many necessary changes in the production and marketing of food. But we also need a national agricultural policy that is based upon ecological principles.
They acknowledged that changes were happening, not on the national level, but on the individual and local level. While we still don’t have a 50-year farm bill, we do have a growing local food movement. Unless we get more support to build the infrastructure, our local food supply will come from farms near Columbus, Indianapolis, and Louisville. Each region is building a food-based economy. A strong regional food economy is needed in the Greater Cincinnati region as well. Offices of Food Policy would be a great next step in our foodshed.
By: Ken Stern, Charlie Gonzalez, Anne Welling, Deborah Jordan, Breanna Parker, and Alan Wight
Thank you to everyone who has signed to support this effort. If you would like to add your signature to the list please sign your name below in the comments.
Pleasant Ridge & Participant in Rooted in Food
Mary Dudley, M.A. Botany
Youth Education Coordinator
Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati
Urban Farmer, Eden Urban Gardens, LLC
Professor & Advisor
Cincinnati State Technical & Community College
Food educator and advocate,
Kristen St. Clair
In the Field LLC
Miami University Institute for Food
Joseph T. Gorman
Camp Washington Urban Farm
Enright Ridge Urban Ecovillage Farm Project
Michelle Savoti, Nancy Sullivan
Jim Schenk, Sandie Lett
Angela Larck, Ashley Philpot
Contact: Suellyn Shupe
MiMi Chamberlin, Executive Director
CAIN - Churches Active In Northside, www.cainministry.org
Professor, University of Cincinnati
Producer, CORV Local Food Guide
Creative Director, CORV Local Food Guide
Manager, Cultivate Ohio Valley
Charlie Gonzalez & Anne Welling
OEFFA, SW Ohio Chapter
Mike Eck and Denise Eck
Co-Founders of Rooted in Food
Produce Perks, Midwest
Healthy Outreach Coordinator
Michael Loadenthal, Ph.D.
Visiting Professor, Miami University
Trazana A. Staples
Kathleen R. Smythe
Professor, Xavier University
Gorman Heritage Farm
Sue Plummer, Manager
Julie Hanser Community Garden
Mercy Neighborhood Ministries