What is a food council anyway?
Food councils unite community members with a shared interest in food-related issues, in an effort to advocate for local food systems that benefits the community at large. Food councils are comprised of cross-sector stakeholders, including but not limited to farmers, food vendors, government officials, business owners, nonprofits, universities and colleges, and consumers. The inclusive nature of a food council gathers an array of expertise and resources that enables a more informed evaluation and holistic consideration of food-related objectives.
Collectively the council aims to identify, propose, and advocate for ways to advance community health, food access, environmental sustainability, and economic development. Food councils tend to meet regularly to work on initiatives, which may include topics related to the viability of locally owned and operated farms, policies that regulate the agriculture and food service industries, waste management and reduction, consumer education, and much more.
How did the Cape Fear Food Council come to be?
In 2016, New Hanover County was finalizing its first ever long-range Comprehensive Plan. Included in the drafted plan were guidelines for various economic development strategies, including land use regulations. One point of discussion was the inclusion of farmland preservation goals, which could restrict the potential for commercial development of these lands. Upon learning that there was some debate over the necessity of farmland protections, several local nonprofits and community members decided to attend a Planning Board meeting and speak to the multitude of benefits that came with preserving the already limited farmland in New Hanover County.
These efforts by community members incited the realization of the bargaining power and vitality of a unified voice when lobbying for policy amendment and creation, igniting the formation of the Cape Fear Food Council. Preservation of land for farmers and concern for the local food system were shared interests initially uniting these individuals and organizations.
CFFC is the result of the desire to be more openly collaborative and to serve as a pathway for the community to have more involvement in local food systems initiatives. The food council was formed with the assistance of Community Food Strategies, a multi-organization initiative in NC that "works to empower local food councils with knowledge and organizational capacity". CFFC is proudly one of more than 30 food councils in North Carolina.