Skip to Content

Councils Bring Healthy Food to Communities


When Los Angeles celebrated the 30th anniversary of its first farmers’ market in 2009, the city used the occasion to launch a movement.

At a party marking the anniversary, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced the creation of the Los Angeles Food Policy Task Force, charged with developing a good food policy agenda for the city. Out of the task force came the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, a collaborative network that aims to bring healthy, affordable, fair and sustainable food to all Southern Californians.

Since its official launch in 2010, the LAFPC has worked on a wide-range of initiatives to improve the food system in the region, such as helping local merchants offer healthier items in their stores, working to improve food production practices to increase access to healthy food and mobilizing food system champions.

The LAFPC’s successes were highlighted by strategic initiatives coordinator Clare Fox on a webinar sponsored by PolicyLink, the Food Trust and the Reinvestment Fund. With funding provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the three groups have partnered to create the Healthy Food Access Portal, which provides resources designed to improve healthy food access in communities, build local economies and improve overall public health.

The webinar was part of an ongoing series looking at food access issues. The next event will be held on April 4 and is expected to focus on new research and emerging trends that are helping improve access to healthy food in communities across the country.

Food policy councils are playing an active role in expanding opportunities and approaches to increase access to healthy food, said webinar moderator Mary Lee, deputy director of PolicyLink. Such councils increase coordination between government officials, nonprofit organizations, food system advocates and citizens with private sector players such as retailers, grocers, food workers and distributors to create policy strategies that improve access to healthy food.

For example, the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council worked on projects to expand funding for farm to school programs and stopped the sale of sugary soft drinks in schools, according to webinar presenter Lindsey Day Farnsworth, a community and regional food systems researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Meanwhile, the New Orleans Food Policy Advisory Council created a fresh food retailer initiative that uses public and private financing to provide low interest and forgivable loans for retailers who commit to selling fresh produce in underserved neighborhoods. And the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Food and Fitness Policy Council pushed for new procurement policies to help tribal groups buy more locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Food policy councils develop in different ways, Farnsworth noted. The LAFPC formed out of the mayor’s office, for example, while other councils come together as a result of grassroots efforts in the community.

For more information on food councils and food access issues, visit the Healthy Food Access Portal. Click here to sign up for the April 4 webinar.

Editor’s note: is a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.