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Council History and Background

Welcoming the re-launch of the Council

Read Janet Brown's welcome and challenge for the re-launch of the Marin Food Policy Council, drawing from Richard Levin's essay, Looking at the Whole: Toward a Social Ecology of Health and Wendell Berry's Solving for Pattern.

A Brief History of the Marin Food Policy Council

Marin Food Policy Council was launched in early 1998 to address problems of food access and community food security as they affect Marin communities. At the time of its founding, it was the second food policy council in the nation, after the Hartford Food System in CT.

Its first task was development of a food policy for the County of Marin. MFPC drafted and adopted its Food Policy Document on October 29th, 1998, outlining its vision and plan for cultivation of a sustainable and equitable local food system.

In early 1999, Congress adopted the Community Food Security Empowerment Act as part of that year’s Farm Bill. It was the first federal recognition of the term “community food security” and the adoption of a systems approach to solving problems of food access and hunger at the federal level through the funding of local efforts.

In 1999, MFPC forged a cooperative relationship with UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) and undertook the first community food system assessment for Marin. Working with Dr. Gail Feenstra over a period of two years, MFPC developed a matrix that included natural resources, markets, human resources, government, infrastructure and access to capital.

The results of the Marin County Food System Assessment informed the next project of MFPC—undertaking development of a set of key indicators of the sustainability of the local food system.

MFPC’s Food Policy Document, completion of the Marin County Food System Assessment, and development of key indicators, served to inform the next and most ambitious undertaking of MFPC—that of developing input for updating the Marin Countywide Plan. MFPC worked for several years to develop its input document, and in August of 2004, was the first non-county institution to deliver its input on the day the County opened the process.

MFPC was successful in making a significant impact on broadening the scope of the Agriculture Element of the countywide plan, including changing the name of the Agriculture Element to “The Agriculture and Food Element” and introducing the terms “food system” and “community food security” and the concept of a systems approach to problem solving.  In all, over 20 policies and 14 programs proposed by MFPC were included in the final version of the updated Countywide Plan.

Sometime after the completion of that work and success, Marin Food Policy Council suspended regular meetings, but continued to monitor policy implementation and unfolding events in the local foodshed.

In the summer of 2012, representatives from AIM, UCCE, H&HS, and local farmers, formed a steering committee to reconvene MFPC. Soon after, MFPC was represented at the inaugural meeting of the California Food Policy Council. This action is timely and parallels recommendations in the Marin Community Food System Assessment and Marin Countywide Healthy Eating Active Living Strategic Framework to reconvene MFPC.  With support from Marin Community Foundation, Marin Food Policy Council reconvened regular meetings in December of 2012 with the goal of increasing food access, nutritional health, and sustainability of the food system for all Marin residents.