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Detroit Food Policy Council

When Detroit City Council in 2009 adopted a Policy on Food Security that called for a hunger-free, food secure city; a sustainable food system that provided high quality food and jobs; and a food system that contributed to the long-term health of the environment – they also called for the formation of the Detroit Food Policy Council. Today, the council is a leader in food systems reform. 
Michigan Nightlight: In your view, what makes your program innovative, effective or remarkable? 
Detroit Food Policy Council Coordinator Cheryl Simon: The Detroit Food Policy Council is innovative and effective for a number of reasons. First, the Council was formed as a result of grassroots leadership and continues to prioritize the experiences and voices of residents of the city.

In June of 2006 the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN) spoke before the Neighborhood and Community Service Standing Committee of the Detroit City Council, chaired by Council Member JoAnn Watson, and pointed out that Detroit did not have a comprehensive food security policy, and discussed with the committee the benefits of developing such a policy. At that time, they were appointed to head a task force to develop a food security policy for the City of Detroit. Over the next 18 months, the DBCFSN’s Public Policy Committee researched, wrote, and revised several drafts of a food security policy for the City of Detroit, including input from residents as well as from other food policy councils around the U.S. and Canada. In March, 2009, the Detroit City Council adopted the Food Security Policy for the City of Detroit. To read the policy, go to: http://www.detroitfoodpolicycouncil.net/Organizing_Documents.html#Policy
Second, we operate with a consensus, decision-making model whenever possible, and our priorities are driven by the concerns of residents. The council board members serve as individuals. There are 12 seats for various sectors of the food system, six community members, and one representative each from the Detroit City Council, the Mayor’s Office, and the
One of the hard lessons that we have learned is that consensus doesn’t mean everyone agrees and that we must be vigilant about creating an environment where all voices are valued.
Department of Health and Wellness.  
What makes the DFPC effective is that those involved are passionate about ensuring that all Detroiters are hunger-free, healthy, and benefit economically from the food system that impacts their lives. Our council members and most work group volunteers are Detroiters, too. We work to ensure that our priorities reflect what is most important to residents, especially those who are most affected by the broken food system since many of these citizens’ experiences are not considered when policies are being developed. 
What was the best lesson learned in the past year?
We have learned many lessons in the past year, but one critical lesson is that Detroiters are interested in a better food system and are willing to work to improve it. Detroiters want quality food, better access to good food, more opportunities for both jobs and ownership, and better customer service. The food system is complex and we need to create many points of entry for citizens to engage. Another related lesson is that building relationships is critical; they must be intentional and that it takes time. There is a lot of interest in the food system and many individuals and organizations who are doing similar work. Building relationships among council board members and residents, within and across sectors of the food system, will strengthen our ability to affect policy.   
What was the hardest lesson learned in the past year?
One of the hard lessons that we have learned is that consensus doesn’t mean everyone agrees and that we must be vigilant about creating an environment where all voices are valued. There are many passionate people working to improve the food system and we are all learning that there are times when decisions we make may be less than perfect but it is important that when we come to a decision that we all work hard to support it.
What really differentiates this program?
What really differentiates the Detroit Food Policy Council is our focus on food policy and the fact that we prioritize the voices and experiences of residents.  
What are the keys to success for your program?
In 2012, we are spending time articulating our values, developing our goals and objectives, and defining the various roles that we will play within the food system.  Taking the time to does this now will enable the DFPC to more quickly react to
Food policies are critical in creating a supportive environment for a local, sustainable food system that is accessible, just, and benefits Detroiters’ health and the economy.
changes in the food system and be true to our intent of building consensus. At the same time, we are working to develop partnerships with like-minded individuals and organizations that are focused on food security, food justice and food sovereignty. 
Why does Detroit need policies around food and access to food?
Food policies are critical in creating a supportive environment for a local, sustainable food system that is accessible, just, and benefits Detroiters’ health and the economy. Food production is one major aspect of the food system. Others are production and processing, distribution, retail, and waste/composting.  Over the past few years, there has been an explosion in the number of gardens and small farms of all sizes that are growing food in the city. However, the city
has no form of agricultural policy to guide its decisions regarding land use and agriculture. This has made it difficult for residents to lease or purchase city property for the purpose of gardening.
Only uses that are listed in the Zoning Ordinance are considered legal uses. However, there is not a code that says gardening and farming are specifically illegal. They just have not been “legalized” yet. That is likely to change in the very near future. The City Planning Commission, with support from the Detroit Food Policy Council, has drafted an Urban Agriculture Ordinance that will set the rules for agriculture in the city. 

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  • Detroit Food Policy Council
    The Detroit Food Policy Council is committed to nurturing the development and maintenance of a sustainable, localized food system and a food-secure city of Detroit in which all of its residents are hunger-free, healthy and benefit economically from ...


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