The COVID-19 crisis is contributing to increases in food insecurity among families in Dane County and across the nation. Market opportunities and supply chains have been compromised for our producers and food businesses. Food workers have seen losses in employment. The ability to safely access fresh, culturally appropriate food has become even more burdensome for some of our most vulnerable communities. These conditions exacerbate the weaknesses and inequities that already exist in our food system, and shine a light on the areas we need to strengthen and improve.
These issues need undivided attention, and so the Dane County Food Council and the Madison Food Policy Council are collaborating to strategize policies and initiatives that will strengthen communities and local food systems across Dane County. Claire Mance, Healthy Communities Coordinator and Jess Guffey Calkins, Food Systems Educator, serve in advisory roles with the food councils. The work will happen through four recently established working groups. These work groups will focus on 1) Food Systems Economic Support, 2) Pandemic Food Access, 3) Food Recovery and Resilience, and 4) Agriculture and Food Sovereignty. Each work group will use scoping tools to determine their project priorities, followed by analyses of both project sustainability and racial equity and social justice.
Each work group comprises council members who bring experience from sectors of policy research, food business, public health nutrition, farming, global health, and more. Initial work group meetings have taken place over the last few weeks and the councils have begun meeting jointly as of July 8th. The work groups look forward to engaging with community stakeholders to further define their priorities. The intentional coordination and collaboration between councils will bolster capacity to devise food system strategies appropriate to Dane County communities.