Prioritize Your Issues
The following questions are frequently used as criteria in determining priorities for community health improvement. They can similarly be applied to prioritizing issues for food system improvement. The criteria is split between importance of the issue and the potential ability of the food council or community group to impact change.
Importance: How important is the issue?
- Size: How many people are affected by the issue?
- Equity: Are specific groups affected by this issue more than others?
- Seriousness: To what degree does this problem affect food, farming and health?
- Trends: Is the problem getting better or worse in the community over time?
- Consequences of Inaction: What are the risks associated with exacerbation of the problem if it is not addressed at the earliest opportunity?
Ability to Impact: How hard would it be for the food council to positively affect this issue?
- Need: How many other groups are already working on this issue?
- Intervention: Are there any existing examples of policy change that has proven to be effective in addressing the problem?
- Capacity: What is the capacity of the food council reasonably work on policy solutions for the issue given the available resources of the council?
- Feasibility: How much impact in the local community can the council have on this particular issue?
Fill out this ranking form as a group to prioritize each of the issues that your council is considering for advocacy engagement. Rank each issue from the highest to lowest score and choose the top issues for your group to make strategic advocacy plans for engagement. We recommend that councils go deeper in their process and engage a specific working group and the community in a process to formally identify and adopt a set of issues that the council explores through a policy platform or campaign.
Policy Platforms & Campaigns
Platforms and campaigns are an adopted set of principal policy goals which are supported by political parties, individual candidates for elected office, and organizations in order to appeal to their constituents and the general public. The purpose of platforms and campaigns are to educate the public on complicated topics, and to build their interest in and support for important issues. Platforms and campaigns can be smaller, focusing on one or two short-term issues, or can be comprehensive with a multi-year focus on several issues.
Some food councils develop policy platforms or campaign as a way to draw attention to an issue or set of issues that they feel is important to change in their community food system. Once your council has several people who are interested in policy change, Community Food Strategies recommends forming a Policy Working Group or creating a separate meeting space to come together to prioritize a list of two to six issues to focus your platform or campaign.
It is important that food councils are representative of the groups most affected by the issues they seek to address. “Nothing about us without us” is a motto that we believe is a foundation for how food councils approach their work. Empowering those who are marginalized and suffering the worst consequences of bad food system policy to take on leadership roles in developing policy platforms and campaigns will lead to more authentic, and ultimately more effective, advocacy efforts.Community Food Strategies recommends grounding your food council in these 7 Principles for Taking Action, and committing to them as the foundation for your council’s engagement in issues and advocacy.
When prioritizing your issues and creating your platform or campaign, make sure to give plenty of thought not only to the intent of the policy changes you suggest, but any potential negative impacts down the line. Wherever possible, provide as much guidance as possible on policy, practice, program and investments implementation that will ensure equitable outcomes. When thinking about improving current outcomes, consider what the data tells you about who currently does and who does not benefit from existing policy and practices. What are your strategies for advancing racial equity or mitigating unintended consequences in existing policy and practices and in new ideas that your council is considering advancing?
Keeping these considerations at the forefront of your food council’s policy and advocacy work, your food council should also choose issues where your group has the energy and capacity to engage. Groups we work with have found this issue identification and prioritization process helpful when identifying their community’s food system policy needs and balancing that with their capacity as a group. Once your food council or group has prioritized which issues will be the focus of your platform or campaign, you are now ready to plan how you will achieve the change you want to make.
Examples of Food System Policy Platforms and Campaigns
NC Food Councils
Food Councils in Other States
- Denver (CO) Sustainable Food Policy Council 2017 Platform
- Pima County (AZ) Food Alliance 2017-18 Policy Platform
- Philadelphia (PA) Food Advisory Council 2018 Policy Platform
- HEAL Food Alliance Platform for Real Food
- Pesticide Action Network
- National Young Farmers Coalition Young Farmer Agenda