By John McCracken
BROWN COUNTY – An effort to bring together food producers, producers, educators and advocates in northeastern Wisconsin has been simmering for years.
Now the NEW Food Forum is ready to present its findings and take action to develop the region’s first food action plan.
NEW Food Forum, an initiative of local nonprofit family farms, local government, consumers and New Leaf Foods, presented its findings at a virtual and in-person hybrid event on June 29 at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College ( NWTC) Landscape and Horticulture Building, located at Green Bay Botanical Garden.
A food action plan develops and recommends policy and planning for local entities to examine the economic, social and environmental impact of food.
Amanda Chu, Manager of Sustainable Gardens and Farms for the NWTC and District 3 Supervisor in Brown County, has been coordinating the survey process for almost two years.
The mostly volunteer-led initiative has been boosted by food production shortages and an increase in demand for food insecurity plans caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The aim of the survey and planning is to connect all the different groups, such as restaurants, farmers, indoor aquaponics growers, local pantries, health agencies, agricultural educators, and local government agencies to think about food in an integrated way.
By connecting all of these groups, Chu said it would be easier to build on the strengths of the region’s unique food and agricultural production.
“We are looking for immediate short-term gains that we could achieve in these policy priority areas if it relates to the work people are already doing,” she said.
After presenting the results, Chu said the next step is to develop a food action plan, among other future plans for the production landscape in the region.
Of the 53 stakeholder responses – which she defines as individuals or groups working in the Northeastern Wisconsin food value chain – food production, access to healthy diets and food sovereignty were the main priorities of respondents.
Other counties, such as Dane and Milwaukee, have developed action plans and subsequent dietary advice to connect food producers, producers and educators.
Chu said those interviewed who placed high importance on food sovereignty were a “very pleasant surprise.”
The US Department of the Interior of Indian Affairs defines food sovereignty as the ability of a community to determine and control the quality, quantity, production and distribution of the food consumed.
She said there was still work to be done as one of the glaring findings was the lack of response from people or organizations working in marginalized communities, which Chu said was necessary for the plan to be successful. effective for all types of consumers and producers in the region.
“There is still a lot of work to be done to develop relationships and find meaningful commonality between food systems and the world of social agencies,” she said.
Questions about the event and the NEW Food Forum can be directed to Chu at [email protected]