Interact for Health

Food Policy Council to help change systems to improve food access

(Dec 21st, 2015)

Where we live helps determine how easily we can buy healthy foods. This is especially true in lower-income communities or food deserts. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 23.5 million Americans live in food deserts. Approximately 25 percent of Cincinnati residents live in a food desert, which puts them at greater risk for obesity and diet-related illnesses.

That's why Interact for Health provided a grant to Green Umbrella to plan and create the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council, which launched in spring 2015. Its nearly 40 members come from a variety of backgrounds, including farms, government agencies and nonprofit organizations. They look at food policy and identify changes in systems that can improve access to healthy food, particularly for those who live in rural areas and food deserts (see map below).

The council works in Hamilton, Butler, Clermont and Warren counties in Ohio; Boone, Campbell, Kenton and Grant counties in Kentucky; and Franklin and Dearborn counties in Indiana. The council's work will range from developing legislation to creating voluntary guidelines and administrative processes that allow programs to develop. The goal is to create a sustainable regional food system that includes everyone and allows people to easily access healthy foods in their communities.

In addition to the full council, four work groups will focus on:

  • Food access and consumption
  • Food production and land use
  • Food distribution and procurement
  • Community assessment, planning and zoning

In 2016 the council will host a forum about food and launch two programs. Good Food Fellows will allow college students to pursue their studies about food. The Good Food Fund will support innovation and entrepreneurship in food distribution and access. Interact is represented on the council by Jaime Love, who serves on the group's steering committee, Kate Keller and board member Brewster Rhoads. Interact is committed not only to provide funds, but to lend our expertise toward moving the work forward.

The council welcomes input and participation from organizations and residents regarding any of the work group topics. To stay abreast of all that is happening, please visit http://www.greenumbrella.org/Greater-Cincinnati-Regional-Food-Policy-Council.