Measuring the Effectiveness of Food Policy Councils in Major Cities in the United States

Foods. 2023 Apr 29;12(9):1854. doi: 10.3390/foods12091854.


The United States food system is comprised of a diversity of stakeholders representing a range of sectors including agriculture, health, hospitality, and other sectors of the economy. Coordinating these wide-ranging aspects of the food system is a challenging responsibility of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its counterparts at the state and county level. While the USDA acknowledges the institutional importance of diversity, it has only recently begun to meaningfully consider the agricultural needs of urban environments, the unique experiences from communities of color, and opportunities for urban agriculture in its purview. This study provides a framework for food systems leaders, specifically in food policy councils (FPCs) in large urban communities, to assess the visibility and effectiveness of their diversity and inclusion initiatives represented across three key domains: (1) leadership and governance structures, (2) key stakeholder engagement strategies, and (3) advance food justice. A cluster analysis of the study results for FPCs in 19 U.S. cities and metropolitan areas across these three domains revealed four distinct groups of food policy councils. Results from the assessment of the urban FPCs reveal that they succeed in embedding diversity and inclusion in all three diversity measures, with key stakeholder engagement receiving the highest score at 73%. On average, FPCs received a score of 54% when assessing diversity and inclusion in their leadership and governance and a score of 49% in their activities to advance food justice. Results of the analysis also highlights opportunities to improve individual, thematic, and cumulative scores. Participation from food systems leadership groups such as food policy councils will be vital in advocating for equitable food systems through urban producer and consumer programs in the upcoming reauthorization of the U.S. farm bill in 2024.

Keywords: diversity and inclusion; food policy; food supply and demand; leadership; urban food systems.

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.