Chicago Food Policy Summit: Farm to School and More

March 26, 2008

Today we have a guest blog from HSC Intern Dennis Fiser. Dennis recently graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in environmental studies and is beginning a new job on an organic farm later this Spring.   

Last Tuesday, hundreds of interested citizens, community organizations, legislators and food activists converged at the Chicago Cultural Center to take part in the 3rd annual Food Policy Summit, hosted by the Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council. It was the biggest turnout by far in three years, including major figures in the Chicago and Illinois food communities.

Attendees included Jim Slama, Jim Braun, and Debbie Hillman – members of the newly formed Illinois Local Food and Farms Task Force – along with the Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Health, aldermen, and Illinois Senator Jackie Collins and Representative Julie Hamos, who sponsored the Food, Farms & Jobs Act of 2007. The act, which has now become law, is a major legislative step in building a sustainable, fair and economically productive food system here in Illinois.

As has become tradition, one of the highlights of the Food Summit was the food itself – made with ingredients grown and raised by local farmers and prepared by local bakeries and chefs – including lamb shanks from Harry Carr at Mint Creek Farm, strawberry-raspberry preserves from Chris Covelli and Tomato Mountain Farm, pastries (including the most delicious teacakes imaginable) from Bleeding Heart Bakery, Floriole, and Vella, cheeses from Prairie Fruits Farm and Brunkow Cheese, vegetables from Growing Power and Genesis Growers, and many, many more. (For a full list, click here.)

The latter half of the day involved plenty of networking and several breakout sessions on topics such as selling to local markets, Farm to School programs, youth leadership and food access.

Farm to School programs and other initiatives that increase access to fresh, healthy food in our communities can go a long way toward improving children’s health and combating skyrocketing rates of childhood obesity and related diseases.

The Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council also released a new report, Building Chicago’s Community Food Systems, which highlights initiatives within Chicago and across the nation where cities and states are taking an active role in promoting urban agriculture, securing food access in underserved communities, composting, and building organic and local food systems. The report helps set the stage for future collaboration between community organizations and the city on food policy.

The Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council is network of organizations and individuals sharing their experiences and concerns about food security in the Chicago region. The goal is to influence policy makers to make informed decisions motivated by the goals of community food security.   The council holds quarterly meetings open to everybody who shows up. The next meeting is on May 20, 2008, and the location will be posted on the Council’s website, along with a PDF version of the report.