The Portland Food Council celebrated its official launch this week, giving a presentation which included a blueprint for a dynamic local food system that involves urban agriculture and sustainability practices.
The reception marked an evolution of the Council since its original inception in 2012 as the Mayor's Initiative for a Healthy and Sustainable Food System, which launched by then-Mayor Michael Brennan out of ideas from a community food forum, which included Jonah Fertig of MOFGA, Tim Fuller of the city's Healthy Portland program, Lisa Fernandes of Bayside permaculture organization the Resilience Hub, and Jeremy Bloom, who runs the website Internet Farmer.
The present-day Food Council will endeavor to clear access for the sourcing of "healthy, local, and sustainably produced foods by Portland institutions and public schools."
“The Council will bring together community members, food producers and businesses, and city government to create values-based food policies,” said Meghan Quinn, Board Chair of the Food Council.
The Portland Food Council will be informed by numerous models around the country, writes Quinn in an email to the Phoenix; in particular, the Urban Agriculture and Food Policy Plan in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Some of the methods there include shared-use kitchens and urban farm incubators. In recent years, some of the ideas of the Portland Food Council have included "goat mowing" initiatives, community gardens, and public orchards.
The Food Council has a 15-member Board, including representatives from Maine Farmland Trust, Maine Food Strategy, Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative, Maine Coast Fishermen's Association, Cumberland County Food Security Council, Fork Food Lab, Forager App, Cultivating Community, UMaine Cooperative Extension, Sodexo, Rosemont Market, Portland Food Co-Op, and the Wayside Food Program.
"The Portland Food Council is the community's voice and connection to the city," writes Quinn. "It will bring together the community; city government; and the private sector to create values-based policy to foster a healthy, sustainable, and resilient food system for Portland."
“It’s vital for organizations like this to help government move forward with policy in our community,” said Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling. “By bringing together diverse stakeholders, the Portland Food Council will have a unique ability to develop recommendations for the city.”
With its board in place, the Food Council is essentially a container for a community volunteer effort. The group encourages those interested in volunteering to join the next Council meeting, and help craft and implement its design, on March 15 from 4–5:30 at City Hall in Portland.
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