Food networks are a growing trend in Minnesota and across the country. Food networks are a collaborative body consisting of food advocates in a region, which gather to generate collective impact around policy, systems, and environmental approaches related to food, agriculture, health, economy, and/or the environment. Food networks range in size, capacity, governance, and operational structure. In the summer of 2014, interviews were conducted with leaders of 18 food networks across the state to assess the current landscape of food networks in Minnesota. The northern half of the state along with the metro area has at least one, and up to three, food networks in each county, whereas, the central and southern half of the state have minimal food network representation. Food networks are diverse; however, a structural theme for the networks is to have a small governing body, a quarterly network meeting with 20-50 participants, and task forces that meet to address issues/projects such as marketing and outreach, food access, food infrastructure, urban agriculture, education, and food literacy. Membership in food networks is multi-sectorial and can be voluntary, application-based, or appointed positions. The preliminary project for most food networks is to conduct a community needs assessments, followed by policy recommendations related to improving food access for local jurisdictions. Many food networks in Minnesota are also responsible for implementing EBT-eligible farmers markets. Challenges faced by food networks include a lack of time, unclear governance and member accountability, as well as difficulty in navigating multiple jurisdictions within a region.
Bain, Jamie; Meisenhelter, Jesse; Harden, Noelle.
Minnesota Food Network Landscape.
University of Minnesota Extension.
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