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Elizabeth Nelson's City Council Blog

I write a City Council newsletter with my summary of agenda items coming before City Council. Sign up to receive it first via email, or read it here later on this blog.

Promoting Sustainable Food Options

At the March 21, 2022 meeting, City Council approved DC-4, which prompts next steps toward improving the City’s food procurement policies.


DC-4 Resolution to Advance Sustainable Food Options at City Facilities and Events

https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5521298&GUID=9EDAC1A4-2722-4B7A-ABA0-A18F8E8FDF53


This issue was first brought to me last summer by a Ward 4 resident, Louise Gorenflo. She publishes a newsletter about the environmental and ethical impacts of our food production and consumption. You can sign up for her newsletter here:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdbzmG6NTRF769qGHXMdLy_S8Vxy_357jOCYbMDMWqNgJUacA/viewform


Last summer, I had several meetings with city staff - the director of our Sustainability department, Dr Missy Stults, and then-director of our City’s Parks department, Colin Smith - about how to achieve better food procurement policies. In collaboration with City staff, I brought a resolution to the September 7, 2021 Council meeting. My resolution asked for an assessment of food purchases made by the City; it can be found here:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5117475&GUID=C9BFB8E0-089B-41A1-8DE4-84D07EE08D7D


In response to that resolution, staff submitted a report to City Council, which was included as a communication on our February 7 agenda:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5399848&GUID=91D6C981-CC37-49F3-8952-3E1F9C297CF0

Food purchases are not a significant part of the City’s budget, but they are an opportunity for us to lead by example, offering and emphasizing options that are more sustainable and healthy: plant-based, local, and foods with less packaging. Dr. Stults explained at last week’s meeting: the goal of these efforts is to provide more options, not fewer. E.g. The City will look for opportunities to offer healthier, plant-based options alongside other choices that are already available. Work on this issue is already being done at the county level through the Washtenaw County Food Policy Council. You can read more about the work of the WCFPC here:

https://washtenawfoodpolicycouncil.wordpress.com


This resolution was a very good example of how and where residents can engage with and influence your local government. We are lucky to live in a city full of passionate advocates— I am especially grateful for the times when local residents educated me about issues where City Council can make a difference. This level of government may seem the least powerful and the least significant, but it is also where YOU can have the most influence on local decisions that happen in your neighborhood, with your tax dollars! Residents have prompted my policy work on improved pedestrian infrastructure, affordable housing, tenants rights, and sustainable power.


Advocacy from residents can lead to public discussion of issues that matter.