Communities and organizations around Iowa are working to initiate and promote a sustainable local food system. A food system includes all processes and infrastructure involved in feeding a population – from field to plate. Linn and Johnson Counties are two of 25 Iowa counties that conducted a Food System Assessment funded through the Community Transformation Grant (CTG). Due to the proximity of both counties and already existing local food system councils, Linn and Johnson County Public Health Departments worked closely throughout the process.
Members of the Linn County Food Systems Council (LCFSC) and Johnson County Food Policy Council (JCFPC) include local growers, anti-hunger advocates, experts in food distribution and processing, education and outreach agencies, and nutritionists and dietitians. Public health staff worked with each Council to identify, collect, assign a status (dependent on trend direction or baseline level), and prioritize over 100 indicators (data points) within the domains of health and wellbeing, environmental health, social and cultural health, and economic health. Examples of indicators collected include how many acres of berries were grown in each county and what percentage of children ate at least 5 fruits or vegetables every day. Each indicator was associated with one of the five food system sectors: access and consumption, production, transformation, distribution and retail, or waste management.
The Food System Assessment is a great tool for communities to identify the interconnections within the food system. Understanding these connections will lead to broader awareness of food system-related issues, stronger public health program development and coordination, and greater capacity to create healthier food environments (which includes grocery stores, restaurants, schools and worksites). The data will help further the work of the Linn County Food Systems Council, Linn County Public Health, Johnson County Food Policy Council, Johnson County Public Health, and other community groups.
The next steps for the Linn and Johnson Food Councils will be to develop at least one Community Food System Plan that is linked to priority indicator(s) from the assessment. The plan will be implemented and evaluated during October 1, 2014- September 30, 2015.
To view Linn County’s Food System Assessment in its entirety visit http:/bit.ly/LinnFoodAssessment or for the Linn County Food System Assessment snapshot visit http://www.linncounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/1671. If you are interested in Johnson County’s Food System Assessment and snapshot report please contact Johnson County Public Health Community Health Division at 319-356-6040 or [email protected]
Funding for CTG is provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).