Members of The Inaugural Birmingham-Jefferson Food Policy Council Meet at United Way

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Greater Birmingham Community Food Partners and the Health Action Partnership have announced the members of the region's first Food Policy Council. Charged with identifying strengths and opportunities in the local food system, new members attended an all-day retreat Thursday, Jan. 12 at United Way of Central Alabama.

During the Food Policy Council's first meeting, members participating in a round-table discussion about the strengths and opportunities in the metro's food system.

Our food system affects us in more ways than we realize, and this council is a huge step toward correcting many of the inefficiencies and inequalities in the current framework," says Suzette Harris with the Jefferson County Department of Health.

Greater Birmingham Community Food Partners, a member of the Health Action Partnership, has announced the members of the inaugural Birmingham-Jefferson Food Policy Council. The group met for the first time Thursday, Jan. 12 at United Way of Central Alabama.

Renowned food policy pioneer Mark Winne led the retreat. Winne helped start the first food policy council in Knoxville, Tenn., in 1981. He will help the council determine its leadership structure and set priorities for 2012.

"The food policy council becomes kind of like a table," Winne told The Birmingham News in September. "Bring our ideas — bring our food, so to speak — and come up with a plan to have the food system work as optimally as possible for everybody."

Twenty-one community leaders have been selected for the new council, tasked with improving Jefferson County’s overall food system. According to a 2010 study conducted by Main Street Birmingham, nearly 90,000 Birminghamians live too far from mainstream grocery stores and therefore lack access to fresh, healthful foods such as fruits and vegetables.

"The bottom line is that our food system affects us in more ways than we realize, and this council is a huge step toward correcting many of the inefficiencies and inequalities in the current framework," says Suzette Harris with the Jefferson County Department of Health. "A lot of people simply eat unhealthy because that's their only real option, and that's not sustainable for a healthy community." Harris oversees county-wide obesity initiatives for the Jefferson County Health Action Partnership.

Those interested in serving on the council in the future may serve on a working group in the meantime to familiarize themselves its goals and its members. To learn more about the Birmingham-Jefferson Food Policy Council, including working groups, call Food Policy Council Coordinator Jennifer Ropa at 205-229-7871.

Jefferson County Health Action Partnership is a coalition of more than 100 nonprofit organizations working alongside the Jefferson County Department of Health to encourage physical activity, reduce obesity, expand food access, advance smoke-free policies, reduce tobacco use and improve the overall health of Jefferson County residents. http://www.championsforhealth.org.

Birmingham-Jefferson Food Policy Council members are: Monica Baskin (UAB School of Public Health), Virginia Bear (Alabama Beverage Association), Hana Burwinkle (Jefferson County Department of Land Planning & Development Services), Craig Corwin (Jefferson County Department of Health), David Fleming (Operation New Birmingham), Burgin Fowlkes (Jefferson County Department of Health), James Gibbs (City of Birmingham), Keecha Harris (KHA, Inc.), Maureen Holt (Little Savannah), Aimee Johnson (American Diabetes Association), Natalie Kianoff (Children’s Policy Council of Jefferson County), John Obert, Jr. (J3 Organics), Mark Rubino (Staysail Group, LLC), Ama Shambulia (West End Community Garden), Scott Silver (Jones Valley Urban Farm), Ellie Taylor (Alabama Grocers Association), Spencer Taylor (Birmingham City Schools), Patricia Terry (Samford University), Paulette VanMatre (Magic City Harvest), Chris Vizzina (Campus Dining), Kristie Waters (Adams Produce Companies).

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