Regional Food Policy Council Project

Taking a Regional Approach to Strengthening Food Systems

Photo Credit: Carolina Sanchez and Kara Rodriguez; CLF Food Policy Networks Photo Contest, 2018

The food system is a major driver of climate change, environmental degradation, economic inequality, and disparities in food and nutritional security. Further, the COVID-19 pandemic illustrated the fragile nature of reliance on global, consolidated supply chains (See June 1, 2022 Press Release: USDA Announces Framework for Shoring Up the Food Supply Chain and Transforming the Food System to Be Fairer, More Competitive, More Resilient). 

Food policy councils (FPCs) are critical structures for organizing community-based responses to local, state, regional, or tribal food systems issues through programs and policy advocacy. They also serve as communication hubs and matchmakers that connect producers to consumer markets and supply chains. Though many FPCs work to represent the voices of rural stakeholders, they remain largely urban-focused, leaving out a major component of the supply chain: rural producers. There is little guidance on the process or incentives to promote working across regions, including rural, urban, and peri-urban areas.      

Meet the Team

Leanne Alaman is an Inclusive Leadership coach and founder of Embodied Contribution Consulting, a leadership development firm that equips, enables, and emboldens justice-focused leaders to produce unprecedented results using justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion as strategies for success. Clients appreciate her realistic and compassionate approach rooted in the wisdom of the natural world.

Karen Bassarab is a Senior Research Program Manager at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, where she manages the Food Policy Networks project. Karen’s research interests include local and regional food systems policy, community engagement, and food access and the built environment. Karen earned a master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning and Public Policy from the University of Texas at Austin.

Jill Clark, associate professor at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs, OSU, researches and teaches food system policy and practice, centering on community and state governance of food systems, the policy process and community engagement. She currently is an appointed member of the city of Columbus and Franklin County Local Food Board.

Darriel Harris, PhD grew up in the Baltimore area and now lives in the city with his daughter. His work and research interests include health equity, food systems, food policy, faith-based health communications, and community civic engagement. Dr. Harris is a Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future Lerner Fellow and has been affiliated with the Center for 9 years.

Aiden Irish is researcher and project manager in the Glenn College of Public Affairs at Ohio State University. His research and work focus on how rural communities can use collaborative multi-stakeholder strategies to advance local and regional food system development. Originally from a small farming community in the Snoqualmie Valley of Washington State, he has worked as a policy consultant for Waterkeeper’s Chesapeake and as a research associate for Ecoagriculture partners in Washington D.C. He received his doctorate in public administration from Ohio State University.

Becca Jablonski is the co-Director of the Food Systems Institute at Colorado State University and an Associate Professor and Food Systems Extension Economist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Dr. Jablonski’s research and extension program is comprised of two primary components: 1) evaluating the farm and ranch profitability impacts of sales through non-commodity markets (e.g., local food markets, farm to school programs); and, 2) assessing the community economic impacts of food system policies, investments, and programs, including strategies focused on strengthening rural-urban linkages. As part of her position, she co-leads CSU’s Food Systems Extension team. Dr. Jablonski holds a PhD from Cornell University.

Madison Kase (BA, Albion College) is a Masters student in the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University. She has a professional background in corporate retail operations and enjoys researching the intersections between climate justice and community food systems.

Julie Kurtz, an Agricultural Economist with AMS’ Local and Regional Foods team, has experience in regional and international trade, land use for local food systems, and promoting more dignified labor conditions in agriculture. She previously worked at International Food Policy Research Institute, as a podcast host, and holds a MS-MPH from Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and School of Medicine.

Abby Long is a food systems economist with the USDA Agricultural Marketing Services Local and Regional Foods Division. She has extensive experience working in regional food supply chains with a focus on aggregation and distribution processes, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Public Policy.

Anne Palmer, MAIA, is an Associate Scientist in the Department of Health, Behavior, and Society and the Director of Practice at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. She was a co-investigator on a five-year, USDA-funded research project that explores how to use regional food systems to improve community food security. She co-teaches a course on applying systems thinking to obesity prevention.

Raychel Santo is a senior research program coordinator at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. In this role, she supports food policy councils through the Food Policy Networks project and works on research projects related to urban agriculture, institutional food procurement, and the relationship between food systems and climate change.

Samantha Schaffstall Dopp is the Branch Chief for the Outreach and Technical Assistance Branch of the Local and Regional Foods Division. Samantha works to address both food access and market access issues through the evaluation of creative marketing strategies and business structures. Her most recent and current work focuses on community and urban agriculture, measuring economic impacts of local food systems, meat processing, food value chains, and community outreach and development.

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