NORTHAMPTON — A food policy council for Hampshire County is seeking members to join its fledgling group, established two years ago as a means to address regional food insecurity and a systemic lack of access to healthy food.
The goal of the Hampshire County Food Policy Council, funded by a state grant, is to give people that are experiencing food insecurity decision-making power about the things that are affecting their day-to-day lives, said Kia Aoki, food policy circle coordinator for the council.
“Involvement in a project like this has been profound in ways connected to having power and agency over what we eat and … given power to help facilitate the changes we want to see,” Aoki said.
The idea behind the council came about in 2017 after a food access assessment from Healthy Hampshire, conducted in partnership with Cooley Dickinson Health Care, identified the establishment of an inclusive food policy council as a top priority, according to Caitlin Marquis, Healthy Hampshire program manager and operational coordinator for the council.
The goal was to set up an organization that would give people experiencing food insecurity and others involved in the county’s food system a chance to weigh in on decisions around food insecurity — a voice that many feel they don’t currently have.
The initial partners for the program included Cooley Dickinson Health Care, the Collaborative for Educational Services/Healthy Hampshire, Hilltown Community Health Center and Hilltown Community Development.
The partners, under the leadership of Cooley Dickinson, secured a $555,555 grant in 2020 from the state Health Policy Commission’s Moving Massachusetts Upstream Investment Program. Now, council leaders are looking for community members to join. People who have a stake in the county’s food system in any way — whether they work, live or play in the county — are all eligible to join, Marquis said.