Did you know Orange County has a Food Council?

We do! The Orange County Food Council was started by individuals with the Town of Carrboro, Carrboro Farmers' Market, Orange County Department of Health, Orange County Extension, Camp Chestnut Ridge, UNC, Orange County Schools, and Orange County Office of Economic Development.

Food Policy Councils act as both forums for food issues and platforms for coordinated action, working across sectors such as farming and food insecurity and food waste, engaging with government policy and programs, grassroots/non-profit projects, local businesses, food workers, and those who eat food. Instead of many advocates working on the isolated symptoms of a failing food system, Food Policy Councils create the forum for coordinated action at the local level. As such, food councils do not provide direct service.

Food councils can be a bit nebullous. They can be administered at the city or county level or as a partnership between both. Here's a list of some of the activities that other food councils around the country have had success with:

  • The Carrabus Farm & Food Council in Carrabus County, NC advocated for passage of a policy to require that 10% of all food served at county catered events and small department-sponsored meeting be sourced locally. This policy is now in place.
  • The Savannah Chatham Food Policy Council in Savannah, GA supported a policy to develop a program run by the city of Savannah to collaborate with interested parties to build community gardens on city-owned property 
  • The Asheville-Buncombe Food Policy Council advocated for passage of a policy allowing agriculture structures on residentially zoned properties with no home structure; passage of a policy allowing farm stands in residentially zoned areas; and for passage of a policy allowing livestock and fowl on urban lots with a permit.

The Orange County Food Council has received funds from the county and all three towns, the Burt's Bees Foundation, and from UNC through it's Food For All Theme, and a grant from the USDA. The council consists of ten members who apply, one liaison to the Orange County Agriculture Preservation Board, and one appointed representative from each of the municipal and county elected bodies.

Here's the Orange County Food Council roster:


Eva Bailey
South Estes Public Housing Community Garden, Chapel Hill

Ken Dawson (liaison to Ag Preservation Board)
Maple Springs Farms, Cedar Gove

Marcie Cohen Ferris
UNC-CH, American Studies

Molly De Marco
UNC-CH, Public Health

Mark Dorosin
Orange County Board of Commissioners

Valerie Green
Orange County Schools

Sally Greene
Chapel Hill Town Council

Suyapa Mejia-Guevara

Orange County Extension

Cyril Murphy
Camp Chestnut Ridge

Mike Ortosky
Orange County Economic Development

Ashley Rawlinson
Orange County Department of Public Health

Alex Rike
Carrboro Farmers' Market/Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership

Julia Sendor
Anathoth Garden

Sammy Slade
Carrboro Board of Alderpersons

Jennifer Weaver
Hillsborough Board of Commissioners

Coordinator: Ashley Heger (she has previously coordinated the Forsyth County Food Council and the Asheville-Buncombe Food Policy Council and currently splits her time between coordinating the Orange County Food Council and the North Carolina State Food Council).

Here's our scope of work for the coming year:

Goal 1. Action Plan development: Create a plan to help focus, guide, and prioritize the council’s work.

Goal 2. Outreach: Increase knowledge of available resources to communities living with low food access.

Goal  3. Food Policy

  • Part 1.  Work with the Orange County Board of Health Strategic Plan Manager to research successful models and policies that address food access issues through healthy corner store and grocery store initiatives to improve healthy food access in "food deserts" using the USDA definition. Assist in drafting policies with the BOH Strategic Plan Manager and the BOH Physical Activity and Nutrition Sub-Committee if a policy proposal is deemed to be the next step. 
  • Part 2.  Provide a presentation on the definition of a food desert and the state of food access and food security in Orange County to the Orange County Board of Health on November 29, 2017.
  • Part 3.  Research successful "soda tax" and healthy eating incentive programs and policies with the Board of Health Strategic Plan Manager and, if deemed appropriate, help draft a policy proposal.

*The Food Council will be using this Race Equity and Social Justice Toolkit for areas 1 and 3 to identify whether there are racial disparate impacts of proposed policies prior to implementation.

Goal 4. Collaborate with other food councils: Collaborate with other North Carolina food councils to learn new strategies to strengthen the Orange County food system.



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