Food council tapped for national panel

The Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council has been selected to participate in a nationwide learning network.

Part of Green Umbrella, the local food policy council will participate in a community of practice focused on regional food systems development. After a review of over 50 applications, 11 food policy councils from across the country were selected for the 18-month project, reflecting a diversity of approaches to regional food systems work.

Maddie Chera

Regional food policy councils are collaborative groups that seek to address food-related issues across county and/or state boundaries. This localized work has emerged as a promising approach to developing equitable, sustainable and vibrant food and agriculture systems.

Launched in 1998 but refocused in 2011 as the leading alliance working to maximize the environmental sustainability of Greater Cincinnati, Green Umbrella is home to and incubates other projects like Cincinnati 2030 District, Common Orchard Project and the recently launched Regional Climate Collaborative. The regional sustainability alliance has served as the fiscal agent or sponsor for other projects including Tri-State Trails, Red Bike, Taking Root, Adventure Crew and Produce Perks Midwest, all of which are now independent nonprofit organizations.

This new food council community of practice is a central part of a cooperative research project that aims to better understand regional approaches to strengthening food systems.

Leading organizations in this project are the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA AMS), Ohio State University, the John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and Colorado State University. As part of this community, Cincinnati’s FPC will help guide research and the creation of resources to support other councils in taking regional approaches to food system development.

“A more competitive, fair and resilient food system requires investment in regional supply chains, and food policy councils can play a critical role building bridges between rural communities and consumer markets,” said Tricia Kovacs, deputy administrator of the transportation and marketing program of USDA-AMS.

“When we think about food systems, it makes sense for us to work regionally, as our food distribution networks cross state and city boundaries to bring food through the value chain,” said Maddie Chera, director of Cincinnati’s FPC. “We are excited that the timing of this community of practice coincides with the implementation of our new strategic plan, role changes in our Food Policy Council, and growth in our parent organization, Green Umbrella.”

The local food policy council will be represented in the community of practice by Chera and Anna Haas, program director for Local Foods Connection.

A subsidiary of restaurant supplier What Chefs Want!, Local Food Connection is one of the longest-serving current members of the local food policy council, participating for at least seven years. Haas has served on committees and been an ongoing key partner, especially in farm to institution work that involves planning, supporting, and coordinating the flow of local food from regional farms to businesses and schools.

Haas brings wide-ranging food system experience, expertise grounded in daily work directly with farmers and food artisans and big picture systems perspective to lead in the council’s implementation of grant-funded projects and other work.

Chera was named to her role at the food policy council in April after having served as the organization’s food systems analyst since May 2021. As an analyst, Chera managed the monitoring, evaluation, and reporting of the council, and helped organizational partners collect and share research and stories on the regional food system. During the previous year, she conducted 22 stakeholder interviews with many of the council’s direct partners and created the first-ever impact report for the council. Chera brings over a decade of domestic and international experience as an educator, researcher, and nonprofit team member to her work. She holds a doctorate in anthropology from Indiana University Bloomington, with a focus on food, the environment and culture.

The food policy council has an active call for nominations to serve on the council. Learn more and find other ways to get involved directly with its work, visit www.cincinnatiregionalfood.org/get-involved.


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