Minneapolis focuses on ‘Homegrown’ food

The city food council set a plan for the remainder of 2012.

by Bryna Godar

The Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council approved a strategic action plan for the remainder of 2012 last Wednesday, laying out goals and ideas for the coming months.

The council formed in January with the goal of expanding sustainable, locally grown food in the community. The members stem from local government, area businesses, community organizations, nonprofits and neighborhoods.

In the first half of 2012, the council laid out a vision advocating for urban agriculture amendments and a composting ordinance and supported the installation of bee hives on top of City Hall.

“I think it’s been kind of a slow but good progress,” said Eric Larsen, an urban farmer on the council.

One of the food council’s long-term goals is to provide Minneapolis residents with access to fresh, healthy food.

By the end of the year, it expects to have a community plan that places all Minneapolis residents within a half-mile of a community garden and to increase fruit production in public spaces.

The strategic plan also includes improved promotion of farmers markets, examination and formulation of food safety regulations, analyzing the city’s success with organic waste collection and monitoring impacts of the Urban Agriculture Policy Plan.

As the group moves forward, members are working to involve community members and are searching for interested residents to join working groups.

“People here are engaged, and they go to meetings and they weigh in,” said Jane Shey, the Homegrown Minneapolis coordinator. “I think that’s a really special part about Homegrown Minneapolis — there’s such interest.”

At the council’s monthly meeting, members discussed listening sessions as a way to engage the community and inform the public of the group’s efforts.

Co-chairs Beth Dooley and Mustafa Sundiata talked about potential outreach and partnering opportunities for the group such as Food Week in October.

Shey said they might hold a listening session on the University of Minnesota campus at some point.

“I think it’s critical to have a link between city government and the lay people,” Larsen said. “The decisions that city government and city council make, they have an impact on our local food economy.”

Shey studied Homegrown Minneapolis as part of her doctoral candidate research on how U.S. cities are responding to climate change.

She said a highlight of Minneapolis is the organic growth already happening in the community, outside of the food council.

In some cities she studied, Shey said citizens and government didn’t work well together toward local food. That’s not the case in Minneapolis.

 “I think the group is really motivated and definitely on the same page about a lot of things,” Larsen said. “If we don’t get to complete some projects, we’ll at least set some things up for the next council to really start working on.”