Soglin plan underway to bring good-for-you grub to low-income families | Business
Mayor says idea stemmed from summer ‘Meet and Eat’
A food truck experiment this summer lead to the mayor establishing a council this fall to continue work bringing affordable healthy food options for low-income families.
At the first meeting of his Madison Food Policy Council on Oct. 24, National Food Day, Mayor Paul Soglin made the opening statements explaining its importance.
“In terms of the farmers’ market, we have one of the best known markets in the world,” Soglin said. “When it comes to food policy, there is this enormous gap. I see that as an opportunity to take us to another level.”
The MFPC is an extension of the Dane County board. It joins the Dane County Food Council and Coalition, but aims more to answer the question of accessibility and affordability than connecting producers to buyers, which is the focus of the county’s council and coalition.
An affordable food experiment this past summer sparked Soglin’s food policy council idea. The four-week experiment, called Madison Meet and Eat, took place in the Meadowood neighborhood and was an effort to make reasonably priced, healthy food accessible to low-income families.
The Meet and Eat featured food cart vendors from around Madison who set up in the Meadowood area every Thursday.
According to Soglin, the experiment succeeded at bringing the neighborhood together and caused some food vendors that regularly attended the Meet and Eats to lower their prices. After the fourth week, residents wanted the program to continue, so it was brought back in the beginning of September.
“If we know they don’t have access to fresh food at good prices, can we introduce quality foods into neighborhoods?” Soglin asked the council. “I’m convinced that the introduction of food can strengthen the neighborhood; we should not wait for it to be the other way around.”
The Madison Food Policy Council hopes to meet once more before the end of the year. Some of the group’s first goals focus on placement of community gardens in city parks as well as interest in zoning laws for new, local fast food restaurants. Such zoning laws determine what is defined as fast food and where fast food restaurant locations should or should not be approved around the city.
The Dane County Food Summit, hosted by Dane County Food Council, was another event that took place on National Food Day.
More than 100 people attended the summit’s nine events spread throughout the day at the Christ Presbyterian Church in Madison.
Events included workshops on issues such as local food infrastructure, access to farmland and a film and discussion about food stamps put on by Second Harvest Foodbank.
Madison Food Policy Council member Chris Brockel participated in the Dane County Food Summit. After seeing the crowd of people at the summit and attending the first policy council meeting, he was feeling positive about Madison’s progress on food issues.
“I think there is a real sense of optimism in the group, in that the county is really moving forward on food issues,” Brockel said. “We have better communication and better energy around what is going on and needs to happen in the future.”