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Catalyzing Funder Support for Food Policy Councils: Effective Spaces for Policy Change

December 7, 2023 @ 10:00 am 11:15 am PST

Building equitable and resilient local food systems requires coordination of community efforts across and beyond the food system. Food policy councils help fulfill this role for over 300 jurisdictions across the U.S., serving as containers for civic engagement, community leadership, and policy change through the lens of food. These councils are diverse in their goals, organizational structure, connection to local and state governments, and relationship with funders but are connected in their purpose as effective spaces for policy change. 

This webinar will explore what we can learn from food policy councils about the ways that funders can engage in collaborative change and support policy advocacy at the local, state, and even federal levels. Through a panel discussion with food policy council leaders across the country and collaborative breakout group conversations, this webinar will provide funders with practical insight into what food policy councils can achieve, how to build relationships with existing food policy councils and catalyze new ones, and how to be effective partners in supporting their work. 


  • Introduce the diversity of food policy councils in the United States and how they are navigating complex challenges to their food systems 
  • Allow funders to examine food systems challenges, the network of food systems actors, and opportunities for collaboration for policy change 
  • Provide funders a space to explore how investing in food policy councils can lead to effective change at the local, state, and even federal levels 
  • Help funders understand the strategies they can employ to provide effective support for food policy councils 

Session Format:

This 75-minute session will feature:

  1. Presentation to ground funder attendees on what food policy councils are, their diversity in structure, and what they can accomplish 
  2. Panel discussion with food policy council leaders 
  3. Facilitated breakout group discussions to explore opportunities for funder engagement

Breakout questions:

  1. Do you see collaboration happening around food systems change in your community? Does policy change show up in these collaborations?
  2. Is your foundation already supporting food policy councils? If not, are there barriers you have faced?
  3. How can food policy councils effectively make the case for their work to funders? What information would be helpful for you? 


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This is a free funder-only event. This event is a funder-only, no-pitch space for those working in philanthropy and investing. For SAFSF events, funders are considered those organizations using grantmaking or investments as a core strategy to fulfill their mission. This includes individual donors, executive and program staff, and members of the board of grantmaking organizations (family foundations, individual donors, corporate foundations, government, community foundations, etc.), as well as representatives of non-profit or for-profit investment enterprises. Development or fundraising staff of regranting organizations are generally not permitted to participate in our funder-only events. If you are not a funder and register for this event, your registration may be canceled.


j. olu baiyewu, City of Atlanta Urban Agriculture Director (Panel Moderator) 

As the City of Atlanta Urban Agriculture Director, j. olu leads the strategic planning process, stakeholder and partner collaboration, and program implementation for Atlanta’s urban agriculture and fresh food access activities. Prior to joining the City of Atlanta j. olu was Director of Programs and Outreach at Atlanta nonprofit Food Well Alliance. There he led the partnership, outreach, and implementation strategy of the organization’s Resource Center program. j. olu has also founded and served as Director of Organix Matters, which designs, builds, manages, and grows initiatives across metro Atlanta in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), farmers markets, and gardens. He has also worked at two Atlanta-area non-profit urban farming organizations, Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture and Global Growers Network.

Karen Bassarab, Senior Program Officer, Food Communities & Public Health Program, Johns Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future  

Karen is a senior program officer with the Food Communities and Public Health Program, primarily responsible for managing the Food Policy Network project, a national resource hub for local and regional councils from across the United States and Canada. Karen enjoys the dynamic work of this role to support the development of lasting policy solutions that account for regional environmental, political and cultural variations, and can affect all aspects of the food system.

Maura Ackerman, Director, Syracuse Onondaga Food Systems Alliance

Maura holds dual masters degrees in Public Health and Nutrition Science from Tufts University, but gained much of her experience working at every level in nonprofit organizations and local governments across Massachusetts—leading youth programming, mounting massive public health education campaigns, and writing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of grants, among many other things. Most recently, she worked as the Assistant Director of Programs at Project Bread, the largest hunger relief organization in that state; she still works there part-time as a Senior Advisor, though these days, her primary focus is SOFSA.

Elisa Muñoz-Miller, Executive Director, New Orleans Food Policy Advisory Committee

Muñoz-Miller leads the New Orleans Food Policy Advisory Committee (FPAC), a broad-based coalition of more than 40-member organizations, businesses and individuals who work, eat and sell food.

Maura Henn, Coordinator, Grow Montana Food Policy Coalition

Maura Henn has over 17 years of experience working with community food systems with an emphasis on farmers market and cooperative grocery store management. She works with local Montana farmers markets and small agriculture producers to promote local foods and connect suppliers with low-income buyers through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) incentives, including collecting survey data and conducting outreach activities at local markets. She is the coordinator for the Grow Montana Food Policy Coalition and manages NCAT’s participation in the Montana Double SNAP Dollars Network. Maura also coordinates the Business and Community program of the Montana Harvest of the Month Program.

Kathryn Parker, Program Officer, W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Kate Parker is a program officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan. In this role, she works in the foundation’s priority place of New Orleans to support thriving children, working families and equitable communities.

Serving under the direction of the vice president for place-based programs, Parker is responsible for identifying and nurturing opportunities for effecting positive systemic change in New Orleans. In this role, she executes programming efforts that are aligned with the organizational direction and works closely with other staff to ensure the integration and coordination of initiatives as it relates to the mission of the foundation. More specifically, Parker focuses on issues of health equity. She brings public health and food systems expertise, along with professional experience working directly with local and state agencies to address inequities in access to healthy food and quality health care.

Julia McCarthy, Senior Program Officer, New York Health Foundation

As Senior Program Officer, Julia McCarthy helps lead NYHealth’s Healthy Food, Healthy Lives priority area, the goal of which is to create a more equitable food system that connects all New Yorkers with the food they need to thrive.

Prior to joining NYHealth, Ms. McCarthy served as the deputy director of the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy at Teachers College of Columbia University, where she oversaw operations, strategy, and project execution. Ms. McCarthy also held policy roles at the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Jane Schmitz, Director, From Now On Fund and seed donor for Fund for Better Food Policy

Jane taught public health at Occidental College from 2011-2019. She is active locally within in her own community and nationally to promote nutrition security for children and families. She has a doctoral degree in public health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Click for more information on the Better Food Policy Fund.

Areas of Impact:

Justice  |   Food Access  |   Food Sovereignty  |   Economic Viability  |   Human/Public Health  |   Policy-National/International

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