CFAC has been working to find systemic and integrated solutions to a broken food system since 2005. We are honored to receive the 2010 Local Hero award for Missoula non-profits from Edible Missoula – perhaps due to any number of the successes from each of our member-driven committees.
To increase understanding of our local food system - including food production, processing, distribution, and consumption - a community food assessment (CFA) for Missoula County was conducted, with results released in late 2004. A steering committee representing 15 local organizations with a variety of interests guided the research carried out by University of Montana faculty and students from the Environmental Studies Program and the Department of Social Work. The community food assessment still provides a wealth of knowledge that guides our strategies to bolstering food security. We encourage you to check it out.
A major recommendation coming out of the food assement process was that a "food policy council" be formed in Missoula County. Although there are many excellent organizations working on various facets of our local food system, no existing entity takes an integrated approach, considering the whole system from farm to fork. Many cities, counties, and state governments have established food policy councils or coalitions that develop and implement solutions to local food problems. Such councils include people who represent a wide range of perspectives because this tends to lead to new, innovative solutions to identified concerns.
Often local governments sanction the work of food policy councils. Here, Missoula City Council and the Board of Missoula County Commissioners passed a resolution (PDF) to support the work of the CFAC and to include a representative from their respective bodies. Our aim is to work with the City and County to implement a comprehensive food policy for Missoula County.
Here are a few of our most relevant accomplishments.
Land Use & Agricultural Viability:
- Released a major report, Losing Ground: The Future of Farms and Food in Missoula County (PDF), in April 2010. Based on extensive research, the report documents how the County has lost some 29,000 acres of agricultural land to other uses since the mid-1980s. It lays the factual foundation for implementing a multi-pronged and community-wide strategy that will strengthen our food security and agricultural legacy. Based on the findings, CFAC is working to secure policy recommendations, including the creation of agricultural cornerstone areas that will be prioritized for protection and the passage of agricultural resource standards that will mitigate the impacts of development.
- Provided written comment and testimony on 25 subdivision proposals regarding their impacts to agriculture in 2008 and 2009. Involved twelve of our members in the process. As a result:
- Put the need to protect agricultural land on the public agenda for the City and County of Missoula as a result of our credible testimony, civic engagement, and extensive research.
- Worked in 2009–2010 with community leaders in Target Range in creating a neighborhood plan that expressed a clear vision for working farms and their agricultural legacy.
- Carried out extensive research on farm and ranch transfer programs that exist across the country in order to inform development of a Montana project.
- Launched Land Link Montana in 2009 to help connect agricultural land owners with those seeking to lease or buy agricultural land in a seven county region of western Montana. Land Link is currently helping 28 beginning farmers access land, while providing them with resources and technical assistance to establish viable businesses. Similarly, Land Link has enrolled 14 landowners and retiring producers who want to find a farmer or rancher to lease or sell their land to, or perhaps mentor into an existing business.
- Organized “Rooted in the Soil,” a farmland protection tour in July 2008 targeted at local elected officials and other key stakeholders to educate the 65 participants about threats to local agriculture posed by development and opportunities for local markets.
- Participated in multiple comprehensive planning processes, including: Zoning and Subdivision Regulations Update, Urban Fringe Development Area Project (20-year residential plan), and Envision Missoula (long-range transportation plan).
- Secured a new definition of agriculture for both the Missoula City and County subdivision regulations in 2007. The new definition includes agricultural soils and clarifies a proposed development’s impacts to agriculture so that it can be more carefully reviewed and mitigated.
Food Security, Access and Consumption:
- Urged Montana’s Congressional delegation to support changes in the national Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act that will increase children’s access to healthy, local food through the National School Lunch Program (2009-2010; bill is still pending).
- Partnered with other organizations to organize a community “eat in” on Labor Day 2009. Nearly 90 Missoula school children, parents and community members participated and learned about the importance of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act; the event was one of 300 that took place across the country.
- Supported Senator Jon Tester’s 2010 amendments to the proposed Federal Food Safety and Modernization Act (S. 510) so that new requirements will not unreasonably burden small producers and processors selling into local markets, while retaining food safety protections through state and local laws. The bill is still pending.
- Set up Montana’s first Electronic Benefits Transfer (food stamps) at Missoula’s two farmers’ markets, resulting in over $5,000 in sales of fresh, local food to low-income families in 2007, $11,000 in 2008, and $18,000 in 2009.
- Partnered with Missoula County Public Schools (K-12) to establish the Farm to School Program, serving over 4,000 pounds in the 2005-2006 school year, 17,000 pounds in 2006-2007, 31,000 pounds in 2007-2008, and nearly 43,000 pounds in 2008-2009. The National Association of Counties (NACO) featured our school meal program as a “best practice example” in a major report. CFAC routinely participates in national Farm-to-Cafeteria networking opportunities.
- Established ties to farmers in the Hmong community to help them access local markets beyond the farmers market.
- Continued to collaborate with Garden City Harvest on BEANS – Blending Education, Agriculture, and Nutrition in Schools. GCH works with schools to manage school gardens, while CFAC carries out in-class education programs about food and agriculture.
- Participated in the nation’s first FoodCorps from 2006-2009. Coordinated by our ally, Grow Montana, FoodCorps is a team of AmeriCorps/VISTA volunteers who work with specific institutions (in our case Missoula County Public Schools) to help them increase the use of local and regional ingredients in cafeterias. CFAC is proud to have been part of the development of this innovative training model, which is now going national.
- Supported the legislative policy proposals of Grow Montana, which led to important changes such as making it easier for state agencies to purchase local food and an interim study on how to re-invigorate food processing in Montana.
- Conducted policy research for the Missoula City Council regarding urban chicken-keeping and helped draft an ordinance, which legalized raising hens within the city limits. The ordinance was passed in 2007.
- Partnered with others to conduct participatory research on food and nutrition policies focused on meeting the needs of low-income people. The resulting 2007 report, Food Insecurity in Missoula County: Barriers, Opportunities, & Solutions, described the next steps to promote community food security and policy changes.
Outreach and Education:
- CFAC regularly garners media attention for its work, including news stories, commentaries, and talk show appearances
- Presented on a national webinar titled, "Building Local Government Support for Good Food," sponsored by the National Good Food Network, in July 2010 with some 375 people registered and 210 in attendance at the highest point.
- Co-sponsored a major public lecture by Mark Winne, who gave a presentation based on his widely-acclaimed book, Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty, attended by over 100 people in April 2010. Winne ran the Hartford Food System for many years and is currently staff for the Community Food Security Coalition.
- Co-sponsored a major public lecture by Bob Wagner, Senior Director of Farmland Protection Programs at the American Farmland Trust. Over 100 people attended the November 2009 event on “Grassroots Farmland Conservation.” In addition, CFAC organized a working session with Wagner, government officials, and other stakeholders about strategies for working land protection.
- Sponsored a photography contest, and produced and distributed 1,000 copies of the 2010 Capturing Missoula’s Foodshed Calendar. Organized a “First Friday” exhibition that drew a sizeable and enthusiastic crowd. The calendar was made possible by the generous donations of the Good Food Store and many creative contributors.
- Organized Harvest Festival in 2005 and 2006, an educational and celebratory event featuring nationally-acclaimed speakers -- Anna Lappe and Michael Ableman – and drawing crowds of 700 people each time.
- Initiated a Farm-to-Chef Collaborative to bring local foods to area restaurants. Educational presentations and materials are provided at restaurants.
- Partnered with the Good Food Store, Garden City Harvest and the Wilma Theatre to bring the documentary Food Inc. to Missoula in 2009. The theatre sold out for the first time ever.
- Organized the Reel to Real Food Film Festival, a weekend of documentary films and discussion in 2008 and 2009.
- Built a solid base of public support for a sustainable, community-based food system through presentations, annual film festivals; partnerships with the new magazine, Edible Missoula; and our membership drive.