A national spotlight is being focused on our food system, thanks in part to thought leaders like Michael Pollan, Alice Waters and others, and an interested and engaged First Lady, and also as a result of the rising interest and concern among Americans about food safety, food prices, and to increased scrutiny of policies that govern what we grow and what we eat and how that impacts our health, the environment, and our pocketbooks. Folks in the so-called “good food movement” feel growing momentum behind initiatives to “buy local” or to improve school lunch programs. There is growing awareness that our food system, both from a policy standpoint, and in the private marketplace, may be adversely impacting public health, contributing to disease, obesity, health care costs, growing numbers of people seeking food stamps and unable to access or afford healthy food. There are hundreds of websites and blogs focused on providing information about food issues. Despite all this “evidence” that consumers may be ready for significant changes in our food system, and an avalanche of media coverage on the issues, very little actual change in policy or practices has been attained, and the core consumers making “conscious” choices about their diet is still a slim minority of the American public.
Are citizens who are already making “conscious” choices about the food they buy actually informed and engaged in the local and national dialog and policies that impact those choices? Are they getting the information they need, and constructive ways to channel their interest into action beyond the check out stand? Has the “movement” flexed its muscle and achieved any major policy reform victories on farm or food policy at the national level? Are there incremental objectives that if successfully attained would help build the army for this “major” reform of such intractable policies as our farm bill?
Our team has spent the last four months investigating how we can best leverage our New Media Women Entrepreneur grant to deliver an effective tool for informing and engage leading voices, “good food” businesses, and consumers to build a powerful community with shared knowledge and passion for positive change in our food system. We still have more questions than answers, but at a practical level we are making progress. What follows is an update on our project “Good Food Fight” and on the steps we are taking to maximize the impact of the grant dollars we received this year.
- We have begun a series of conversations with leading activists, “thought leaders”, and journalists to gather information about the current landscape of content providers, consumer engagement tools, needs and challenges. What we have heard to date has confirmed our notion that to date there is a critical gap, and need, for an organized strategic effort to coordinate and engage these leaders which is helping to inform our thinking in developing “good food fight.” This activity is being enhanced by additional funds we have received from the Packard Foundation to explore the landscape of emerging leaders and voices in the food and farm movement and to examine the question of how to most effectively leverage the emerging food movement to “flex some muscle” and achieve significant policy changes.
- Developed a strategy and mechanism for aggregating and delivering pertinent news and strategic information to key stakeholders. The tools include a live news feed and weekly “must read” news list designed to keep activists and leaders up to speed on important issue developments.
- Developed a new staff position at Good Food Strategies for a “new media” specialist who will develop and improve our ability to aggregate and disseminate pertinent and compelling content to interested stakeholders, work with our web developer and post new content and conduct analytics to evaluate impact of on-line tools and outreach. We are very close to hiring an outstanding young candidate for the job.
- Identified a top candidate to serve as “project manager” to spearhead this project, conduct research and further interviews, coordinate meetings and “focus groups” with target audience, and work with web developer and designers to build on-line tools to support “good food fight.” This candidate is an active food blogger and reporter, former publicist and editor with a passion for understanding people and culture through food. We hope/plan to have her officially on board in early January.
- We attended and derived enormous benefit at the Fund My Media workshop in October. The day long session helped crystallize our vision for the Good Food Fight and re-assured us that while nothing quite like Good Food Fight exists out there, the whole new world of online media is rich with examples of people making good things happen with these new tools, and there are some models for success out there that we can learn from.
Our focus in January-June will be on fine-tuning the focus and mechanisms for the “Good Food Fight” and on building a site to begin testing our model. We will have discussions with additional journalists, bloggers, food writers, and nonprofit advocates to arrive at the best mix of aggregated news feeds, original content, and compelling civic engagement tools. And finally, we are building out an anticipated budget for the development, management, and anticipated growth of “Good Food Fight” and a business and fundraising plan to meet those budget needs.
We are increasingly excited about the potential for “Good Food Fight” to bridge a critical gap and engage communities of interested consumers in not only making positive personal choices, but in leveraging an informed citizenry into a powerful constituency for policy change. Thank you for the critical grant support without which this idea would have remained where its been for several years—in our minds, lunchtime conversations, and desk drawers!
Kristin, Jen and Amy