Affiliation: Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Nutrition
The number of Food Policy Councils (FPCs) in the United States (US), Canada, and Native American & First Nations increased from 43 in 2005 to 278 in 2015. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend establishing FPCs to improve the local and state food environments. Despite increased interest in FPCs, there is little evidence about what makes FPCs effective. First, we conducted a case study of an FPC in a rural county to understand how a council facilitates change across their food system using interviews (n=8) and network analysis (n=12). Council members indicated that council connections helped them work more effectively in their home organizations. Social network analysis revealed a dense network of connections and complemented qualitative findings. This case study illustrates connections between FPC members in a rural county, and identifies examples of how FPCs can facilitate policy, systems, and environmental-level change in their communities. Next, we developed and tested the Food Policy Council Self-Assessment Tool (FPC-SAT). The assessment measures council members’ perceptions of the following concepts: leadership, breadth of active membership, council climate, formality of council structure, knowledge sharing, relationships, member empowerment, community context, synergy, and impacts on the food system. All 278 FPCs listed on the Food Policy Network’s directory were recruited. Responses from 354 FPC members from 94 councils were used to test the assessment. Cronbach alpha ranged from 0.79 – 0.93 for the scales. FPC members reported the lowest mean scores on the breadth of active membership scale (mean=2.49, SD=0.622) and highest on the leadership scale (mean=3.45, SD=0.452). This study contributes to measurement development and FPC members’ perceptions of how their councils functions. Finally, we used responses from the FPC-SAT to evaluate the relationships between organizational capacity, social capital, and council effectiveness in FPCs. Structural equation modeling was used to test and revise an FPC Framework. A revised FPC Framework was a good fit with the data (n=354, χ2=40.085, df=24, p-value=0.021, CFI=0.988, TLI=0.982, RMSEA=0.044, p-close=0.650). The FPC Framework can guide capacity building interventions and evaluations. The evidence-informed framework can help FPCs efficiently work toward achieving their mission of improving their local food system.