The steering committee for the Grow Montana Food Policy Coalition, which is housed at and coordinated by NCAT, met in mid-June to recap recent victories and set some priorities for the future. Among its victories over the past two years were passage of the Cottage Food law by the 2015 Montana Legislature and the Montana Office of Public Instruction creating a full-time Farm to School staff position. These successes helped motivate and inspire the group’s discussion about priorities for the next two years.
During the meeting, steering committee members updated each other on developments regarding poultry processing in the state and grants awarded by the Montana Department of Agriculture that dealt with local food issues. The committee also discussed how to develop stronger relationships with state agencies working on issues that overlap with Grow Montana. As the meeting progressed, members also discussed the wide range of agencies, organizations, and other entities that are currently talking about and/or working on local food issues around Montana. This led the steering committee to start exploring the idea of a statewide food and agricultural event to be held sometime in early 2016.
The steering committee is at the very early stages of envisioning the structure and specific topics that would be addressed at such an event. However, the members did brainstorm a list of potential areas of interest, which included examining the need for a Montana Food Scientist, training and technical assistance related to food safety, addressing issues of childhood hunger and obesity, and examining food distribution needs in the state.
The steering committee recognized that it needs to refine the list of topics, and that process will include reaching out to partners that are already working on these various issues. Committee members are excited about the possibilities and will continue digging into the planning process. Keep your eyes and ears open for more details in the coming months!