What We Do
Local Food, Healthy Kids Policy Initiative
Local Food, Healthy Kids Policy Initiative aims to get more local food into the hands of Iowa’s youngest populations by addressing existing barriers for farmers, food hubs and early care and education providers. Over the past two years, Local Food, Healthy Kids has generated a picture of the local foods landscape by convening and interviewing stakeholders from across the state, while developing policy solutions to identified barriers. The Local Food, Healthy Kids Policy Initiative now works to promote sustainable changes and improvements to the local food system while continuing to build community relationships.
The Iowa Farmers Union hired SPPG + Essman Research (SPPG + ER) to lead their stakeholder engagement and policy development efforts with the Iowa Association for the Education of Youth Children, Iowa State University Extension & Outreach, and Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness. This coalition of partners realized that systemic change was needed at the local, state, and federal levels in order to strengthen Iowa’s local food system and make connections between farmers and child care providers. Recognizing SPPG + ER’s expertise in policy work, the partners brought our team on to do the initial research, stakeholder facilitation, and policy development for this project.
Since the start of the Local Food, Healthy Kids Policy Initiative, our program managers have crisscrossed the state, conducting in-depth interviews with farmers, producers, food hubs managers, early care and education providers, state administrators, and policymakers. We also convened several stakeholder meetings to survey the current local foods environment and develop an understanding of what current barriers existed for these individuals and organizations. While conducting this statewide research, our team also researched other states with farm to school and early care programs to learn from their challenges and successes. From all of this data collection, we created a comprehensive document that outlines the history of local food in Iowa, our research, and the policy solutions and recommendations we identified known as the Analysis of Iowa’s Food System: Opportunities and Policy Recommendations.
The policy development stage has been completed, and SPPG + ER continues to work with the Iowa Farmers Union on the Local Food, Healthy Kids Policy Initiative through advocacy efforts. This includes providing advocacy trainings, engaging our advocates frequently, facilitating and scheduling meetings with Iowa policymakers and department directors, and bringing together stakeholders and other interested parties for continued discussions. Our team also attends meetings of our partner organizations and coalitions, creates and facilitates earned and social media, and frequently presents our research and policy recommendations to other groups and organizations.