Do we need Food Policy Councils?

How involved should government be in our eating habits?

Part of my weekend reading was an article about the creation of a Food Policy Council for the city of Madison, Wis. According to the article, which appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal, the 23-member council is charged with making “spending recommendations to the mayor and City Council about how to make nutritious food more affordable to low-income residents, boost the local economy and make the city healthier overall.”

Among the council’s agenda items for its next meeting, scheduled for Dec. 10, are reviewing ways to make it easier to create community gardens on city property and an examination of whether the city should restrict the number of fast-food restaurants.

The idea of a food council is taking hold in a number of cities, such as Boston, Charlotte and Portland, Ore., with similar goals in mind. (I’m guessing that New York City doesn’t have one because Mayor Michael Bloomberg doesn’t need a committee to ratify his own agenda.)

As I was reading this article, I began to consider the concept. The Madison committee is a quasi-government agency—it’s publicly funded and its members are all volunteers, but it has the ear of the city’s leaders. It would seem to have the best interest of the city at heart, but as a journalist it’s in my nature to be cynical. I am a strong advocate of community gardens, buying local and finding ways to help people eating more healthfully. But I always question to what extent government should be controlling people’s lives. For example, even though I like knowing how many calories are in the food I eat, is it right for local, state or federal agencies to mandate restaurants to provide such information? In other words, how much should government be allowed to save us from ourselves?

I would love to know what our readers think. Do you have anything resembling a food policy council in your town? Whether or not you do, what do you think the role of such an agency should be? Should its role be one solely of promotion, or should it be involved in recommending restrictions?

Please send your responses to me at I’ll report on your comments in future blogs, and may even print some on the Opinion page of our January issue.

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
coffee barista

Whether it’s a morning routine, an afternoon pick-me-up or an evening social ritual, few things are as universally appealing as coffee. Sixty-five percent of respondents in Technomic’s 2016 Beverage Consumer Trend Report say they ordered a cup of hot joe from a foodservice location in the past month, and 59% say the same about cold coffee. Everyone has an opinion about what makes it good, whether it’s a low price, a unique blend or a friendly barista.

“Coffee is so personal. There are a lot of people that are Dunkin’ fans. There’s a lot of Starbucks people,” says James Dravenack,...

Ideas and Innovation
star wars storm trooper

My favorite event—because I’m kind of dorky—is our “May the fourth be with you” (aka “Star Wars”) day on May 4. The whole dining team dresses up, and we offer things like Chewbaklava, Boba Fettuccine and BB-8 Buckeyes. We had a guest cry because they got to take a picture with Chewy.

Menu Development
spilled coffee beans glasses

Following an initial test at the end of May, Starbucks announced that more than 500 of its stores will be pouring nitro coffee by the end of summer. Capitalizing on the cold-brew coffee trend—which reached $7.9 million in sales in 2015 on 115% growth from the previous year, according to researcher Mintel—select U.S. cafes will give up the counter space to serve the creamy, nitrogen-infused java made from the cold-brew base. But how did nitro become the hottest new thing in coffee?

Bringing the bar to coffeehouses

It was the chrome double tap, similar to a bar’s beer tap, and the...

Ideas and Innovation
tray number

We created lucky tray days to help create an experience surrounding our brand. The trays are numbered; we pick a number and the winner receives a free lunch. We’ve enlisted the help of one of our coaches, who calls out the random lucky winner, and it drums up a lot of excitement.

FSD Resources