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 pking@cspnet.com. 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

Menu Development
usa map regions

From global flavors to clean labels, it’s clear that some buzzworthy noncommercial menu trends are universal. But FoodService Director ’s 2016 surveys have revealed some noteworthy differences within segments in the Northeast, South, Midwest and West regions. We combed through data from our College and University Census, Hospital Census and Long-Term Care/Senior Living Census for the most surprising variations in menu trends and expectations.

1. Plant-based dishes are on the rise at Midwestern colleges and universities

Seventy-seven percent of C&U operators in this region say...

Industry News & Opinion

Ithaca College is turning to new solutions to address overcrowding at a dining hall that is already understaffed, The Ithacan reports .

The Ithaca, N.Y., school's Terrace Dining Hall has seen a large influx of students this year after being renovated, causing lines to wrap around the dining hall.

To ease congestion, Sodexo Area General Manager Jeffrey Scott told The Ithacan that the eatery has added a separate entree line, as well as signage displaying menu items at less-crowded food stations in an effort to draw students to the other side of the dining hall.

The...

Menu Development
mac cheese pizza

Anybody think the popularity of mac and cheese has played out? Anyone?

More likely, foodservice directors are trying to bake new life into the comfort staple by tweaking the presentation and components. Here’s a snapshot of how that rejuvenation effort looks in streetside restaurants.

Industry News & Opinion

Noncommercial foodservice operations and other employers would be spared from costly new overtime pay regulations if 21 states succeed in the legal challenge they jointly filed yesterday.

The lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas to set aside the rules, which are scheduled to take effect on Dec. 1.

If the court rejects the request, restaurants and other businesses will be required after that date to pay overtime to any salaried employee who works more than 40 hours in a week and earns less than $47,476 on an annual basis.

The...

FSD Resources