The History and Purpose of The Crow River Food Council, in a nutshell.
— Connie Carlson, Executive Director
Early in 2014, a team of interested people from the Crow River region met and formulated a work plan with Wright County Health and Human Services and the MN State Health Improvement Program (SHIP) to fund the formation of the Crow River Food Council (CRFC). Initially, the idea of the council was born out of the recognition that our region—spanning much of Crow River watershed—is rich with agricultural resources. Yet, this bounty is not easily accessible to the residents of this region.
The first step in the formation of the council was conducting interviews with dozens of Crow River citizens—farmers, business leaders, educators, policy makers and others—to determine the food challenges, interests, needs and assets of our region. These interviews helped shape the early strategies of CRFC and informed the creation of our mission statement:
The Crow River Food Council promotes healthy eating that maximizes the use of local, regional, and seasonal food produced with sustainable practices and creates prosperous communities in our region.
We are focusing on strategies that make it easier to purchase fruits and vegetables, support local farms, grow our local food system and address the wide range of challenges and disparities faced when trying to eat a healthy diet.
But, the Crow River Food Council is more than a communication tool promoting local food. We work, develop and amplify efforts to make it easier for all ages and demographics in our communities to access the food grown here. Our power comes from the people who participate on the council. CRFC is comprised of people from a wide range of professions, expertise and experience. We have business leaders, farmers, health workers, teachers, communication experts, restaurant owners and government employees, each volunteering time every month to talk about our region, discuss our needs and develop strategies and programs that address the unique challenges to our region. Each person brings not only their expertise, but also their networks and connections to build and shape our initiatives.
For example, in 2015, the CRFC launched the Power of Produce (PoP) program with the Monticello Farmers’ Market. This program was intended to encourage the youngest shoppers in our community to explore the farmers’ market every week and get to know the people who grew their fresh raspberries, squash, cucumbers and other favorite foods. Any kid under the age of 12 who visited the market was given a $2 token to shop. The producers made sure they had food to offer at that price and every week, we watched kids and families joyfully walk away with their fresh food. We had over 400 children participate in this event and the producers considered it a resounding success. We are currently reaching out to other Farmers Markets’ in the region to expand our reach a little more in 2016 and hope to bring on one or two more local markets. (You can read more about this program here.)
The CRFC is run on volunteers, but has two part-time employees, the Director and the Administrative Assistant who direct, manage and track the ongoing initiatives and communicate the progress with the community. The council exists to represent the people in our communities and work towards making our region more liveable through better access to healthy food. You can read more about Crow River Food Council mission and council, our plans for 2016 and how you can get involved on our website. Be sure to find us on Facebook and Twitter, too!