Minnesota Food Charter
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The Minnesota Food Charter is a roadmap designed to guide policymakers and community leaders in providing Minnesotans with equal access to affordable, safe and healthy food regardless of where they live. It provides a platform for University of Minnesota Extension and other organizations to share good work already underway. It raises our profile on healthy food systems work — within Extension, in Minnesota and across the nation. We use the Food Charter to increase opportunities for new partnerships. It ensures our contributions are integrated and aligned with others across the state. In turn, this maximizes public value and impact.
University of Minnesota Extension has long been recognized as a leader in improving food skills across the state in our work with families with limited resources. Today, we also partner with communities to increase access to healthy, affordable and safe food by improving food environments and food infrastructure.
Extension is a natural fit for carrying out the strategies listed in the Minnesota Food Charter for three reasons.
- We are already in place. Extension staff work in every county of the state with multiple partners.
- We are already doing the work. Extension’s current portfolio of health and nutrition work — including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) — supports implementation of the food charter.
- We are already focused on the health of all Minnesotans. Extension’s focus on public value and impact by connecting community needs and University resources matches the food charter’s vision.
Intentional integration of our work with the Minnesota Food Charter allows us to contribute to a whole system of strategy change. This increases our organization's impact in preventing obesity and diet-related chronic disease. It supports our goals of diet and lifestyle choices that improve the health of Minnesotans.
Extension's programmatic response
Extension’s Health and Nutrition staff enhance their work in communities using select strategies of the Minnesota Food Charter based on locally identified needs and goals. Find examples from each region below.
- The Cass Clay Food Systems Initiative, a food network created and led by Extension and public health staff from Clay County Minnesota and Cass County North Dakota, leveraged the Minnesota Food Charter as a tool to establish a formal food policy council: the Cass Clay Food Systems Advisory Commission. Extension Educators Noelle Harden and Nikki Johnson, and SNAP-Ed Regional Coordinator Sara Van Offelen have all supported the evolution of this network.
- SNAP-Ed Educator Kathryn Lien works to improve food skills of elementary youth grades 4 and 5 using the Go Wild with Fruits & Veggies! and Eat Well & Keep Moving! curricula. In addition, she has been a catalyst for the implementation of a salad bar and Smarter Lunchroom strategies within the cafeteria.
- The NW Regional Sustainable Development Partnership Local Food Workgroup utilized strategies from the Minnesota Food Charter to guide funding priorities in 2015 and 2016, with leadership from Extension Health and Nutrition staff.
- SNAP-Ed educators are collaborating with Boys and Girls clubs and White Earth Land Recovery to implement youth gardens and build food skills with the Nutrition to Grow On curriculum.
SNAP-Ed Educator Linda Erdahl was successful in planning and implementing a food buying co-op for King Manor, a senior housing complex located in Duluth. A local corner grocery store now provides increased access to fresh produce to seniors at an affordable price.
- SNAP-Ed Educator Carmen Genske has been involved in Lakewood Health System’s Choose Health initiative from its inception in 2014. Choose Health, supported by numerous partners, provides a free Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership to food insecure families. Families also receive free health screenings, nutrition education, free cooking and preparation demonstrations, recipes, and personal support and encouragement.
- A Wadena community garden will help build skills and access to fresh produce, thanks in part to the work of Extension SNAP-Ed Educator Marilyn Hofland (Wadena Pioneer Journal, April 22).
In 2014, the Metro Food Access Network (MFAN), a SHIP, BCBS, and SNAP-Ed funded initiative coordinated by Extension Educator Jamie Bain, helped influence the Met Council Thrive MSP 2040 visioning document to include more language around healthy food access. As a result, MFAN members worked with the Public Health Law Center and Blue Cross Blue Shield to develop a MFAN Comp Planning Action Team that has worked together to incubate the idea for the Food Access Planning Guide and has recently garnered funding to support a part-time coordinator of healthy food access comprehensive planning work across the metro.
Led by Extension Educators Anne Dybsetter and Mary Schroeder, the Southwest Food Network Community of Practice launched in February 2016. The community of practice provides a series of learning opportunities related to network-building, effective facilitation, assessment, action-planning and health equity. Content is developed through cross-center collaboration of Extensions educators in community vitality in partnership with health and nutrition educators. The focus of the efforts is food access, food skills and food infrastructure, aligned with the Minnesota Food Charter. Participants include SHIP staff and SNAP-Ed educators.
- SNAP-Ed Educator Kanko Akakpovi has been working with the residents of Three Links Cottage Apartments (senior housing). In the early stages of her relationship building, she taught monthly classes with groups of seniors. Now, a weekly fruit and vegetable cart is offered to residents and food producing plants have been added to the raised gardens instead of only flowers and herbs.
- With leadership from Extension Educator Kelly Kunkel, southeast SNAP-Ed educators train food shelf managers and volunteers on nudging techniques using behavioral economics to increase healthy food selection by participants.
- SNAP-Ed Educator Annette Shepardson helped organize and facilitate the formation of a Hunger Task Force in Winona in October 2015 with four agencies. Their first project was holding the “Faces of Hunger” conference featuring national speaker Barbie Izquderio. The Hunger Task Force has been renamed to the Winona Community Food Network and has grown to 37 members. The network is using the Minnesota Food Charter as their roadmap to change.
SNAP-Ed Educator Andrea Kronbach — with the support of the SHIP coordinator and all of the food shelf directors in the county — developed the Waseca County Healthy Food Access Network with the mission to partner together to increase the access to, and knowledge of healthy and affordable food for residents residing in Waseca County.
The Minnesota Food Charter launched October 2014 after a nine-month broad-based public engagement process. From the beginning, Extension provided significant leadership, funding and support to ensure the success of the food charter. Read more about the timeline here: Minnesota Food Charter: History.
The Minnesota Food Charter Network began in November 2015. The Network is statewide and rooted in Minnesota Food Charter strategies. It supports and fosters shared action towards healthy food access for all. Read more about The Network.
The multidisciplinary team working to advance the Minnesota Food Charter includes many organizations and individuals. Find a full list of committee members here: Minnesota Food Charter: Committees. You may also be interested in meeting Food Charter Champions.
The Minnesota Food Charter Network (MFCN) is supported by:
- Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
- Minnesota Department of AgricultureMinnesota Department of HealthUniversity of Minnesota Extension