“We Are the Champions” blared out of the hotel’s sound system. At the same time nearly 80 food network leaders from over 40 local, regional, or issue-based networks snaked their way around the ballroom. When the music stopped, pairs — in quick interactions — shared how they were championing Minnesota Food Charter strategies in their network. When the music started again, individuals then moved on to do nearly the same thing only with another strategy and as part of another pair. This was just one of the network-building – also kitschy and fun – methods used over a two-day “Convening of Food Network Leaders” to help the attendees feel the pride and own the label as a Minnesota Food Charter Network Champion.
The next day, with the convening still in session, nearly 50 people gathered at an event held just a couple floors above Governor Dayton’s office. Billed as “The Food Charter in Action” and sponsored by the Cross Agency Working Group, the event demonstrated how state officials from many departments in state government are inspired by, committed to, and actively engaged in advancing Food Charter strategies. Representatives from federal and state agencies, nonprofits, the philanthropic community, as well as Senator Franken’s and Representative Nolan’s offices listened to how specific strategies in the Charter are moving forward. The group then headed to an adjacent room to interact with nonprofits, tribal nations, local policy commissions, the University of Minnesota, and the philanthropic community. Discussions highlighted how Food Charter strategies were making a tangible difference in communities across the state. Next, for the first time, the Minnesota Food Charter Network identified a series of state policies it would track and educate local networks about and then engage in issue advocacy to show how state policy impacts local communities.
Group photos were taken at each event and shared with the other to show how we are in this work together.
In fact, you could see attendees at both events begin to recognize the power of their collective voice to advance state-level Food Charter strategies that increase the health and prosperity of all Minnesota’s communities. New relationships and shared insights at the Food Charter Convening provided an opportunity for cross-pollination and strategy swapping. Meanwhile, the Food Charter in Action function helped bring more agencies to the table to consider how they might expressly join in the mission to get healthy, affordable, and safe food in the places that Minnesotans work, learn, live, and play.
At both events, participants pointed out that there is not a level playing field when it comes to access to healthy food. The Minnesota Food Charter Network and the Food Charter reflect a deep commitment to equity. Food Charter strategies are designed in ensure everyone has reliable access to safe, affordable, healthy food.