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Cleveland – Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition (CCCFPC)

Underlying Theory/Evidence

Underlying Logic:

The CCCFPC’s work is based on the premise that local communities can change food access and use at a systems level by:

  • Using a Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) approach to facilitate multi-disciplinary and multi-sector collaboration that create broad buy-in and support across many traditionally siloed disciplines and organizations.  The coalition’s extensive bottom-up formative approach is a clear example of early phases of CBPR as opposed to the leading stakeholder groups deciding on an approach and then attempting to engage others. Some of the key sectors brought together include academic institutions (public and private), local public health and agricultural leaders, producers, consumers, and other community stakeholders involved in different aspects of the local food system.

  • Employing community empowerment methods/constructs in ongoing leadership and management of the CCCFPC. This is characterized by open communication among all stakeholders, and the fact that much of the work takes place in smaller workgroups who make recommendations to the full council. 

  • Working directly with local policymakers and policy champions to enact and implement local policy changes. 

Evidence-based Intervention Strategies1:

The CCCFPC’s various program and policy initiatives use a number of evidence-based strategies to achieve healthier food systems and environments through:

  • Community-wide campaigns to promote healthy eating – The CCCFPC developed local food guides that are distributed to the community.  The CCCFPC also conducted Community Food Assessments with several communities in Cuyahoga County, then worked with multiple sectors (such as government or private industry) to achieve desired community-wide changes.

  • School nutrition programs to promote healthy eating – The CCCFPC’s Health and Nutrition Working Group is working to increase availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in schools; for example, the CCCFPC and Ohio State Extension of Cuyahoga County worked with three K-8 Cleveland Municipal School District schools to implement recent state and federal legislation requiring improvements in physical activity and school nutrition.

  • Changing access and availability to favor healthy foods and beverages – The CCCFPC worked with farmers’ markets in Cuyahoga County to accept SNAP benefits through Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) and develop an incentive program for EBT customers.  The initiative was successful in increasing the number of farmers’ markets in Cuyahoga County that accept EBT benefits from 1 in 2008 to 14 in 2011.  The CCCFPC was also instrumental in establishing a Sustainable Street Food Pilot Program that offers grants and favorable loans to new food cart operators providing healthy, locally-sourced menu items.

  • Increasing purchasing and use of foods from local farms – The CCCFPC was involved with the passage of a City of Cleveland “Local purchasing ordinance” that provides 2% bid discounts on all applicable City contracts to businesses that are sustainable, locally-based, and/or purchase 20% of their food locally, which can be combined for a maximum discount of 4%. 

  • Urban planning/zoning approaches to facilitate healthy eating – The CCCFPC was involved in the development of new zoning regulations that allow urban bee-keeping and animal husbandry (2009), the creation of an Urban Garden District zoning designation (2007), and the creation of an Urban Agriculture Overlay District zoning designation that allows more intensive food production within the city (2010).

Evidence of increased capacity of the CCCFPC and its members to achieve food systems improvements:

While there is no formal assessment or measurement of the CCCFPC’s capacity or the capacity of its members to engage in food systems work, it appears the CCCFPC has developed the capacity to effectively bring together diverse stakeholders to function well as a full council and in working groups. Evidence of this includes the CCCFPC’s ability to:

  • Achieve consensus around mission, broad strategies, and goals;
  • Establish infrastructure that includes paid staff, an advisory board, and working groups;
  • Engage a broad spectrum of members and partners to facilitate communication and partnerships across sectors; and
  • Secure resources to accomplish food systems policy work.

It also appears that the CCCFPC has been effective in assisting diverse stakeholders and partners to increase their own capacity to engage in food systems policy change by providing information and opportunities for communication and networking that facilitate collaboration between community partners.  The CCCFPC coordinator explains “…the CCCFPC has done a good job bringing food systems into the forefront and shifting the paradigm…agencies who were unfamiliar with this work [now] think about food systems – healthy access and local food economies – when they develop plans, program ideas, policies, etc.  The level of expertise and sophistication of the discourse around food has changed dramatically in Cleveland. We have changed the way people think and how they do business.”

Evidence of the CCCFPC’s impact on policies, environment, and programs:

The CCCFPC and its working groups have successfully helped to achieve policy change in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County.  The CCCFPC tracks policies, certain environmental changes, and programs impacted by it efforts. Working group accomplishments are tracked internally as well as publicly via the CCCFPC website and other means. 

Examples of policy initiatives that increase access and availability of healthy food are described above under Evidence-based Intervention Strategies. A summary of key policy accomplishments and other CCCFPC working group successes is available on the CCCFPC website.  The policies themselves have had an impact on the food environment in the region.  For example, in the first year of the Farmers’ Market EBT Incentive Program (2010), participating markets saw EBT sales in the first month alone surpass their total 2009 EBT sales. Over the course of the year, the Kamm’s Corners Farmers’ Market saw an increase in sales from $359 in 2009 to $1,765 in 2010 while the Tremont Farmers’ Market experienced an increase from $110 in 2009 to $2,067 in 2010.2

In addition to policy initiatives, the CCCFPC has also produced a number of food assessment reports, guides, tools, and events to inform food policy decisions and implement recommended policy strategies.  Examples include:

  • Community Conversations Toolkit and Community Conversations 2.0The Community Conversations Toolkit uses a group discussion guide and survey instruments to provide quantitative and qualitative data to assess food gaps in urban neighborhoods. Community Conversations 2.0 is a report of the results of focus groups with more than 100 adults and 50 youth held in seven communities.

  • Various community forums and events such as a Community Food SkillShare

These and many more reports, tools, and other publications are available on the CCCFPC website.

1 A full description of the intervention strategies used can be found here with references to the sources of evidence to support the strategies.

2 Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition, 2011. EBT at Farmers’ Markets: A $5 Incentive Program Increases EBT Use at Local Markets.  Available at: http://cccfoodpolicy.org/sites/default/files/resources/ebt_at_fm_brief_0.pdf.  Accessed 5-17-12.