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Cleveland – Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition (CCCFPC)


Organizational Structure

The formative work described in the Background section resulted in the CCCFPC’s structure as a horizontal, network-based coalition with the ability to connect people and work efficiently across various sectors.  The coalition is not part of a local government agency, nor is it incorporated as a non-profit.  It has continually evolved since 2007 into its current structure.  An advisory committee oversees the CCCFPC, day-to-day administration is handled by two paid staff, and working groups accomplish goals in various aspects of local/regional food systems.  Each of these components is described below.

  1. Convening Organizations: OSUE and Case Western Reserve University’s CDC-funded Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods (PRC) are the lead convening organizations.  OSUE serves as the fiscal agent for the CCCFPC and employs the CCCFPC’s two paid staff.  The PRC provides research and evaluation expertise and support.

  2. Advisory Board: The CCCFPC has an advisory board of approximately 10 members with representation from city and county government, local organizations and the George Gund Foundation.  Original advisory board members were selected for various reasons. Some were invited based on their ability to influence policymaking, for their passion for food access and local food systems, or for the stakeholder group they represented (legislature, philanthropy, public health, planning, city, county, or state government).  Others were appointed by County Commissioners or other agencies.  The CCCFPC made a concerted effort to ensure that a variety of stakeholder groups and systems were represented.  A list of current advisory board members is available on the Who We Are page on the CCCFPC website.

  3. Staffing: The day-to-day operations of the CCCFPC are facilitated by highly skilled OSUE staff.  The OSUE Coordinator (75% FTE) serves as legislative liaison, coordinates working group activities, maintains and updates the CCCFPC website, facilitates public relations and fields inquiries from the public, conducts development activities, and coordinates other activities related to day-to-day coordination of the CCCFPC.  A second OSUE Project Coordinator (40% FTE) splits responsibilities between the CCCFPC and a second project. More information about staffing requirements is included in the Resources Required section of this template.

  4. Working Groups: The CCCFPC uses a working group structure to address priority policy issues identified by coalition members.  Five working groups were formed in the initial stages of CCCFPC development, but these have evolved into the current structure of four working groups, each representing a different aspect of the local food system: (1) health and nutrition, (2) land use, (3) research and assessment, and (4) local purchasing. Working groups are headed by volunteer workgroup leaders who are typically professionals working locally in the topic area. Working group membership is a mixture of coalition partners working toward targeted policy outcomes, best practice pilots, and assessment. More information about the Working Groups is available on the CCCPFC website.

  5. Members: The CCCFPC’s membership has grown from approximately 40 organizations in 2007 to over 100 organizations in 2010. Members include representatives from local government (city and county), public health and nutrition advocates, hunger advocacy groups, faith-based organizations, academia and research institutions, foundations, businesses, food retailers, farmers, and land use specialists.  Please see the list of participating organizations on the CCCPFC website. Participation is voluntary, and members are encouraged to be active in one or more of the four working groups.  Member organizations often allow their employees to donate work time to the CCCFPC.

Key Implementation Activities

  1. Develop and Implement CCCFPC Action Plan: In addition to developing the original CCCFPC Action Plan, the CCCFPC engages in strategic planning to better define and refine its work in line with its capacity and resources.  The Action Plan guides CCCFPC activities and serves as a communication mechanism to the public.

  2. Develop and implement working group work plans: Agenda-setting processes vary across working groups, but many groups first discuss and identify food system issues and needs related to their topic area, then develop a work plan to address or better understand the issue. For example, the Land Use Working Group uses a two-part ‘dreamstorming’ process in which members write down big ideas and goals - nothing is off limits.  These are then shared with everyone, organized by topic or policy area into a Goals and Objectives outline, and a timeline is developed to accomplish these goals.  An example goals and objectives outline and timeline are available in the Implementation Materials section of this template.  If a working group’s work plan requires policy changes, the CCCFPC will work with city or county officials—many of whom serve on the CCCFPC working groups or advisory board—to determine the best approach to addressing the priority issues. Working groups also coordinate with CCCFPC staff to strategically outreach to other community partners whose membership in the CCCFPC would help accomplish these goals.  This organizational framework has allowed CCCFPC to identify and address issues transparently through collaboration. 

  3. Convene meetings for general membership, workgroups, advisory board, and others: The CCCFPC facilitates a variety of different meetings.  General membership meetings (held several times per year) and working group meetings facilitate partnerships and networking opportunities among member organizations.  The advisory board, convening organizations, working group leaders, and working groups all meet regularly.  In addition, the CCCFPC hosts meetings and various events such as trainings and forums for the broader public as part of its working groups’ initiatives. 

  4. Provide administrative and logistical support for CCCFPC activities: The CCCFPC’s paid staff provide day-to-day administrative and logistical support to working groups.  Examples of support include printing materials, providing meeting space, facilitating strategic partnerships, conducting ongoing development/fundraising activities, and organizing professional development opportunities for working group leaders. 

  5. Recruit members and partners: Members are recruited or join the CCCFPC in one of two ways: sometimes individuals or organizations approach the CCCFPC about joining, and in other cases the CCCFPC strategically reaches out to specific community partners when their expertise in a certain topic area would be helpful for a particular project.  These connections are often achieved through pre-existing relationships with CCCFPC members.

  6. Engage members and the community in ongoing environmental assessment and information gathering:  Community outreach and engagement is an important CCCFPC activity. The working groups serve as a mechanism to receive continuous feedback from members.  Working group leaders meet twice per year to discuss logistics, structure, and leadership challenges they are facing, as well as opportunities for collaboration between working groups.  The CCCFPC also conducts assessments that engage community members, identify issues, and ensure policy implementation is on target. Two examples of recent community involvement were (1) assessing transportation barriers preventing access to healthy food outlets and (2) a Community Food SkillShare event for area residents in which community leaders came together to share best practices and technical assistance for healthy food access projects. More than 100 residents attended 12 workshops in neighborhood food projects. The Community Assessment working group also developed a Community Conversations Toolkit that includes group discussion guides, survey instruments, and focus group guides for conducting community assessments of food gaps in neighborhoods. The working group conducted these conversations with four neighborhoods in Cleveland to determine their priorities about food access (see the Community Food Assessment working group webpage).

  7. Communicate accomplishments: Examples of CCCFPC communications products may be found throughout the CCCFPC website.  Communication products include working group blogs, posters, policy briefs, action plans, reports, photographs, local food guides, community assessment toolkits, presentations, academic papers, legislation, and more.

The CCCFPC’s Role in the Policymaking Process

The CCCFPC’s ability to influence policy decisions focuses primarily on informing the legislative process by providing research-based information.  CCCFPC staff, as OSUE employees, must be careful not to ‘endorse’ legislative policies or ask people or policymakers to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on specific legislation.  Instead, coalition staff provide qualitative and quantitative information—including potential policy ideas based on best practice and other communities’ innovations and solutions—that helps policymakers make decisions and raises awareness of challenges community members and residents face.  CCCFPC staff often attend meetings with legislative sponsors/political champions to answer questions and concerns with data- or research-driven responses.  Coalition staff also ask coalition members and community members to contact their elected officials with their perspective on pending legislation.  The CCCFPC Coordinator says, “It can be a fine line but has helped to establish credibility and the CCCFPC’s reputation as an honest broker.”

The CCCFPC’s specific role in advancing food policy varies from issue to issue.  The history and process for achieving several successful policy initiatives can be found at the links below and on the CCCFPC website Resources page:

Keys to Success

  • The flexible nature of the working group structure and the support of convening organizations as back-up has helped ensure the success of the working groups.  The coalition staff try to make the CCCFPC’s work fun and interesting, with emphasis on a spirit of collaboration.

  • Funding for staffing is key to maintaining the CCCFPC in its current structure. 

  • In addition, the motivation, support, ability to follow up on action items, and administrative role of paid staff is key to moving the CCCFPC’s work forward.

  • Cultivating political and legislative champions has been essential to the adoption of policy initiatives and recommendations. Champions include city council members, staff in the Office of the Mayor, the Office of County Executive, and directors and commissioners from several municipal and county departments including community development, economic development, planning, public health, and sustainability.

  • Emphasizing cross-sectoral collaboration brings together a diversity of ideas and perspectives that build more comprehensive policy strategies addressing challenges on multiple levels.

  • The ability to act and react quickly when opportunities for policymaking present themselves (i.e., taking advantage of policy windows).

  • The CCCFPC’s periodic revision of its action plan ensures that the coalition will stay in step with new developments and evolving needs in the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County area.  This flexibility and adaptability will help the CCCFPC maintain its value and relevance. 

  • Other strengths of the CCCFPC include: framing food policy issues around economic recovery; food environment data collection; foundation support; strong leadership; and emphasis on community engagement.1

Barriers to Implementation

  • Lack of time and resources for monitoring and evaluation may impact the CCCFPC’s ability to demonstrate impacts on health or other key outcomes, which in turn could impact future funding opportunities.

  • Volunteer burn out.

  • Funding diversification is an ongoing challenge, but the CCCFPC’s extensive network and emphasis on relationship building help position it to identify viable funding opportunities. 

  • Finding ways to integrate more community resident participation.

  • Establishing a timeline for group decision-making processes.

  • Keeping the focus on policy change rather than tangible projects and initiatives.

  • Working across multiple jurisdictions (more than 50 municipal governments, county government, and state government).

1 The CCCFPC participated in a Pre-Evaluation Assessments of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Programs and Policies project, a collaborative effort led by a team from the CDC Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, and coordinated by ICF Macro International. The findings in this section are based on the opinion of the site visitors and derived from the Summary Report (June 2011).