FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – Cumberland County and Fort Bragg have established the first county-military food policy council in the nation to address food insecurity and healthy food access through community engagement among Cumberland County and Fort Bragg residents.
The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution June 21 establishing the Joint Fort Bragg and Cumberland County Food Policy Council, which will have a maximum of 15 appointed members with one-year terms. The council will be co-chaired by a military member from Fort Bragg and a civilian from Cumberland County. The council will include two members involved in local farming and agriculture; three members representing local education; three members who work in healthcare public health, food insecurity or food access, or child and adult care; and two members from local government.
“With approximately 56,000 residents in Cumberland County facing food insecurity, it is vital that we establish a food council to push for policy changes to increase the number of people who have access to foods that support healthy eating patterns for themselves and their children,” said Dr. Jennifer Green, Cumberland County Department of Public Health Director.
In 2020, the Cumberland County Department of Public Health, Fort Bragg Department of Public Health and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) collaborated on a grant application to the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge, funded by the Aetna Foundation and supported in partnership with the American Public Health Association, the National Association of Counties and Healthy Places by Design. Cumberland County Department of Public Health acted as the lead agency and was awarded $100,000 over a two-year period to jointly address food insecurity with Fort Bragg with the goal to advance the overall health equity and improve access to foods that support healthy eating patterns.
This Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge grant work includes funding for UNCG to complete a food system assessment and a resident leader position that activated two subcommittees of partners from Fort Bragg and the Cumberland County community to work on two primary functions.
The first subcommittee worked on the development of the first joint county-military food policy council in the nation. The Food Policy Council duties and responsibilities will address increased accessibility to healthy, nutritious foods, incorporating health, equity, and sustainability considerations in policies, processes, and decision-making process as it relates to food insecurity, work to decrease the current number of adults and children facing food insecurity, communicate with various food system stakeholders, collaborate with community food strategies to network with other existing Food Policy Councils, and to explore ways to conserve local resources. Citizens interested in serving on Food Policy Council will be able to apply on the County website in the coming weeks.
The second subcommittee will work on assessing the food environment, on and off the military installation, using a tool called “Google My Maps.” Residents will be able to sign up to go into stores and do a brief survey about the healthy food options in those stores. This assessment will be used to inform the work in the future. Funding from the grant will also be used to purchase incentives for resident participation in the assessment.
The Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge partners in the Cumberland County area are the Womack Army Medical Center; Partnership for Children, Better Health; Alliance Health; Action Pathways; the Cumberland County Department of Social Services; and Noonday Kitchen. More information about the HCCC can be found at http://www.healthiestcities.org/ .
APHA is a membership association that champions the health of all people and all communities. The Aetna Foundation is an independent, charitable, and philanthropic affiliate of CVS Health. The views presented here are those of the author and not necessarily those of the American Public Health Association or the Aetna Foundation, its directors, officers, or staff. Find out more about Cumberland County Department of Health programs by visiting https://www.cumberlandcountync.gov/departments/public-health-group/public-health.