Nashville could soon have a new council to help advise the city’s elected officials on better food and nutrition policies.
An ordinance sponsored by Metro Councilwoman Erica Gilmore would establish an 11-member Food Policy Council consisting of “farmers, nutritionists, educators, anti-hunger advocates and representatives of the food industry.” The mayor and directors of Metro Nashville Public Schools, the Nashville Farmers’ Market and the Metro Health Department would make the appointments.
The council, which would be required to confirm the appointments, is set to consider the bill on first reading Tuesday.
Gilmore, who represents parts of North Nashville and downtown, said one of the issues Nashville faces is the reality of “food deserts,” neighborhoods that lack immediate access to groceries or other places to purchase nutritional foods.
“People that do not have access to grocery stores [with nutritional offerings] do not live as long,” Gilmore said.
“Right now, it would take a little bit longer time to incentivize and bring grocery stores to the area, [but] we can sponsor legislation that would aid in that, where we would have a dedicated body to look at those issues,” she said.
Gilmore also cited Tennessee’s high obesity rate as reason to create the Food Policy Council, a body she hopes would explore initiatives carried out in other states and municipalities, and offer recommendations accordingly.
In all, responsibilities of the council would include improving access to health food and promoting healthy living; promoting the concept of community gardens throughout Davidson County; improving the availability of fresh, local produce; and attracting grocery stores in underserved, low-income neighborhoods.
Earlier this year, Metro landed a $7.5 million federal stimulus grant to launch an obesity prevention program, along with other health initiatives.