Coordinate a Local Election Season Event

There’s a difference between advocacy and lobbying.  Advocacy basically means information sharing, educating on a topic that matters that you. Local food councils are well positioned and have a great opportunity to be advocates and educators to local decision makers on the state of their community’s food system. This fall,  Community Food Strategies and Plate of the Union are offering their organizing support to NC local food councils to host election season events.

If your council would like support in hosting a forum or a meet-and-greet event this fall, please let Jared,, know by Wednesday, August 3rd.

A meet-and-greet event with candidates and elected officials is a great way to engage your community around the upcoming election, to build support for the issues that matter to your food councils, to build relationships with elected officials, and to learn more about the candidates running to represent you. These events create an important space for your communities to interact directly with decision makers in your community. They provide a platform for discussion around the issues that most important to you – agriculture, food and health.

Charlotte Mecklenberg Food Policy Council example of a Meet & Greet Candidates Forum

In October 2015, the Charlotte Mecklenberg Food Policy Council (FPC) hosted a breakfast ‘Meet & Greet’ candidate forum on a weekday morning for all local officials, including those running for school board, county commissioner, city council and others, to talk with their constituents about food issues. They had a fast and positive response from candidates and the community to attend this informal event. Community partners offered meeting space for free, and a local coffee shop came to sell coffee.  The FPC set up three informational tables with one-page fact sheets and information on food access and food deserts, Farm to School and school gardens, as well as local agriculture.  This information was sent to all candidates after the event, whether they attended or not.  This interaction with the candidates resulted in the FPC being invited to present this work in more depth to a working group of Commissioners.

This FPC had and executed a low- to no-cost idea that greatly engaged their community, educated local officials on food and farm issues, and strengthened relationships with those officials to offer more information in the future.   Your local food council can do this too!  And Community Food Strategies and Plate of the Union are here to help.

What’s the difference between Advocacy and Lobbying?

The NC Alliance for Health is also offering their support and gave a brief explanation of the difference between advocacy and lobbying on last Thursday’s Overview call with more information on this opportunity.  Advocacy is basically general education and outreach, such as Charlotte Mecklenberg FPC’s fact sheet on food access and food deserts in their county.  Lobbying involves communication that reflects a particular position (in support or opposition) towards a specific piece of legislation.  The NC Alliance for Health gave a great and quick overview of the differences in this presentation.

Also, read this blog post recently published by the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association: What’s a Non Profit to Do? Advocacy in An Election Year”. This blog highlights how non-profit organizations can advocate for farms and food in an election year without running afoul of the IRS’ rules limiting advocacy work by organizations like yours. It also highlights some of the steps that groups should take when organizing these types of events with elected officials and candidates for public office.  

What support will we receive?

The Plate of the Union has put on-the-ground organizing support in several states across the U.S. to help local communities share the state of and importance of food and farm issues with local officials.  Their larger goal is getting the next president to take concrete action towards reforming our food system. The Community Food Strategies team and Plate of the Union organizers are developing a detailed event organizing toolkit, available in early August, and will offer the follow support for your council:

  • A step-by-step guide to planning these types of events and staying engaged after your event
  • In-person planning meetings with continued ongoing support until your event
  • Support identifying and inviting additional volunteers, candidates, elected officials, and high level stakeholders to help plan and attend your event
  • Training and support on media relations and promotions for your event

Additional support for planning one-off events, planning for strategic community engagement and community mapping, and strategic networking with additional resources and decision makers is also available through Plate of the Union organizers through November 2016.

Alamance Food Collaborative, Durham Farm & Food Network, Charlotte Mecklenberg Food Policy Council, and Forsyth Community Food Consortium are all on board and getting their planning teams together to host events in their communities! Join them!  Contact Jared at by Wednesday, August 3rd to let us know how we can support you this fall.

Contact Information for Primary Organizers

  • Jared Cates – Community Food Strategies –
  • Onte Johnson – Plate of the Union –
  • Robert Corriher – Plate of the Union –
  • Sean Carrol – Plate of the Union –

Contact Information for Resource Partners on Call


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