Why identify community priorities?
Attaining a food system vision such as “healthy people, vibrant farms & fishing, thriving local economies, strong communities, and resilient ecosystems” requires a lot of people working towards a common aim. People support what they help create. Thus, the priorities of the people who will be most affected by a change need to inform the change to be made.
When changes are proposed from outside, a group must first ‘sell’ the reason for the change before action can begin. When changes are based on priorities the community has identified, a group can more readily move toward action. In addition, clearly identified priorities provide focus for a group around which to organize action.
What does this look like?
There are several ways in which community priorities might be identified:
- Regular convening of the community to identify priorities.
- Conducting a food assessment which includes community engagement.
- Compiling existing food-related assessments and getting community feedback.
What else should you consider?
- Focus on outcomes, then activities.
For example, a priority outcome might be to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables among children, with a priority activity to review school system policies with this result in mind.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel.
Thoroughly check across your community for any food-related assessments that have already done – especially for those which are already required by others, such as a Community Health Assessment.
- Build upon others’ work.
Other communities have been identifying problems, activities, and outcomes pertaining to community-based food systems.
- Get specific about what success looks like.
Make sure priorities identify which populations will be targeted, what measures will show the change, and how much change constitutes success.
- Anticipate needing to do it again in the not-too-distant future.
In systems work, small changes can have big, sometimes unanticipated, results. Priorities may shift with any actions that follow.
Here are tools and resources helpful in identifying community priorities
- Intro to Outcome Thinking – Presentation
- Outcoming Thinking Glossary
- Outcome Thinking and Management – Presentation
- 2011 Community-Based Food System Assessment and Action Planning – Facilitator Guidebook
- Community Food Assessment Resources – CDC
- Community Food Assessment Resources – Why Hunger
- Convening Process
- Reporting Process