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Missoula County appoints members to upstart Food Policy Board

The resolution creating the Food Policy Board suggests that issues related to food and agriculture are critical to the goals established in the city and county growth policies, along with the city’s climate action plan. (Missoula Current file photo)

Missoula County commissioners appointed four members to the upstart Food Policy Board on Thursday, creating a new group tasked with making policy recommendations surrounding the local food system and all that it entails.

Commissioner Josh Slotnick, who ran in part on food related issues and sustainable agriculture when seeking office, said the board will have a number of tasks when it holds its first meeting on Monday.

“They’d provide policy recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners, the City Council and the mayor, so we can use policy as a tool to further the resiliency, stability, economic vitality and ecological sustainability of our local and regional food system,” Slotnick said Thursday.

The county announced its intention to create the new board back in January in a meeting with Missoula Mayor John Engen, who said he’d support the effort if it came to fruition.

On Thursday, commissioners nominated four members across various sectors including farming, retail and food security. They include Jessica Allred of the Missoula Food Bank; Jason Mandela with Garden City Harvest; and Oxbow Cattle Co. owner Bart Morris.

Jodi Wills of the Wills Cattle Co. will serve as the board’s first alternate.

“We’re expecting her to come to the meetings and participate in the conversation,” Slotnick said. “Doubling up on ranchers is kind of why we went this way with one rancher being the alternate and the rancher-retailer being the voting person.”

The resolution creating the Food Policy Board suggests that issues related to food and agriculture are critical to the goals established in the city and county growth policies, along with the city’s climate action plan.

It also suggests that the county is losing many of its working farms and ranches due to low economic returns related to the global food system. Climate change also poses a threat, the resolution notes.

“A healthy agricultural sector is essential to the well-being of our community due to benefits such as food security, open space, wildlife habitat, economic vitality, health promotion and quality of life,” the resolution states.

When the idea was floated back in January, Sarah Bell, the commissioners’ administrative assistant, said a similar resolution was adopted in 2005, though it later morphed into the Community Food and Agriculture Coalition.

That organization now works to conserve farmland and ensure that food is both affordable and locally grown. The new board is expected to meet for the first time next week.

“We populated this board with experts from different realms of the food system,” Slotnick said. “We’re excited to hear what they have to say.”