Arabella’s 12 Good Food Policy Priorities

Emily Nink

Arabella Advisors recently announced a new philanthropy and investment consultancy to harness the growing interest among donors and investors to create a better food system. Arabella’s Good Food Practice will advise philanthropy, advocacy, and investor clients working to transform the food system from farm to fork, through strategic, mission-driven investments. The organization will also work to advocate for policy change as part of its three-tiered vision for good food, emphasizing 12 new priorities to improve equity, sustainability, and profitability in the food system.

The list of good food policy priorities was developed in collaboration with new advisors Melody Barnes, former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and Marland Buckner, founder and CEO of ForeverView Farms. “We’re thrilled that they joined the Arabella Good Food team and that our clients can now benefit from their consulting practice and their insights into policy strategy, business, and more,” writes Eric Kessler, senior Managing Director of Arabella’s Good Food Practice. The list was launched at the Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems Funders’ Second Annual Policy Briefing in Iowa.

“A cohesive movement strategy is about making difficult choices,” writes Kessler. “[It] means choosing to focus on some things and not to focus on others. A realistic strategy won’t make everyone happy on every point, but it will ultimately help us all better use our resources to drive needed policy improvements at multiple levels.” The Good Food Practice defines Good Food as healthy, affordable, accessible, and sustainable.

Given current economic and political conditions, some of these priorities will be difficult to achieve, and more are needed, but the following 12 agenda items are Arabella’s essential building blocks for policy reform:

To improve the workforce for food:

1.     …incentivize private sector partnerships for beginning farmer initiatives to focus on permanent job creation.

2.     …create a Good Food Practitioner (GFP) certification under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to build knowledge and qualifications within the food workforce.

3.     …create a path to citizenship for GFP-credentialed workers by reforming the H-2A visa program, providing citizenship access for the 78 percent of crop workers born outside the U.S.

To drive innovation and improve opportunities for small businesses:

4.     …establish a network of Regional Food Innovation Hubs within Farm Bill Title VII, focusing on specific food production methods that are climatically appropriate to regional areas.

5.     …develop a competitive grant program to leverage state programs for institutional purchasing.

6.     …pass the PRIME Act to help address negative impacts of supply chain consolidation and promote regionally-raised meat sales.

To accelerate food access at the neighborhood level, across the nation:

7.     …incentivize local food purchasing within SNAP and other food access programs.

8.     …build data for best practices in SNAP, streamlining access to benefits and improving nutrition criteria, through farm bill reforms that mandate data collection at point of purchase.

9.     …create tax incentives to promote healthy food retail and local employment in food deserts.

To address environmental externalities of food production:

10. …advocate for an executive order mandating Ecosystem Service Restoration standards, creating a compliance baseline for environmental impact.

11. …encourage small farms to transition to USDA Organic Certificaiton through Farm Bill reforms.

12. …create a Food Waste Reduction Program under the USDA AMS to recover imperfect produce and promote food waste recycling, modeled after the USDA AMS Local Food Promotion Program.

To extend the impact of the food system and spur truly transformative change, policy reform at all levels is necessary. Other ideas for policy priorities—especially for philanthropists and impact investors—can be shared with Arabella’s Good Food Practice by email: