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A Food Planning Association (FPA) is an association of organizations and individuals who are committed to making their community food secure. FPAs are composed of government and civic leaders, food security stakeholders, corporate representatives, people experiencing food insecurity, and volunteers from the community. THI relies on FPAs to work on the local level in communities assessing the structure and procedures of food delivery systems, identifying resources and gaps, making decisions for change, and implementing their action plans in order to provide healthy and nutritious food to an increased number of people.
THI has established a set of expectations for FPAs to meet in order to receive THI support. FPAs are asked to stay linked to the Texas Hunger Initiative and to State and Regional Operations Teams, address the entire system and not just individual aspects of hunger, Collaborate with those working in the area of hunger to organize the process of addressing the issue, train others to organize in their own communities, and to partner with THI to raise funds to support the operating costs of the FPA. Another important requirement of an FPA is that it must include people who are living in hunger in the decision-making process. This allows for the plan developed to have community input and helps ensure that the FPA does not develop a plan that works on paper but will not be applicable to those who need it most.
A detailed structure has been outlined for FPAs. First, the association will have two co-chairs. These chairs should be an elected official along with a food bank director or local, anti-hunger champion. The Co-Chairs will work to gather community members and leaders together and offer support to the grass roots organizers and volunteers. These leaders will provide presence, stability, and support for those actively leading the FPA.
The FPA will also have a steering committee made up of six to eight members. The steering committee is made up of key leaders in the community food system such as nonprofit leaders, major food pantry leaders, school food service, and business leaders. This committee is the first created and meets monthly or bi-monthly in order to do the work of assessing and planning for the FPA (see Appendix C for diagram). The steering committee makes the decisions on how the FPA will move forward.
Working alongside the steering committee will be several task committees of eight to twelve members each. The FPA task committees help make decisions, bring vital information to the table and help coordinate efforts in specific areas of the community. Task Committees are made up of experts from the community who have specialized knowledge in certain areas or aspects of hunger, as well as community members directly affected by hunger who desire to be an active voice on behalf of their community.
Finally, THI also places a Field Organizer to work in each community it establishes an FPA in. The Field Organizer is an employee of THI that works within a specified community. This person will be responsible for helping to develop the FPA by coordinating and facilitating the FPA Steering and Task Committee meetings, identifying and developing relationships with key leaders in the community, and completing administrative tasks for the FPA, e.g. ensuring that meetings are scheduled, meeting minutes are kept, and records are organized.
FPA's should be made up of a diverse group of local individuals. Along with the elected official and food bank director/anti-hunger champion that co-chair, the FPA should include other key food bank staff and community members living in hunger. The FPA should also include leaders involved in areas of the food system such as: grocery store chains, farmers and local farm associations, school food service, free and reduced lunches, summer meals, Meals on Wheels, food pantries, nutritionists, senior nutrition program centers, SNAP, WIC, local restaurant association, and community gardens. It is also important to include community leaders from the municipal government (e.g. municipal court and recreation services), school district, county extension service, hospitals, physicians, business leaders, nonprofit leaders, and congregational leaders.