In 1981, a deep recession exacerbated inequities within Knoxville’s food supply system. This was disproportionately affecting citizens of low socioeconomic status who were relying on government programs which were facing substantial cutbacks such as food stamps, WIC, and school lunch programs. Also occurring during this time was an increased awareness of the role of food in health and nutrition, as well as dieting in society. A 1977 report conducted by Robert L. Wilson’s “Synthesis” class at the University of Tennessee’s Graduate School of Planning had previously found issues with urban food equity, supply, and cost, and recommended in its conclusion the formation of a city-wide council which would address such issues. While such a council had not existed in any form beforehand in Knoxville, the Knoxville Community Action Committee (CAC), born from President Johnson’s War on Poverty; had been working for years to combat inequalities within the city. The CAC provided staff and was a significant entity in assisting the establishment of the Food Policy Council.

In October of 1981, the Knoxville City Council adopted Resolution R-202-81, calling attention to the issues of Knoxville’s food policy system. Specifically, the resolution called for the creation of an inter-agency task force composed of members from various city agencies which would “continually monitor Knoxville’s food supply system and recommend appropriate actions to improve the system as needed”. The plan for the Food Policy Council was presented at a City Council workshop on April 11, 1982 and The Knoxville Food Policy Council was created on July 1, 1982.

Choosing members for the Food Policy Council followed three criteria:

  • Ties to government,
  • Working knowledge of the food industry, and
  • Experience in neighborhood and consumer advocacy.

Other qualities under consideration were an awareness of food issues, an objective thought process, the ability to inspire confidence in others, and a willingness to participate. Diversity was especially important as the city mayor at the time, Randy Tyree, desired a sample of various perspectives within the food system, be they consumer/neighborhood advocates, business persons, those from social service agencies, farmers, consumers, and those involved in health and nutrition. Mayor Tyree appointed the first members to one, two, or three year terms, subsequent members were all appointed to three year terms, thereby assuring a continuous change in the composition of the FPC.

In addition to the seven members of the FPC, inter-agency task forces of staff resources were provided to assist in the start-up of the FPC. These resources were provided by:

  • The Community Action Committee’s (CAC) Food Supply Project for logistical and administrative support as well as coordination of the inter-agency task force.
  • The Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) for demographic research, analysis of food distribution patterns, transportation routes, agricultural land use, and locational patterns of food facilities.
  • Department of Community and Economic Development (CED) for providing technical understanding of food-related economic development, information and analysis concerning public transportation, and counsel on integrating food system goals into overall development plans.

The FPC also appointed several advisory committees to allow various parties a way to be involved in the work of the FPC, such as providing a range of technical viewpoints that were otherwise not available. These advisory committees consisted of: existing food- oriented organizations which would be asked to cooperate as Food Policy Council affiliates, representatives of inner-city neighborhood organizations and civic clubs, and technical advisory groups of specialists with technical competence such as chain store managers, food technologists, etc.

In order to further address county-wide food issues, the Food Policy Council was expanded by Knox County resolution in 2002 to 11 members, creating the format that is seen today. Click this link to view the original and the updated resolutions.

For a more in-depth overview of the history, goals, and experiences of the Food Policy Council please read the following document: Summary and History of the Knoxville-Knox County Food Policy Council.

*Banner image: The First Food Policy Council – Knoxville, TN, 1982 (Left to Right: Ed McMillan, Mary Nelle Traylor, Fred Pickett, Mayor Randy Tyree, Doug Coulter, Ruth Bletner, Hoyle McNeil, Lucius Churchill)