When I explain to most people that I do policy work for The Office of Sustainability, they look puzzled. I imagine this is because their first thoughts are somewhere along the lines of “how is policy environmental?” Or for those with a greater understanding of the definition of sustainability, "what does policy contribute to the spheres of holistic sustainability?” To be perfectly honest, I had similar thoughts, and only recently have I really begun to understand the relationship between policy and sustainability, and how my work with the New London County Food Policy Council (NLCFPC) has had widespread, and more importantly, lasting impact.
Doing policy work involves many things, first, getting to know politicians and forming relationships and researching what currently policies are in place. Next comes critically examining if current policies are effective and developing policy recommendations, in addition to extensive amounts of research into other policy councils and seeing what has been successful.
In working with the NLCFPC, there are many facets to food policy, from affordability and accessibility, to education and agriculture. While these different working groups develop ideas in order to make the work more sustainable while also benefitting the most people, the policy-working group is there to ensure that these changes are sustained as policies are what people are required to follow. If policy work were not present, then these new and creative ideas would not be everlasting and therefore not sustainable.
Because policy and the council itself deal with many different facets of food policy, the work we do is widespread. Our first job is to compile a list of policy priorities. By working with each working group I have been able to narrow down a specific policy to examine and critique what currently exists, while also working to develop policy recommendations and other improvements that can make a policy more sustainable. For example, Connecticut is part of the $10.10 minimum wage increase. While people initially think that an increase in minimum wage is a great thing, it's important to examine the whole picture. The increase means more money for people, especially those currently living in poverty, but it may also mean that they no longer qualify for SNAP or WIC benefits due to the increase in their salary. Policies such as these are important to consider, especially as they also overlap with affordability and accessibility of foods.