Local Health Department Spotlight: Collaboration in Plumas County
by Holly Calhoun, Roots of Change.
Dynamically meeting the needs of the community, as identified by the community. That’s what the Plumas County Public Health Agency strives to do, and they have been partnering with the Plumas-Sierra Community Food Councils, and the community based organizations that are represented on the council, to do so effectively.
Plumas County has benefited from SNAP-Ed funding for just two years, and has sought to maximize the impact of those funds in this short amount of time. Notably, the Public Health Agency is supporting collaborative efforts to maximize the impact of limited resources and sustain local capacity. The Public Health Agency supports the Plumas-Sierra Community Food Council by providing meeting space and a conference call line, lending staff time for agenda preparation and keeping meeting minutes. These elements are critical to a successful food council. Having a reliable member that can consistently contribute these resources, such as the Public Health Agency, is an excellent model that more councils and health departments should consider. Particularly since food councils and health departments have many aligned goals around health and food access, collaboration can help both groups to better meet their goals. For example, the Public Health Agency is able to fund Digging In, a local organization that participates in the food council, to run the Public Health’s school based garden nutrition education. Public Health is able to meet their goals in provide great programs to students, while supporting a local organization and not having to become experts on gardening themselves.
In October 2014, the Plumas-Sierra Community Food Council held a FEAST Food Summit, funded through SNAP-Ed funding from the Public Health Agency, and organized by the Food Bank of Northern Nevada, which is an active member of the Community Food Council. The summit was a great success, attracting a wide range of community stakeholders from a variety of sectors including food production, retail, education, public health, emergency food providers, elected officials, advocates, and economic development, among others. The event provided an opportunity to extend the reach of the food council, and gather stakeholder input that will inform the Public Health Agency’s Community Nutrition Action Plan (CNAP) which is currently in development. The Public Health Agency is mandated to develop a CNAP, as are all health departments in California. Funding a local food council and member groups to put on the summit is a model that other health departments should consider in developing their CNAP’s, to engage the community in developing the CNAP to ensure that the CNAP will address the needs of the community as identified by the community.
In Plumas, the CNAP, representing issues identified at the food summit, will compliment the recently completed strategic plan of the food council. In this way, the community has both a long term policy oriented vision with the strategic plan, along with the CNAP that outlines the immediate and programmatic actions that are needed in the short term in order to accomplish the longer term vision.
Collaboration to meet community needs is encouraged at all levels in Plumas County. In large part, the success of the Plumas-Sierra Local Food Council in getting the County Board of Supervisors to adopt language in support of a healthy food system in the recent update of the General Plan, established the foundation for this collaboration. Alignment between the General Plan, the strategic plan, and the CNAP will help all agencies and organizations to better meet their goals, which will lead to community needs being met. While synergy often exists between groups, establishing actual plans that support, align, and build off of one another will enhance each group’s ability to be effective.
Collaboration is key to successfully improving community health, food security and food access, and supporting a healthy food system. Health departments and food policy councils can work together to more effective achieve their mutual and aligned goals. It’s really all about coming together to meet the community needs, as identified by the community.