The Knoxville-Knox County Food Policy Council

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH
Part of the Food Policy Councils in Action spotlight series

Name: Knoxville-Knox County Food Policy Council

Year it started: 1982

Mission: To monitor and evaluate the performance of Knoxville’s food system in terms of costs, availability, accessibility, and implications for public health and economic efficiency, public awareness of food issues, and improvement of the food supply and distribution network.

Members/Structure: The council is made up of 11 appointed members, five appointed by the Mayor of the City of Knoxville and six appointed by the Knox County Mayor, plus associate members who are local food-system stakeholders with consistent participation. Appointed members serve a maximum of two consecutive three-year terms. Associate members are appointed annually by the council to provide technical assistance, advice, and consultation. They serve one-year terms and can be reappointed for multiple terms. 

A Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, and Secretary are elected at the October, November, or December meeting to serve for one year and a maximum of two consecutive terms with the same title. 

All meetings must be held in person as required by law in the State of Tennessee, and all members are expected to attend all council meetings.

Visitors and guests are welcome to attend and observe council meetings, although they may be limited in their ability to participate in discussions, depending on time constraints.

What they do: The Knoxville-Knox County Food Policy Council’s work is largely rooted in using a collaborative network to build more equitable food systems. Recent projects the council has led or been involved with include:

  • Equitable food access for public housing residents. (More on this below.) 
  • The Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation (KCDC)’s Transforming Western initiative focuses on improving the Western Heights affordable housing property. The council provided advice on improving food access in the project through the establishment of an on-site community garden and the development of a building on the property dedicated to food, which will include a restaurant and, through Real Good Kitchen, an incubator kitchen.
  • A Community Food Security Assessment led by the United Way of Greater Knoxville. This project is in the first-year data collection phase, which includes conducting stakeholder interviews, community-wide surveys that inquire about food systems and drivers of health, and community-based organization research projects with the end goal of creating a more equitable local food system.
  • Advisory support to the Advance Knox initiative, which will provide an updated planning and zoning pathway for Knox County. 

How they do it: The council holds meetings on the third Wednesday of each month from 8:30 to 10:00 AM at the United Way of Greater Knoxville

The chairperson runs the meetings and is the spokesperson for all council matters. The vice-chairperson takes on the chairperson’s duties if he or she is unable to complete them, and does other tasks as assigned by the chairperson. The secretary ensures that meeting minutes are accurate and posts them for public viewing. 

The executive committee, comprised of the three officers above, is authorized to take action on behalf of the council when necessary. 

The nominating committee, which consists of one chairperson and at least two members, nominates candidates for appointed and associate council membership and for officers. 

The bylaws committee also consists of one chairperson and at least two members, who meet at least once a year to review the council’s bylaws, recommend changes when necessary, and ensure that council activities are in compliance with the bylaws. 

Special ad hoc committees are established to focus on specific issues as they arise. 

Any matter that requires a vote is decided by a majority vote of a quorum present at the meeting. 

Latest project/campaign: In February 2023, a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow, hosted by the United Way of Greater Knoxville, completed a report detailing food system challenges and barriers in public housing communities. She worked with seven public housing properties and engaged with stakeholders and residents through interviews, focus groups, program shadowing, and asset mapping. The project helped to identify barriers to accessing healthy food for individuals living on those properties.

The fellow made recommendations for improving food equity in public housing, including:

  • Investigate ways to heal residents’ trauma caused by the public housing authority discriminating against or harassing them, and develop trauma-informed practices for resident engagement. 
  • Create opportunities for residents to participate in food service programming.
  • Develop spaces for residents to have a community dialogue about food.
  • Build relationships between residents and organizations outside the provider-client dynamic where residents are equal collaborators.

Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system: The Knoxville-Knox County Food Policy Council is North America’s oldest municipal food policy council. 



Location: Knoxville, TN

Number of staff: 0

Number of volunteers: 30: 11 appointed members and 19 associate members

Areas served: Knox County, TN 

Chair: Bailey Foster

Contact Information:
Bailey Foster (Chair): 
Fiona McAnally (City of Knoxville Staff Representative): 
Madelyn Howe (Knox County Staff Representative): 
Kimberly Pettigrew (additional support): 

Learn More:

Related Articles

Subscribe To Weekly NYC Food Policy Watch Newsletter
Subscribe to our weekly email newsletter today to receive updates on the latest news, reports and event information
No Thanks
Thanks for signing up. You must confirm your email address before we can send you. Please check your email and follow the instructions.
We respect your privacy. Your information is safe and will never be shared.
Don't miss out. Subscribe today.