Food Access Policy Change through Authentic Resident Engagement


The Healthy Food Policy Project (HFPP) team and its Advisory Committee members developed this definition and these working principles to provide a template for authentic resident engagement in food access policy change. In many communities, the first step in this process is reaching out to community and base-building organizations that already have deep and trusted relationships with residents. Absent these organizations, it may be appropriate to engage directly with residents, but only if there is a long-term commitment to engagement. The definition seeks to explain what HFPP means when using the term “authentic resident engagement” and the principles and tools to be used throughout the policy development process.

Definition of Authentic Resident Engagement

Authentic resident engagement describes an inclusive process for informing, designing, implementing, and evaluating food access policy changes that centers community residents. By inclusive, we mean moving beyond participatory practices and acknowledging the long-standing deficiency by policy and advocacy organizations, government and public health officials, and others to embrace the capacity, knowledge, and experience already present in dynamic and resilient communities. This requires an intentional commitment to address power imbalances and overcome historical and ongoing barriers to inclusion (such as the law, policy, and systems that intentionally exclude Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) while supporting and looking to those most affected by inequities to lead the process.

Working Principles

ADDRESS POWER IMBALANCE: Work to remove or overcome historical and ongoing barriers to inclusion and the impact of systemic and structural racism

1.) Intentionally addressing factors affecting residents’ ability to exercise their power.1

Example: Historical and generational trauma caused by federal policy that aimed to eradicate culture and ways of life that traditionally supported community health, oppression, redlining, disenfranchisement, disinvestment, etc.

2.) Committing to building long-term solutions based on a community’s history and strength-based assets.2

Example: Follow the lead of community leaders and provide safe and trusted environments to listen, understand, and honor peoples’ lived experiences.3

3.) Designing and implementing local food access policies based on residents’ priorities, contexts, and capacities, recognizing that no two communities are alike.4

Example: Co-design policy solutions5 that impact residents’ ability to access healthy food in their community (e.g., food insecurity, housing, transportation, etc.)


BUILD TRUST: Establish long-term relationships with community and base-building organizations and/or residents6

1.) Take time to connect personally and listen authentically. Invest time, energy, and effort.

Example: Show up for community events when appropriate. Do not come in with an agenda. Support and assist policy initiatives already planned by the community.

2.) Change resource allocations and hiring practices so residents are compensated for developing policies that will impact their community.

Example: Offer jobs, stipends, childcare, translational services, transportation compensation, meals, etc.

Stance towards community 0
Impact Marginalization Preparation
or Placation
Limited Voice or Tokenization Voice Delegated Power Community Ownership
Community Engagement Goals Deny access to decision-making processes Provide the community with relevant information Gather input from the community Ensure community needs and assets are integrated into process and inform planning Ensure community capacity to play a leadership role in implementation of decisions Foster democratic participation and equity by placing full decision-making in the hands of the community; bridge divide between community and governance
Message to Community Your voice, needs, and interests do not matter We will keep you informed We care what you think You are making us think (and therefore act) differently about the issue Your leadership and expertise are critical to how we address the issue It’s time to unlock collective power and capacity for transformative solutions
Activities Closed-Door Meetings


Systemic Disenfranchisement

Voter Suppression

Fact Sheets

Open Houses




Public Comment

Focus Groups

Community Forums


Community Organizing & Advocacy

Interactive Workshops


Community Forums

Open Planning Forums with Citizen Polling

MOUs with Community-Based Organizations

Citizen Advisory Committees

Collaborative Data Analysis

Co-Design and Co-Implementation of Solutions

Collaborative Decision-Making

Community-Driven Planning and Governance

Consensus Building

Participatory Action Research

Participatory Budgeting

Cooperative Models

Resource Allocation Ratios 100%
Systems Admin
Systems Admin

Promotions and Publicity

Systems Admin

Consultation Activities

Systems Admin

Community Involvement


Community Partners

Community partners and community-driven processes ideally generate new value and resources that can be invested in solutions

Rosa E. González
Source: From Community Engagement to Ownership: Tools for the Field with Case Studies of Four Municipal Community-Driven Environmental and Racial Equity Committees, Urban Sustainability Directors Network


TAKE AN ANTI-RACISM STANCE: Intentionally address institutional and structural racism, white supremacy, and discrimination and exclusion7

1.) Bring awareness to racial inequities.


2.) Support solutions that address historical harms that have created and perpetuate health disparities among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

Nationally, municipalities have passed resolutions, in various forms, to: address the impact of the institution of slavery, the genocide of Indigenous People, and continued discrimination in their communities; to establish a truth and reconciliation process; and/or provide reparations including, but not limited to, cash payments to individuals and organizations and a commitment to community development in priority communities.

USE AN ASSET-BASED APPROACH:8 Remove a deficit-based approach and apply an asset-based framework to food access policy work

1.) An asset-based approach identifies and builds upon residents’ strengths and provides a framework for community ownership.


  Deficit Based Asset Based
Purpose Changing community through increased services Changing community through citizen involvement
Method Institutional Reform Citizen-centered production
Accountability Leaders are professionals and staff, accountable to institutional stakeholders Leaders are widening circles of volunteer citizens who are accountable to the community
Role of Assets Assets are system inputs. Asset mapping is data collection. Assets are relationships to be discovered and connected. Asset-mapping is self-realization and leadership development.
Resources Money is the key resource. Falls apart without money. Relationships are the key resource. Falls apart when money becomes the focus.
Operating Challenge How do we get citizens involved? How do we channel and build on citizen participation?
System Dynamic Tends to spread itself thinner over time. Tends to gain momentum over time.
Evaluation Success is service outcomes, measured mostly by institutional stakeholders. Success is capacity, measured mostly by relationships.

Dan Duncan, ABCD Institute Faculty
Source: Asset-Based Community Development: At A Glance, Tamarack Institute


External Reviewers



1 Principles of Authentic Community Engagement, Minnesota Department of Health (July 2018),
2 Working Principles for Health Justice and Racial Equity, The Praxis Project,
3 Id.
4 Id.
5 Co‐design is grounded in a participatory framework and when applied to policy, it means working with communities affected by an issue to contribute to its solution. Residents of the community are seen as the experts, know their community assets, and have intuitive knowledge on how to design policies that relate to their experiences.,that%20relate%20to%20those%20experiences.
6 Principles of Authentic Community Engagement, Minnesota Department of Health (July 2018), 7 Id.
8 “Asset-based community development, also known as ABCD, acknowledges and embraces particularly the strong neighborhood rooted traditions of community organizing, community economic development and neighborhood planning.” John P. Kretzmann and John L. McKnight, Introduction to “Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets, Institute for Policy Research (1993).

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