The next step in what could be a two-year process to develop a Columbus-Franklin County Food Action Plan will be a couple of two-hour meetings in the Northland area, one scheduled for Monday, May 4.

The next step in what could be a two-year process to develop a Columbus-Franklin County Food Action Plan will be a couple of two-hour meetings in the Northland area, one scheduled for Monday, May 4.

That's a lot of time to ask of up to 30 people interested in food access, food education and food production, but Noreen Warnock indicated a "tasty dinner" is in the offing for all volunteers.

They can rest assured the food will be fresh.

Warnock, who lives in Clintonville, is co-founder of Local Matters and currently serves as director of community outreach.

The not-for-profit organization formed a partnership with city officials and the Franklin County Board of Commissioners in November to develop the action plan.

Warnock recently approached the Northland Community Council to recruit volunteers for the May 4 community meeting and for another meeting to be scheduled sometime in early June.

She said last week three or four people have expressed interest in participating.

Others who might want to be involved in the meeting may contact Warnock at 614-263-5662. Her email address is nwarnock@local-matters.org.

Similar meetings have already been held on the South Side, Near East Side, Franklinton and the Hilltop.

Warnock said she realizes large sections of the city, including the Northwest Side, as well as much of Franklin County are being left out of the community meeting portion of the process.

She did say that "stakeholders from every aspect of the food system" representing many different parts of the city and county would be coming together in June to further the action plan, which is scheduled to take 18 to 24 months to complete.

"It's very difficult to get everywhere, but we're making an effort," Warnock said.

In addition, 4,000 consumer surveys are to be conducted all over the city and county; participants will include producers and distributors as well as consumers, she said.

"A report from the meetings, including a map of food resources and top priority needs generated by meeting participants will be provided to the community and submitted to the Columbus-Franklin County Food Action Plan planning committee," Warnock wrote in remarks prepared for the NCC's April session.

Warnock said Local Matters personnel have been researching similar plans developed elsewhere in the country.

"That's turning out to be very helpful because we don't want to reinvent the wheel," she said. "There's a lot of good work that's been done out there."

The action plan, according to Warnock's NCC remarks, is to focus on the following:

* Improving access to nutritious, affordable food and education about healthy food.

* Increasing the role of food in economic development.

* Preventing food-related waste.

* Enhancing coordination and communication among existing food resources and agencies.

According to Warnock, the plan will recommend policies and actions to meet its stated goals.

It will cover how food is grown, produced, processed, packaged, distributed (and) prepared; how to avoid wasting food "and how each of these points in the system has an economic development component," the NCC document said.

"I think this is a sign from the city and the county that they do believe there is a lot that can happen that would be good and helpful for a lot of people," Warnock said in an interview.

"Otherwise, I don't think they would have committed resources to developing a food action plan."