About Us

The NWI Food Council is a multi-stakeholder alliance that works to build a just, sustainable, and thriving locally-oriented food system for all in Northwest Indiana through networking, education, advocacy, and projects.

We are a grassroots organization that launched in December 2015 with support from NIRPC, Valpo Law, Food Bank of NWI, and Purdue Extension. The Council serves all of Northwest Indiana: Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton, Jasper, Starke, and Pulaski counties.

Our current work and future projects cover five key areas:

  • Local Food System (food hub, farmer support, local labeling)
  • Outreach (networking, education, events)
  • Policy (study & influence government decision-making)
  • Research (data, surveys, directory of local projects/groups)
  • Food Access (addressing food deserts, food security, food rescue/gleaning)

We’ve spent a lot of time networking and building connections since we launched. We're still working to get to know all the players in our local food system, and we feel those relationships will be critical to our work in the coming years. If we haven't connected yet, please get in touch and introduce yourself! We'd love to get to know you.

The NWI Food Council is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and donations are tax deductible.

History

The seed was planted in April 2015, when 100 activists, business owners, chefs, community members, educators, farmers, and foodservice operators from around the region gathered for the Local Food Summit. The Summit was organized by NIRPC, Purdue Extension, and Valpo University Law.

After the event, a task force was formed to begin guiding action on all the of the passion and ideas that participants had developed. Kris Parker from Purdue Extension facilitated our small group of volunteers, who worked diligently for months to form the Council. 

The Task Force to Create an NWI Food Council was comprised of:

  • Arleen Peterson, Food Bank of Northwest Indiana
  • Gabrielle Biciunas, Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Committee (NIRPC)
  • James Cannon, GrowLocal
  • Lynda Bodie-Fernandez, Thea Bowman Leadership Academy
  • Lyndsay Ploehn, Purdue Extension - Porter County
  • Nicole Negowetti, Valparaiso University Law
  • Sarah Highlen, community activist & entrepreneur  

In December 2015, we officially launched as the NWI Food Council. 

Founding Board Members

The founding board members of NWI Food Council were:

  • Arleen Peterson, Food Bank of Northwest Indiana
  • Dominique Edwards, Graduate Student - Sustainable Urban Development, DePaul University
  • Elias Crim, Solidarity Hall and C-Lab
  • Gabrielle Biciunas, Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Committee (NIRPC)
  • James Cannon, GrowLocal
  • LaTonya Carter-Sanders, Purdue Extension - Lake County
  • Lynda Bodie-Fernandez, Thea Bowman Leadership Academy
  • Lyndsay Ploehn, Purdue Extension - Porter County
  • Nicole Negowetti, Valparaiso University Law
  • Reverend Marty Henderson, Peace Baptist Church 
  • Sarah Highlen, community activist & entrepreneur  

See our current Team.

Members of the Task Force to Create an NWI Food Council attended a 2015 USDA event. Left to right: Gabrielle Biciunas, Lyndsay Ploehn, Arleen Peterson, Sarah Highlen.

Members of the Task Force to Create an NWI Food Council attended a 2015 USDA event. Left to right: Gabrielle Biciunas, Lyndsay Ploehn, Arleen Peterson, Sarah Highlen.

Lyndsay Ploehn and Nicole Negowetti hold up pages during a 2015 brainstorming session of the Task Force to Create an NWI Food Council.

Lyndsay Ploehn and Nicole Negowetti hold up pages during a 2015 brainstorming session of the Task Force to Create an NWI Food Council.

Brainstorming in progress during a 2015 planning session.

Brainstorming in progress during a 2015 planning session.