Building a Healthy Foodshed: Inter-Connecting Policy

In San Diego, the “locavore” or local food movement is hot!  
Given the growing concern in the mainstream about such “inconvenient truths” as climate change, perhaps it’s no surprise that local, sustainably-produced veggies, seafood, meats, dairy products and even beer have given rise to a virtual manifesto among trendy new restaurateurs and pub-owners in North Park and other hip, revitalized commercial areas in San Diego.  But even more intriguing is how terms like ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ and ‘organic’ once gracing only the food labels in high-end grocery stores are integral to a burgeoning and broad-based social justice movement in our region. 

Understanding the Food System

Analogous to a watershed, the San Diego “foodshed” includes everything in the system from agriculture to community gardens to school cafeterias.  And similarly analogous to the challenges of creating meaningful water policy change, developing sustainable food policy for our region will involve everything from public health to environmental, land use, and economic development issues. 

While San Diego is the second largest agricultural county in the State of California, many areas, especially communities in the urban core, have been deemed “food deserts.”  These communities lack access to fresh food outlets such as grocery stores and farmers markets, which has drawn attention to the fact that the neighborhoods most at risk for malnutrition, childhood obesity and diabetes, are also those most lacking in sidewalks, bike lanes,  adequate public transportation, and “green” or “open” space.   

Throughout San Diego County, residents, public health workers, community development organizers, and urban planners have begun looking at how to improve our local food system, and several local groups, such as the People’s Produce Project and the IRC’s New Roots Farm, have begun planting the figurative and literal “seeds of change.” Often inadvertently, these groups also have begun to identify the myriad issues that fair food policy should and can address in our region. 

This blogger recognizes that San Diegans working for food policy change are living a once-in-a-lifetime story that introduces and engages some of the most invisible policy and decision-making bodies in the world of local government.  Community planning groups, neighboorhood councils, and council committees are among these invisible spaces of government, where few San Diegans ever go. 

This blog lifts up the stories of San Diegans who see food equity as one powerful and necessary locus of efforts to improve public health, plan our communities for livability, and make sustainable development our future.  Many of these efforts are spurring local groups to get involved in our local democracy in new ways, check out the adjoining blog on related local governance issues.

IN THE NEWS: 

1.  San Diego’s Urban Farmers.  3/18/09

2. In San Diego, fertile ground for the seeds of understanding. 1/15/10

3. A Community of Walkers Searches for Safe Sidewalks 3/23/10

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