Insights by Goldie
A regional "Food Policy"

Sound Consumer | March 2004

by Goldie Caughlan
Quality Standards Specialist

I recently spent an inspiring day, meeting with a roomful of determined and energized folks: farmers, chefs, nutritionists, hunger awareness groups, farmers' market managers, educators and representatives from Washington State and King County Departments of Agriculture.

We spent the morning hearing of the challenges faced by small family farmers and other small food producers, especially producers on the "urban fringe." In addition to being surrounded by urban development, and struggling with zoning and other land-use problems, they often face a lack of adequate processing and transportation infrastructures to move product from field to fork.

The meeting was focused on sharing information, setting goals and finding solutions. We identified more than half a dozen projects that are critical and will meet two goals: 1) directly support King County's mostly small, sustainable and frequently organic family farmers, and 2) to improve nutrition and access to quality food for more King County residents.

This means finding creative and practical means to shorten the distance that even regionally-produced foods travel between the farm and the consumer. It includes getting more King County fruits and vegetables, dairy products, eggs and meats into more local farmers markets, restaurants, schools, food co-ops and other grocery stores.

One of the work groups will strategize and draft a regional "Food Policy." This means addressing the region's food security, including availability and quality, and helping to direct that more foods be purchased and used regionally, benefiting producers and users. Food policies such as these have been adopted across the country in many municipalities, counties and some states. (For examples of national food policies, see www.statefoodpolicy.org and www.sustainableportland.org).

While PCC is interested in exploring the formation of a sound regional food policy, for now we're trying to see what might be done in Seattle area schools with the Farm-to-Cafeteria concept. Are you interested in working on this? If so, please e-mail me with your interest and ideas. I'll get back to you with information and resources. I also can connect you with others working on your interest area. After all, we are all interdependent.


Farm to cafeteria success

Last month I told you how one "ordinary" mom overcame her initial shyness and helped spark extraordinary changes in the public school lunch programs in Olympia, Washington. The column highlighted the resources of the Farm-to-Cafeteria "movement," which is helping connect local and regional farmers with institutions and schools across the country, including the Puget Sound area. (see Insights by Goldie, Sound Consumer, February 2004).

PCC member Judith Alexander contacted me shortly after she read that column. I had encouraged readers to share stories of "everyday heroes," personal triumphs and accounts of courage, goodness and decency that I believe most people strive for. Such a "call to share" was made purposefully to counteract the deluge of negative "junk news" that's so common these days.

Judith wanted to call my attention to a Web site she had found that she felt other readers would like to know about. It is www.HeroicStories.com. She mentioned especially "story number 470." I checked out the site and the story and I agree. Thanks, Judith, for letting us now about this.

The story we found especially upbeat was told by an astonished and grateful self-described "very pregnant" banquet waitress. She said that as she finished her last banquet shift late one evening — at eight months, it was her last before "retiring" to have her baby — she was called forward to a microphone and handed the results of a secret hat-passing: $300 cash. It was a gift for mom and baby, freely given by a roomful of Safeco employees, in addition to the usual tip, which already was added to the restaurant check.

The Safeco employees — mostly from Seattle — were training in California and the banquet was their last evening in town. They had been seated only a few minutes when they learned the waitress was on her last shift; they started collecting for their special gift within minutes. The presenter at the microphone made sure the waitress knew the $300 was in addition to her separate tip.

This generous act of thoughtfulness was notable not only because complete strangers gave such a gift, but because they took steps to make sure it was understood as a freely given gift, just as any friend might give a gift, so she would not have to report it as a taxable tip.

This certainly met and exceeded the sense of performing "random acts of kindness," an important and appropriate means to provide antidotes to meanness and cynicism experienced from time to time. I'll be checking out the Web site occasionally, whenever I need a little lift.


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