Insights by Goldie
Achieving regional food security
Sound Consumer | March 2005
by Goldie Caughlan
Quality Standards Specialist
What if all residents of Seattle and King County had access to nutritious, fresh food that is produced and distributed in a just manner? What if farming, food processing and distribution were flourishing as part of the local economy and contributing to a healthy environment?
The above is the opening paragraph of a document entitled “Building a Sustainable Community Food System in Seattle and King County: Concept for Developing a Local Food Policy Council.” It’s the result of many months of hard work by numerous individuals and groups, including representatives of WSU and the WSU King County Extension, Cascade Harvest Coalition, Food Lifeline and numerous others. The goal is to have a joint Seattle/King County Food Policy Council (FPC) adopted by 2006.
Currently, there’s no local government jurisdiction over programs that address hunger, nutrition and agriculture, which are now spread across many agencies and jurisdictions. The coordinating committee members who developed the concept paper for the FPC say this lack of identifiable “food policies” is especially startling, considering that:
- Hunger and food insecurity in Washington have exceeded national averages for the last eight years (the state is rated tenth highest for hunger in the nation).
- The number of food stamp clients increased more than 37 percent from January 2000 to March 2004.
- Fifty-two percent of King County residents are overweight or obese and thus at greater risk of diabetes, heart disease and other preventable ailments.
- This region is losing farmland, farm businesses and farming support systems at an alarming rate. The Puget Sound region is fifth highest in most threatened farmland in the nation!
The purpose of the Seattle/King County Food Policy Council is to provide city and county governments a role in reducing food insecurity1, improving health and increasing the sustainability of this region’s food system. The FPC will function as a public-private partnership and undertake a comprehensive food system assessment. It will identify priorities for policies and programs to implement a public dialogue, leverage resources for food system improvements, and strengthen links in food system components.
If you agree with the concept, you’re invited to sign a simple endorsement, adding your name or your organization’s name to the growing list of supporters. This will help move the concept of a Seattle/King County Food Policy Council closer to adoption by the target date of 2006.
If you would like to learn more about community food security issues, there is much available on the Web. Start with the Community Food Security Coalition at www.foodsecurity.org. For information concerning food policy councils that have been working in other areas across the nation, visit www.statefoodpolicy.org/links.htm.
If you would like to read the concept paper described in the first part of this article, contact Sylvia Kantor at WSU/King County Extension offices, 206-205-3131, or firstname.lastname@example.org. To sign a letter to endorse the creation of a Seattle/King County Food Policy Council, visit www.metrokc.gov/wsu-ce/foodsystems/endorse.htm.
1. “Food security” is defined by the national Community Food Security Coalition as “a condition in which all community residents obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes community self-reliance and social justice. “Food insecurity” therefore is when that system fails to meet these criteria.
Update on farm-to-school projects
Start-up funds for farm-to-school projects are now available
The 2005 Community Food Projects (CFP) Competitive Grants Program, administered by the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has begun accepting applications for start-up funds to help implement farm-to-school projects. Applications must be received by March 30, 2005.
Funds will be available this summer for the school year beginning September 2005. More than $44 million currently are available, with a maximum of $300,000 for any grant, for some 20 projects to be funded nationally at this time.
It’s important to understand that these grants are a one-time infusion of federal dollars. They’re meant to help make such projects self-sustaining and to provide training and technical assistance to those developing new CFPs, or assisting current projects that qualify.
The objectives include increasing community food self-reliance, developing innovative links between public, for-profit and nonprofit food sectors, and encouraging long-term planning activities and comprehensive multi-agency approaches. All CFP’s are intended to bring together stakeholders from distinct parts of the food system. Hence, the farm-to-school concepts — which will support local farmers while providing fresher food and promoting better nutrition for school children — are a perfect fit.
While the opportunity to access start-up dollars certainly could give a very real boost to getting a farm-to-school project off the ground, the funding process itself can seem daunting and inaccessible, especially for many parents and other community organizers who may not have experience with such federal grant-based programs. Also the timeline is very short with the March 30 application deadline fast approaching.
Free technical assistance to organizations seeking funds for farm to school projects through the 2005 CFP grant program is being offered by the Center for Food and Justice at Occidental College in Los Angeles, in collaboration with the Community Food Security Coalition (www.foodsecurity.org/funding.html). The assistance available is provided as one-on-one personal mentoring through the application process and is readily available. For information, visit www.farmtoschool.org or contact Anupama Joshi, National Farm-to-School Program Manager, by e-mailing email@example.com or calling 323-341-5095.
Finally, friends, as you know, the Washington State Legislature is in session and facing a heavy budget deficit. PCC is continuing to work closely with the Washington Sustainable Food and Farming Network to secure funding for the excellent Biologically Intensive and Organic Agriculture Program (BioAg) at WSU. Among other things, it will ensure that the organic major at the School of Agriculture continues.
Please, if you have not yet written to Governor Gregoire and your legislators in support of this program — or are uncertain of what to say — visit our Web site at Support sustainable farming, not biopharming at WSU.. There are letters to download and send. Putting your own thoughts on paper — a short paragraph — may be even more effective. But please, send them today. Thanks!