Occidental Professor Advocates for Improved L.A. Food System in New Report

The Southland needs a better food system to help lower childhood obesity, increase access to healthy food, and support local farmers, states Occidental College professor Robert Gottlieb and other members of the Los Angeles Food Policy Task Force in a new report, "The Good Food for All Agenda."

 

The 108-page report, available at http://goodfoodla.org/, details 50 recommendations on increasing access to healthy, affordable food produced in a fair and sustainable way, improving public health, creating jobs and small food enterprise opportunities, and forging stronger connections to the regional food economy overall.

"The Good Food Agenda represents a comprehensive and effective effort to identify where change is needed for a food system that has created enormous problems around food access and health and environmental consequences," said Gottlieb, executive director of Occidental's Urban & Environmental Policy Institute and co-author of the new book, Food Justice, which recounts the history of food injustices and describes current efforts to change the system.

The 19-member food policy task force includes representatives from the local farming, community health and restaurant worlds as well as policymakers and LA Weekly food critic Jonathan Gold. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who appointed the city's food policy task force a year ago, has endorsed the report and showcased it at the Oct. 6-8 "Roots of Change Network Summit" in downtown LA.

"The Good Food for All Agenda" outlines specific steps to create a more equitable and accessible regional food system. The recommendations include:

• Link public investment to the creation of good jobs in small food enterprises.
• Develop good food procurement policies and urge school districts to participate.
• Integrate good food criteria into green business certification programs for food service providers.
• Increase enrollment in the food stamp program.
• Promote funding opportunities and technical assistance for farmers' markets to increase participation by low-income residents.
• Support financial and other incentives to develop or improve food markets in the most underserved neighborhoods.
• Streamline the process to permit community gardens.
• Urge Congress to expand the definition of USDA-funded nutrition and health education outreach to include school gardening and cooking programs.

The report comes at a time when increasing access to good food is more important than ever before, Gottlieb said. The recent economic downturn has forced increasing numbers of people to turn to local food banks and pantries, and the number of local residents who qualify for food stamps has skyrocketed, including many who have recently lost their jobs.

"Hunger is a chronic problem in Los Angeles," he said.

The new task force report is a living document, Gottlieb added. "The Good Food for All Agenda is a framework for moving forward, but it is only the first step," he said. "The next step is for policymakers, community, business and neighborhood leaders to coordinate, advance, and put into action the plan outlined in the report."

For more information about Food Justice, the new book Gottlieb co-authored with Anupama Joshi, the co-director of UEPI's National Farm to School Network, go to: www.foodjusticebook.org