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For the Love of Good Food: Checking in with Salt Lake City’s Resident Food Equity Advisors

Thanksgiving this year will be different as we all work together to keep our community safe. We reduce risk of spreading the COVID-19, and invent creative ways to keep connected to our families virtually while still being able to share in the traditional Thanksgiving traditions. As we all work through reimagining the holiday, the city’s Resident Equity Advisors are hard at work making sure everyone in our community – families, elderly, children, and all individuals suffering from food hardship have access to a healthy, nutritious food.

One in nine Utahns struggles with hunger, and equitable food access is still a major concern in our community. This year, we’re taking time to reflect on our connections with food. Food is a basic human right and is on of the foundational pieces of community resilience and SLCgreen’s focus areas. Our department launched the Resident Food Equity Advisors program to engage our vulnerable communities and empower them through shared decision making.

Read on to find out more about what these advisors have been working on!

Photo of brightly colored beets in a bowl.

Who are the Resident Food Equity Advisors?

In the spring of 2020, SLCgreen facilitated the formation of the Resident Food Equity Advisors program. This collective of 11 Salt Lake City community members works together to recommend equitable food policies and programs to improve food access for vulnerable populations.

Although every advisor comes from a different background, they are all passionate about food access issues.

Jessica T., one of the Advisors, says the diversity of the group is what makes it so special. She told us, “I have been enjoying getting to know all the members from our group and hearing their different perspectives from all of our topics.” She adds that the program is “important because it brings awareness, makes changes, and opens opportunities to anyone no matter where you’re from, economic status, or dietary preference. We make sure that every voice is heard and come together to find ways that benefit everyone in our community.” 

Overhead view of heads of assorted leafy fresh lettuce with a bunch of crisp red radishes arranged on old rustic wooden boards in a country kitchen

Building a Framework for Local Food Equity 

The goal of this group is to advise the City on ways to increase fresh food access for communities most adversely impacted by food insecurity. Advisors rely on their lived experiences to make recommendations for a participatory budgeting process. This process aims to give decision making power back to residents and empower residents to create meaningful change within their communities.

The Advisors originally intended to meet in person with added opportunities to engage with their food environment. But with COVID-19, the group had to pivot to virtual meetings. However, the move to an online setting hasn’t slowed down our engaged group of advisors full of new ideas and passion.

Storytelling and lived experiences help build the group’s comprehensive framework on equitable food access. And the program focus is on addressing challenges faced by our most marginalized and vulnerable communities.   

The Resident Food Equity Advisors have been building a collective framework for local food equity. Here are some of the program’s 2020 milestones:

  • Resident Food Equity Advisors project is officially launched! This people centered approach to community engagement and empowerment is a new pilot for the city.
  • By the spring of 2020, SLCgreen reached out to 41 community organizations and 43 refugee community groups citywide to encourage community members with a passion for food to apply to be an advisor. The response from community members was enormous, and by the summer of this unprecedented year, the diverse team bonded over their food stories while brainstorming ways to improve access to healthy, affordable, and culturally relevant food.
  • Early meetings focused on painting an accurate landscape of an equitable food system and building relationships among the advisors. The group has dug deep into local issues surrounding consumption, nutrition, and waste across Salt Lake City. In future meetings, advisors will work diligently on sorting and prioritizing recommendations to improve food access in each of their unique neighborhoods.
  • In future meetings, advisors will hear from a panel of grocery store representatives to learn about healthy food distribution, local food production as it relates to self sufficiency, and food as medicine.
  • In the spring of 2021, Advisors will meet to synthesize the group’s recommendations and meet with the Mayor and City Council to share their findings and outcomes.

Food Stories that Bring us Together

SLCgreen was curious about our Resident Food Equity Advisor’s food stories, and why food mattered to them. Jessica T. says “I love food, love having choices, and trying new things. As I have grown up, my palate has changed and I enjoy a lot more foods for sure. Living in Utah has introduced me to new cultures and their flavors and I am so grateful for that.”

The Resident Food Equity Advisors have deep connections to food, and their food stories help build connections and bring awareness to inequities in our food system. Moreover, their work helps build a vibrant and diverse local food system.

Jessica shared one of her favorite foods with us, one that connects her to her roots,  “My beautiful country of Colombia and the Arepas. It not only brings back memories, but I have started to create new ones with my own family. Love, love, love Arepas.”  

Stay tuned for future food stories from the RFEA members and updates about the food program!

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