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Sustainable Food Systems & Culturally Relevant Food

Salt Lake City is committed to supporting our local food system, enhancing access to fresh, healthy, and sustainable food for our communities. Building a sustainable and resilient local food system is both an environmental concern and one rooted in social equity.

SLCgreen supports community gardens and encourages our community to eat locally and limit food waste in order to reduce our household carbon footprints. Furthermore, we recognize that a resilient environment is directly connected to social, economic, and environmental equity. A truly sustainable food system ensures access to nutritious fresh food for everyone in our community.

In 2020, the pandemic and local emergencies jeopardized food access and deepened existing social inequities. The need for food assistance increased by 300%. Food pantries, emergency programs, and mutual aid organizations work to relieve those gaps in access, but fresh and culturally relevant foods are not always readily available.

What is Culturally Relevant Food?

Culturally relevant and appropriate foods reflect the preferences and cultural contexts of the community. Utah is home to people from all over the world, all of whom have different connections to food. International Rescue Committee’s New Roots program in Salt Lake City empowers refugees to grow their own food and celebrate their heritage. And the Utah Diné Bikéyah’s Traditional Foods Program supports indigenous food preservation and food cultures in Native American communities near Bears Ears National Monument.

Supporting access to culturally appropriate food recognizes the connections we have to food, which go beyond nutrition and strengthen our connections to our families, cultures, and environments. Access to foods that matter to people helps recognize and empower our communities and can even strengthen the food system.

In the context of improving food access through pantries and food banks, availability of culturally relevant food can improve nutrition, facilitate dietary restrictions, and reduce food waste because communities are getting the ingredients necessary for culturally significant meals. 

An ear of corn growing in a backyard in SLC.

Supporting Culturally Relevant Food Resources in Salt Lake City?

Salt Lake City residents contribute to improving food access in our communities by donating food, and time as volunteers, to local food pantries and the Utah Food Bank.

Service providers have highlighted the importance of culturally relevant foods including taro, yams, plantains, green bananas, fish, lamb, coconut milk, spam, flour, Karo’s rice, sardines, and corned beef. Comunidades Unidas also suggested rice, lentils, pinto beans, black beans, oats, chickpeas, canned and fresh corn, corn tortillas, canned tomatoes, potatoes, onion, carrots, spinach, cucumbers, lettuce, serrano peppers, chili peppers, canned tuna, eggs, and cooking oil.

Fresh and healthy food donations help fill gaps in access to culturally relevant food resources.

Food Access Resources

In the wake of the pandemic and other emergencies Salt Lake City faced in 2020, SLCgreen compiled an emergency food resource page that has information about where to access food in SLC, and how to support these efforts. Food plays a unique and significant role in our communities, impacting our health and wellbeing as well as our environment.

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