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.
2021 is here! SLCgreen is excited to move forward. But as we prepare for the year to come, we’re also ready to incorporate what we’ve learned from 2020.
At the beginning of 2020, SLCgreen was eagerly preparing for a new administration and planning for a year of innovative sustainability projects. After a busy 2019 we were ready to take the next steps towards bringing net-100% renewable energy to our community. A new state-of-the-art recycling facility was near completion. And an innovative resident-led food equity program was convening to help improve food access in Salt Lake City.
The challenges of the past year have been harrowing. Within the first months of 2020, Salt Lake City pivoted our work to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. We experienced an earthquake that damaged our homes and businesses. Hurricane-force winds toppled thousands of trees and left many members of our communities without power for several days.
Despite it all, SLCgreen was able to accomplish many of our goals with the help of our dedicated crews and community members. The challenges our community faced in 2020 laid bare the deep connections between equity, resiliency, and climate action. The year required us take more direct actions to improve our emergency response plans, to better support the voices of residents who have been excluded in the past, and to expand our communications to facilitate more collaborative work.
SLCgreen is ready to build off of what we learned during the past year, but before we set our sights on 2021, here are a few highlights from 2020.
After a hiatus, some Salt Lake City farmers markets are coming back this weekend. With COVID-19 protocols in place to keep everyone safe, the markets are ready to bring you fresh, local food.
Getting locally grown food can be a challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened all aspects of the food system, from the health of agricultural workers to food security and economic stability. Farmers are at risk of both losing their economic safety as well as getting physically ill.
Even in our grocery stores we are practicing social distancing, wearing masks, and trying our best to take precautions in response to COVID-19. The local farmers markets are no different.
The local farmers markets will have various protocols in place to protect vendors and market customers. The markets will provide directions for one-way travel paths within the market and will support social distancing measures and hand sanitizing. Additionally, the Downtown Farmers Market has moved its craft sellers online for the time being. The market’s safety measures include required masks and encouraging frequent hand sanitation by shoppers and vendors.
Meatpacking plants across the country have become coronavirus hotspots, infecting workers and forcing some closures. This has made its way to the refrigerated section where some stores are limiting meat purchases to prevent shortages.
Livelihoods and health are at risk in many places, including Utah.
We wish a swift recovery to all of those who are ill, and a return to work as soon as it’s safe.
As a consumer, this state of affairs may have made you curious about how to cook healthy, satisfying meatless meals. The good news is that cooking more vegetarian meals– whether occasionally or frequently– is usually healthier for your family, as well as easier on the planet.
Did you know that cutting meat – and other foods – one day per week started as a national resource conservation strategy during wartime? Indeed, how and what we consume plays a central role during many national and international crises – from growing more food at home in Victory Gardens, to sharing our food resources at local food pantries.
Composting is the most local form of recycling. Not only does it help us create a closed loop by turning food and yard waste into new soil, composting helps keep our yards happy and healthy.
Compost puts yard and table scraps to work. By adding important nutrients to the soil and improving water absorption, compost can improve the overall health of your garden. As a result, compost helps reduce the need for harmful pesticides and even helps fight climate change.
Compost is a wonderful tool to keep our yards healthy and reduce waste. This is why the Composting Council’s Research & Education Program has celebrated International Composting Awareness Week for 25 years! This week, from May 3 – May 9, join us in celebrating compost!
Our food choices are important. In fact, in Utah, food choices contribute 25% of the household carbon footprint. This a result of the growing, harvesting, transportation, packaging, and cooking processes involved with getting our food to our tables.
We have a new program we’d like to share with you and we’re looking for your help spreading the word to recruit applicants.
First, some context:
As part of SLCgreen’s commitment to equity and sustainability, we are beginning a new program to help residents from marginalized communities participate in how Salt Lake City tackles healthy food access.
Having the ability to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. This means that healthy food is not only available at nearby grocery stores and corner stores, but that people have the ability to get there to buy it.
Healthy food access is closely tied with income.New research is showing that “food deserts” are not just about location, but about the ability of people to afford healthy food.
These are issues that the Sustainability Department– and Salt Lake City as a whole– cares deeply about. We cannot have a healthy, thriving community if people don’t have enough to eat.
SLCgreen has developed a robust Local Food program over the past decade to increase the opportunities for growing and buying healthy, local food.
But we must do more.
There are policy, economic, communications, and structural factors at play that are still a barrier to many people in eating enough, and eating healthfully. Thankfully, there are many organizations and government agencies working on this issue, and we’re grateful for the strong community focused on food, poverty, nutrition, policy, and public health in Utah.
This year, we’re excited to dig deeper as a city department with the launch of a new program specifically around Food Access & Equity:
Our eating habits can contribute a lot to our carbon footprint. The process of growing, harvesting, transporting, processing, and packaging food all emits CO2. And the farther away from the farms we live, the bigger our environmental impact becomes. By eating more locally, we support the local economy and protect the environment by cutting down on the time and resources spent producing our food.
But what about in
Eating fresh and local produce can be harder depending on the season. Indeed, if you look at this seasonal food guide, you can see how the produce availability changes from month to month even in Utah.
Luckily, there are many ways to extend the harvest season and enjoy local food all year round.
Preserving fruits and veggies doesn’t have to be as simple as jams and pickles. Depending on your recipe, you can make soups and sauces and other delicious meals from your fresh fall harvest and freeze them until you need a taste of summer to lighten the midwinter mood.
Find Seasonal Treats at the Winter Farmers Market
Thanks to the local farmers with greenhouses, cold storage, and hydroponic systems, Utah’s harvest season is a lot longer. The Downtown Farmers Market is helping extend the season with theWinter Farmers Market!
With many of our favorite farmers from the summer Downtown Farmers Market, the Winter Farmers Market will run from November 9th to April 18th on Saturdays from 10am to 2pm at the Rio Grande Depot.
As we approach the winter, don’t give up on eating fresh,
locally grown food!
Whether you are a hardcore “locavore” or you just want to try eating a little more sustainably, taking the Eat Local Week Challenge will help you support the local economy, reduce your carbon footprint, and eat some delicious and nutritious food.
What is Eat Local Week?
Eat Local Week Utah challenges you to eat as locally as possible from September 7th to 14th. “Local” typically qualifies as food grown and produced within a 250 mile radius.While it may seem daunting to go without coffee for a week, thanks to the local farmers markets and the events throughout Eat Local Week, there are many ways to participate!
The week’s events include a roster of fun for the whole family starting with Wasatch Community Garden’s Tomato Sandwich Party in the Grateful Tomato Garden. The event serves up free and absolutely fresh pesto and tomato sandwiches. This week you can also support Wasatch Community Gardens and eat fresh, locally grown tomatoes at local restaurants participating in the 2019 Tomato Days.
Other festivities include the Punk Rock Farm to Taco Truck, a Local Spirit Tasting at the Downtown Caputos, and a week-long recipe contest.
SLCgreen is thrilled to welcome Supreet Gill to the Sustainability Department as our new Program Manager!
Supreet brings 15 years of experience in community food systems and a passion for improving urban and ecological resilience through sustainable agriculture and equitable community engagement.
Supreet has engaged in food systems on all levels — as a farmer, program manager for a refugee agriculture project, coordinator of urban farming and farm to school programs, and nutrition educator, to name a few!
In her prior position with Salt Lake County’s Urban Farming and Open Space program, she worked on numerous projects focusing on public lands management and community food systems. She also served on Salt Lake City’s Food Policy Task Force (now Food Policy Council) and has deep connections in the local food community.
As Sustainability Departmentprogram manager, Supreet will continue building our existing programs as well as developing new ones to strengthen the capacity of community residents and leaders to enhance the regional food system.
In short, her work is dedicated to improving community health and well-being, as well as making sure all residents have access to healthy, affordable, local food.
That goal entails a deep focus on community partnerships. She’ll continue making connections in the community– with farmers, local food producers, and other stakeholders. She’ll also work to ensure that communities, groups, and individuals with lower-access to resources are involved as deeply as possible in Salt Lake City’s work.
Finally, Supreet’s role will also include bridging with other government entities– within and outside of Salt Lake City– to prioritize strategies related to social and environmental justice, improving the local food system, and fostering equitable access to healthy food.
We’re thrilled to have her on the team!
Say hello when you see her at an upcoming community event . . . or a garden around town!