Food & Equity are critical aspects of our work at SLCgreen. Food exists at the intersection of environmental resilience and community. Our interactions with the food system are complex and made even more complicated by inequities that limit our community members’ access to fresh, nutritious, and culturally-relevant foods.
Supreet Gill guided SLCgreen’s food and equity work since August 2019. As Program Manager, Supreet built on our existing programs, dedicating her time to improving community health and well-being by spearheading efforts to improve access to healthy, affordable food. The pandemic revealed just how closely linked food, equity, and climate can be. Despite the challenges of the past year, Supreet worked diligently to alleviate some of the disparities in our food system.
Supreet has helped shape our department’s food access and equity work, but now it is time to say farewell to our colleague and friend. She and her family are moving out of state. While we hate to see our co-workers go, we’re excited to see what Supreet will do next! And we have a chance to reflect on everything Supreet has done to support our community.
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.
SLCgreen is wishing you a healthy and happy holiday! During this time of year, we’ve been reflecting on the unprecedented challenges we’ve faced as a community brought on by the pandemic, hurricane-force windstorm and earthquake. This year, we’ve worked alongside our community members to continue essential City operations and services and step up efforts to help those who have been impacted the most by the devastating pandemic. More than ever before, we are witnessing the evidence of an undeniable connection between environmental justice and social equity.
SLCgreen’s mission is to protect our natural resources, reduce pollution, slow climate change, and establish a path toward greater resiliency and vitality for all aspects of our community. Our environmental work goes hand in hand with the efforts to improve equity in Salt Lake City.
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!
We send our love to all of you. The events of the last few weeks have been a difficult and trying time for our country, our community, and our city.
We want to take this moment to acknowledge the profound injustice of black lives lost to white supremacy and police brutality across the country. We stand with the movement to bring greater justice to our entire community. Black lives matter.
Those of us who work in Salt Lake City government have felt so many emotions as we collectively work towards a community that is stronger, more equitable, more inclusive, and more responsive to you—our residents. We are working to ensure we are hearing all voices.
As the Sustainability Department, we’d also like to share our thoughts on the role we play in advancing equity within the City and our community.
We define “sustainability” as the balance between environmental, societal, economic, and equity needs. While “sustainability” is often thought of as only an “environmental” movement (and for much of its history it has been), we believe true sustainability prioritizes a healthy society in all of the ways that comes about.
Sustainability also means not jeopardizing our community’s future well-being over decisions we make in the present. And we’d also add: “over decisions that were made in the past.”
Many people are having conversations about what racism means in America in 2020. It’s impossible to discuss that without looking to our nation’s past.
We’re looking at health indicators that are worse in minority communities that make them more susceptible to air pollution, while at the same time, many are exposed to air pollution at higher amounts because of where they live (near industry, near highways, and by working in professions that increases exposure). There are also barriers to information, to health care, and to so many other resources that make these factors worse. So our efforts to reduce “air pollution,” also must mean addressing these inequities in all of the ways we can.
It’s similar with climate change. Of course, we know that temperatures are increasing everywhere, but they are rising more in areas with more concrete and fewer trees. We’re also looking at those who don’t have adequate home cooling, or who work outside, or who have underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to heat. We’re looking at the way that climate change and higher temperatures increases ozone pollution and wildfire smoke and the spread of new diseases. As we’ve seen with coronavirus, these health impacts hit our most vulnerable first. And our minority communities are often on the frontline, due to many structural factors and decades of systemic racism.
These are global issues, but the impact is local.
Food access is another important area of focus for our department. Eating healthy, fresh food is not something that should be reserved for the privileged. But those who struggle in getting enough to eat, and in eating healthy foods are often poor and are often people of color. This is also a structural challenge we are confronting every day.
Please know that we are dedicated to advancing equity and racial justice at the forefront of all the sustainability work we do. This includes actively listening and involving the people in our work who are most impacted. At the same time, we recognize that sustainability has been dominated by white bodies and white privilege. We are at the center of government and it’s a reminder of how much further we have to go. We too are practicing and learning what anti-racism means.
We’re humbled to continue the conversation and are grateful for your feedback.
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.
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: