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Posts tagged ‘food’

Salt Lake City’s Food Policy Council is Building a More Equitable & Sustainable Food System

by SLCgreen Outreach Coordinator Stephan Sveshnikov

There are over three hundred food policy councils in the U.S., representing towns, cities, tribes, counties, and entire states. Salt Lake City’s Food Policy Council (FPC) is one of three in Utah, with another council in Ogden and one at the state level. Food Policy Councils unite community organizations to help guide policy related to our food systems. They inform local government on everything from food access and urban agriculture to food waste and climate concerns.

Salt Lake City’s Food Policy Council (formerly the Food Policy Task Force) was created in 2009. The group identifies policy and program opportunities and makes recommendation for how to create a more equitable, sustainable, and resilient community food system. Their first project was a sustainable code revision, which made it easier to keep chickens, bees, and grow food in Salt Lake. The FPC has supported the Sustainability Department on a variety of other initiatives over the last decade, including the SLC FruitShare program, the curbside composting program, the Square Kitchen Culinary Incubator, the Local Food Microgrant Fund, and much more. Fourteen members representing various sectors of the food system make up the FPC, from small farmers, to anti-hunger organizations, advocates for immigrant and refugee communities, and representatives of the public health sector.

This year, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future launched an initiative to help food policy councils around the country confront systemic racism and inequities in their local food systems. Fifteen councils from fifteen different states were selected to participate, including the Salt Lake City FPC! The initiative will help Salt Lake City as our FPC takes its next steps to build a more equitable food system.

Food, Equity, and Sustainability

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Urban Farming Highlight: The Village Co-Op

by SLCgreen outreach coordinator Stephan Sveshnikov

One of the many ways SLCgreen furthers our sustainability goals is through supporting our local food system. Salt Lake City is committed to providing and facilitating funding for local food programs to enhance access to fresh, healthy, and sustainable food. In recent years, we’ve worked to relax ordinances to allow for backyard chickens and beekeeping, expanded the number of community gardens in the city, and contracted with Green Urban Lunchbox to run the SLC Fruitshare program.

Have you ever wondered how much food you could grow in your yard if you took the time to garden? We produced a Food Map that helps you find an estimate of your yard’s food production potential and provides resources that will educate and empower you to grow more food.

Many Salt Lake City locals are already growing thriving gardens. We recently sat down with one of Salt Lake’s urban farmers, Darin Mann, to talk about his garden, water reduction efforts, and food justice advocacy.

Growing Community

Darin Mann calls his neighborhood the “Venice of Salt Lake.” The garden of cabbages, kale, tomatoes, and everything in between, known officially as the “Village Co-op,” is nestled between  Fairpark and Rose Park, in one of the most ethnically diverse places in the state of Utah. On the other side of his farm stands a mosque and, next to it, a Buddhist temple. Just down the street is the Virgin of Guadalupe Catholic Church. An oasis of green in a crossroads of cultures.

Darin knows the neighborhood well. His farm isn’t called the Village Co-op for nothing: “Every single day I have at least 30 neighbors coming and talking to me about my garden,” he says. Add to that number the 200 families signed up to receive produce box alerts and upwards of 300 volunteers this season alone, and you start to see the sort of impact a small urban farm can have on the surrounding community.

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Resident Food Equity Advisors Reflect on the Past Year

Mayor Mendenhall and seven of the inaugural Salt Lake City Resident Food Equity Advisors, with the project consultant.

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Last year, as part of the city’s overall focus on equity and as part of an effort to co-create programs with residents, rather than for them, the Sustainability Department piloted the Resident Food Advisors Program.

Thirteen residents from a diverse set of experiences and backgrounds explored issues in the food system and strategized solutions for their communities, discussing everything from food vouchers to a food leadership academy, and in their final report, published last month, advocated the idea of an “Edible Salt Lake City” and made recommendations for how the city can achieve greater food equity.

We caught up with a few of the Advisors after their recent meeting with Mayor Erin Mendenhall to see how they’re feeling now that the report is out.

Zana Jokic, from Sarajevo, whose work as a medical interpreter has given her a unique perspective on healthy food access among immigrant communities, said she’s been sharing the report with everyone. “I’m so proud of our work,” she said. “I’m passing it around to friends, families, organizations,” anyone and everyone she can think of.

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SLC Budget Prioritizes Maintaining High Standard of Service, Providing Equitable and Sustainable Opportunities

Salt Lake City Mayor Mendenhall’s new 2021-2022 city budget emphasizes financial stability for Salt Lake City, as well as “opportunities for an abundant, transformational, equitable future for all the city’s communities.”

The $350 million budget allocates funds to numerous initiatives and programs that will help Salt Lake City implement recommendations from the Commission on Racial Equity in Policing as well as expanding support for affordable housing. Salt Lake City will continue to prioritize building a sustainable and resilient city for all residents.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, residents have had unprecedented access to local government, connecting with departments more than ever. As SLCgreen moves into the new fiscal year, which begins July 1, we aim to build from this access, inviting more of our community into the decision making process, and working with the community towards greater sustainability and resiliency for all.

The newly approved budget allows Salt Lake City to continue to invest in critical public services, renewable energy projects, air quality, food access, climate equity, and more, which are described below.

Waste and Recycling Rate Increase

The adopted budget contains a rate increase on garbage containers. As you may recall, the Sustainability Department undertook a large public engagement process in late 2019/early 2020 to evaluate residents’ satisfaction with our waste & recycling services, and to seek feedback on how they’d like to see future rate increases occur.

While we do not take lightly the fact that rate increases impact everyone– and some more than others– we want you to know that we have worked hard for years cutting costs and streamlining our operations to forestall the need for a rate increase. However, it has been nearly seven years since we last raised rates. In that time, the cost of doing business has increased– impacting everything from purchasing and maintaining our refuse vehicles, to disposing of garbage at the landfill, to keeping up with the cost of living. For a couple of years, there were also fees associated with processing the City’s recyclables. (So far in 2021, we have begun to make money again on recycling which is great news. We are committed to maintaining a robust program through the ups and downs of the recycling commodity market).

You can visit this page to learn more about the rate increases, the survey, and what to expect. As always, if you have questions or comments, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at slcgreen@slcgov.com

Projects on Energy, Food, Air Quality & More

In our policy division, we are moving forward with some impactful and important projects. Here’s a closer look at some of what’s in store for the Sustainability Department’s Energy & Environment Division:

  • Advancing Salt Lake City’s Community Renewable Energy Goals

The Community Renewable Energy Program (C-REP), empowered by the Community Renewable Energy Act, H.B. 411, will help Salt Lake City reach its goal of community-wide net-100% renewable electricity. In 2022, Salt Lake City will work with other participating communities to bring Salt Lake City closer to its goal of 100% renewable electricity for the whole community. Learn more on the Utah100 Communities’ website.

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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.

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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.
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Going Green at Home: Eating Healthy and Supporting Local Farmers

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.

While the restrictions as a result of COVID-19 have made shopping for groceries difficult, and food access remains an issue. However, the country’s farmers still have a large supply of food. Safely harvesting and selling the produce is what’s challenging.

Even though the farmers markets are temporarily closed, we can still support local growers and get healthy, sustainably grown food at the same time.

Our local farmers need support right now! With only 2-3% of the produce consumed in Utah grown in the state, local agriculture is already in a fragile state.

SLCgreen is working hard with our partners to find ways to support these farmers so they can continue operating– during this challenging time and into the future.

Plus, eating more produce and eating local is good for you!

Read on . . .

Rows of vegetables in a local urban farm.
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See what SLCgreen Accomplished in 2019

You can download the full 2019 Year in Review here.

Happy New Year!

It’s 2020 already and we can hardly believe it! Salt Lake City finished out 2019 strong alongside 19 communities that opted into the Community Renewable Energy Act’s pathway to achieve net-100% renewable energy.

But that’s not all SLCgreen got up to in 2019. It was a busy year, and as a community, we have taken major strides in accomplishing our goals. See our full 2019 Year in Review here and read below for a few of the major highlights.

Thanks to all our partners in City government, other government agencies, non-profit associations, neighborhood groups, business partners, and community councils, we are continuing to make SLC more sustainable and resilient.

You can take a look at the 2017 and 2018 reports to see what we’ve been working on over the last few years. Before we set our sights on 2020, here are a few highlights from 2019!

The Salt Lake City and County Building is visible from the roof for the Leonardo Museum, which has several solar panels installed.

Air Quality, Climate Change & Energy

  • After a three-year collaboration with Park City, Summit County, Rocky Mountain Power, and the state legislature, we successfully saw passage of House Bill 411 the “Community Renewable Energy Act” in the 2019 legislative session. The law establishes a legal pathway for communities with 100% clean energy goals to achieve them in collaboration with Rocky Mountain Power.
  • Helped plan and participated in the historic United Nations Civil Society Conference “Building Inclusive and Sustainable Communities.” See the content of our presentations and related videos here.
  • Expanded public EV charging infrastructure, increasing the total number of city-owned EV charging ports to 38, plus 16 at the airport.
  • With Utah Clean Energy, launched “Empower SLC,” a neighborhood energy efficiency program targeting the 84116 and 84104 neighborhoods to improve energy efficiency and conservation measures that reduce pollution and lower utility costs. As of September, over 450 households have been engaged, resulting in an estimated savings of 335,353 kWh per year!
  • Supported Utah Climate Week 2019, collaborating with 35 organizations to highlight climate action.
  • Developed an energy after-school curriculum for youth groups and created a new partnership with YouthCity on programming for the Fall 2019 programs. This resulted in the adoption of “energy” as the central theme of their Science Fair.
  • Hosted the Elevate Buildings awards luncheon, recognizing first-year reporting commercial buildings with ENERGY STAR scores 75 and above and Mayoral recognition of exceptional performers.
  • Received a Blue Sky Legacy Award from Rocky Mountain Power for over 15 years of partnership in the program.
  • Ranked in the top 10 states around the country for solar energy production increase, according to the Energy Information Administration.
  • Bid farewell to Tyler Poulson and welcomed Christopher Thomas as our incoming Senior Energy and Climate Program Manager.

Food & Equity

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Go Batty for Bats this Halloween!

Halloween is here and things are getting extra spooky. Whether you’re out trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins, or just enjoying the fall weather, take a minute to celebrate some of Halloween’s most iconic creatures: Bats!

While bats may seem scary, like spiders they are an important part of our ecosystems. Not only do they help control insect populations, reducing the need for pesticides, they are also major pollinators.

It just so happens that Halloween marks the last day of International Bat Week. So in honor of our winged friends, here are some fun facts about bats.

Bats of Utah Poster from www.wildawareutah.org

Insatiable Insectivores

There are eighteen species of bats in Utah, and over 1,300 species world wide. Bugs make up the primary diet of most bats. And a single bat can eat thousands of insects each night! For smaller bats, that can mean eating close to their body weight in insects!

By controlling insect populations, bats help reduce the need for toxic pesticides. As a result, bats also help farmers save money by serving as natural defenses against insect damage to crops. Moreover, by diminishing our dependence on pesticides, bats also help protect our food and health.

Pollinating by Night

While most bats are insectivores, many species consume nectar and fruit – and are important pollinators! Indeed, bats are responsible for pollinating over 300 species of fruit including bananas and mangoes. They also help pollinate the plants that are used to make different kinds of medicine.

Keeping Bats and Humans Safe

One common misconception about bats is they are blood-suckers. Although the vampire bat does consume the blood of other animals, bats don’t attack humans. Bats can carry rabies and other diseases, so it is important to remember that handling bats isn’t safe for you or the bat.

Besides habitat destruction, one of the biggest threats to bats is White-Nose Syndrome, a fungus that is causing mass deaths of hibernating bats. You can lower their chances of exposure by avoiding caves where there may be hibernating bat colonies.

Bats are wonderful animals who play an important role as pollinators and insectivores. By giving bats space and protecting their habitats, we can keep humans and bats safe!

Please join us in celebrating the role of bats in our ecosystem by commemorating Bat Week! Share this blog or Bat Week’s page on your social media pages.

Or perhaps you have your costume dilemma solved for Halloween? . . .

Whatever it is– let’s show the bats in our environment some love!

Interested in Joining a New Community Garden?

Growing fresh greens at the Gateway Community Garden, which opened in 2018.

Community gardens provide Salt Lake City with fresh, locally grown food and a vibrant space to connect with our neighbors. Salt Lake City’s community gardens are popular locations for everything from volunteering to learning about urban farming. Indeed, in conjunction with Wasatch Community Gardens (WCG), Salt Lake City has successfully developed seven community gardens in almost every corner of the city through our Green City Growers program.

These gardens include the Off Broadway Community Garden, Liberty Wells, Rose Park, Cannon Greens, 9-Line, Popperton Plots, and the Gateway Garden. Not only do these gardens support Salt Lake City’s dedication to increase local food production, they invigorate our neighborhoods by putting vacant lots to use in ways that support community engagement and biodiversity — all while limiting our communities’ carbon footprints.

Salt Lake City’s community gardens activate our neighborhoods, giving residents a space to engage with friends and neighbors and to grow fresh produce. And we just can’t get enough of them!

In order to continue to make community gardens accessible and ensure that locally grown food stays a priority, both Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County have proposed new community gardens to be built in 2020.

But the City, County, and WCG can’t do it alone. We need a strong show of support from nearby residents, indicating that the gardens will receive enough use.

Salt Lake City is working with WCG to establish Richmond Park Community Garden. Similarly, Salt Lake County and WCG are collaborating on a new garden in Sugar House Park. You can read more about the gardens below. If you would be interested in gardening at either of these parks, sign the petitions below to show your support.

Richmond Park

Salt Lake City highlighted Richmond Park for a potential garden. The park, which already has a fantastic playground, is nestled between 500 and 400 East along 600 South in downtown Salt Lake City.

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