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 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.
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.
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 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: