In my last blog post, I wrote about the importance of trying to eat as locally and sustainably as possible, both for the betterment of our own individual health (the fresher the foods, the more living nutrients are retained within them) and global health (reduced emissions from food transport across long distances and decreased unsustainable/industrial farming practices).
I'm happy to see that this topic seems to be at the forefront of many people's consciousness, as I read today that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom issued an executive directive outlining San Francisco’s (and the nation's) first comprehensive regional food policy. San Francisco seems to be battling it out with Portland for the title of "most sustainable city in the nation" but so far, San Fran seems to be leading in urban green efforts with their mandatory recycling and composting law implemented in June (wow, impressive!), and initiatives to ensure that San Francisco will be the "Electric Vehicle Capital of the US," through hopes of building the world's first fully electric vehicle grid.
This sustainable food policy is the third major initiative undertaken by San Francisco to help strengthen its place as "most sustainable city in the world" ...Aiming high, Portland and San Francisco, I love it! Except... where's Seattle amidst the fray? ...We are the "Emerald City" after all!
Mayor Newsom states: "The stark reality is that hunger, food insecurity, and poor nutrition are pressing health issues, even in a city as rich and vibrant as San Francisco. From the alleviation of hunger, to the need to support local and sustainable agricultural practices, these recommendations form a comprehensive and strategic approach to addressing pressing needs in all sectors of the food system."
The key elements of the new food policy include:
1) Requiring all city departments to conduct an audit of land under their jurisdiction in order to inventory land suitable for gardening
2) New health and sustainability requirements for food sold by vendors under city permits
3) A “healthy meetings policy” requiring the purchase of healthy, locally produced foods for city meetings
4) Requiring that food purchased by the city has been grown regionally and through using sustainable methods (within two months).
This directive calls for completion of these actions within six months, and within two months, Newsom says he will send an ordinance to the Board of Supervisors mandating that all food served in hospitals, homeless shelters, jails, and community centers be healthy.
There is also a reciprocity aspect to help local restaurants and food vendors find farms from which they can buy produce directly. Already the city's mandatory recycling and composting program sends tons of food scraps to local farms and wineries, which in turn produce the high-quality wines and food sold and consumed in the San Francisco Bay Area.
I find it so inspiring and heartening that a city is recognizing the importance of these issues and addressing them in sustainable and manageable ways. Food purchased locally saves money through reduced shipping distances and costs, which also trims greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, purchasing local foods reinvests money back into the local economy and supports the local growers. Mandated healthy food may also save the city money on healthcare treatment in the long run: if people as a whole start to eat more healthfully, people's health will improve and the number of people who develop diseases that result from poor eating habits and poor quality food such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, should also decrease.
Could it be possible that such initiatives could be rolled out nationwide? What do you think? What would be the drawbacks or backlash to implementing such food requirements? How could these be addressed specifically and effectively?