Press Release: 3rd Annual Food Day at City Hall Advances Food Policy for Los Angeles



October 23, 2013

For Immediate Release:

Third Annual Food Day at City Hall Advances Food Policy for Los Angeles

Urban Agriculture and Good Food Purchasing Policy Gains Are Key in Bringing Local, Sustainable and Fair Food to More LA Communities

LOS ANGELES – On the third annual National Food Day, local government officials joined the Los Angeles Food Policy Council to advance urban agriculture policies and celebrate achievements in the city’s food purchasing policy, signaling a strong interest on the part of the LA City Council to be leaders in this policy area.

The City Council heard several matters regarding urban agriculture today, including a motion by Council President Herb Wesson to allow planting of edible plants in residential parkways. Two months ago, the City Council voted unanimously to temporarily suspend the City’s citations of residents who were attempting to grow fruit and vegetables in parkways. The issue reached international audiences when “guerilla gardener” Ron Finley’s TED talk about the citation on his parkway garden went viral. Today, the council unanimously voted to allow the cultivation of edible plants in the city parkways without a permit.

“With this new policy, residents will be able to grow gardens in residential parkways without a permit. We have seen that these parkway gardens can supplement food budgets for struggling families, beautify neighborhoods, and create a sense of community. We are also looking at surplus properties owned by the City for their potential use as community gardens, especially for communities with limited green space and healthy food options,” said Council President Herb Wesson.

Councilmember Felipe Fuentes presented a Food Day resolution declaring the City’s support for urban agriculture, and also introduced a motion that would allow non-profit institutions that feature onsite edible landscaping and community garden programs to qualify for reduced water rates.

“Growing food in our communities improves the sustainability of our city and the health of our residents while also building a sense of community pride. That’s why I am introducing a motion that would expand our discounted water rate for non-profit institutions such as affordable housing and community clinics that are growing food at their facilities. I am hoping this will serve as an incentive to further promote urban agriculture throughout Los Angeles,” said Councilmember Fuentes.

The Food Day activities also included a celebration of the one-year anniversary of the adoption of the Good Food Purchasing Pledge program by the City of Los Angeles and the LA Unified School District. “The City is making history with the continuing implementation of the Good Food Purchasing Pledge,” said Councilmember Paul Koretz. “It has advanced five key values in food procurement: local economies, environmental sustainability, valued workforce, humane food, and nutritional health, and awards points for achievement in those categories. After only a year, we’re seeing positive results in our City departments.”

“Bringing the Good Food Purchasing Pledge to our students was a major accomplishment at the LA Unified School District,” said Councilmember Nury Martinez, who previously served on the School Board for LAUSD. “Having experienced the success at LAUSD, I know it’s possible for us here on the City Council to make appropriate policy shifts that will help provide high-quality good food to residents throughout our City of LA.”

According to an analysis by the LA Food Policy Council, since the adoption of the pledge LAUSD has sourced around 70% of its produce locally, redirecting at least $12 million in purchases to local produce and its supply chain, without any additional cost to the school district.

“LAUSD is a success story in terms of achieving the goals of the Good Food Purchasing Pledge at the first year level,” said Paula Daniels, founding chair of the LA Food Policy Council, noting that due to LAUSD’s participation in the Good Food Purchasing Program, their food vendor Gold Star has also reformulated their products to use sustainable, California-grown wheat flour. City departments were also recognized for modifying their food service practices during the first year of participating in the Pledge.

The LA Food Policy Council also released its 2013 Food System Snapshot, an informational report that compiles public data into an overview of the current state of the Los Angeles regional foodshed. According to the Snapshot, 13% of all jobs in LA (or 1 in every 7.5) are in food related industries, from production and processing to retail sale and food service. However, the median hourly wage for jobs in the food industry is just $10.20 while a “living wage” for a family of three is $20.07. The report also points out that nearly half of low-income adults in the County are food-insecure, while 61% of all adults are overweight. At the same time, the types of food available do not always support healthy choices, with 72% of restaurants in South LA being fast food establishments, and over half of children reporting that they eat fast food once a week. Other findings concern environmental impacts of food production regionally: agricultural sources account for about 7% of all greenhouse gas emissions in California, and the majority of water applied to Southern California crops comes from irrigation with just 0.3% from rainfall.

Last week, Councilmember Paul Koretz introduced a resolution proposing a ban on the growth and sale of genetically modified seeds and plants within City limits to address food safety and crop biodiversity concerns resulting from the increased prevalence of genetically modified products.

Food Day is a national initiative, similar to Earth Day, which was created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and launched three years ago. Events are taking place in cities across the country during this week.