The Los Angeles Food System Snapshot provides baseline information about the state of the Los Angeles regional foodshed across nine broad food system topics.
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The Los Angeles Food System Snapshot presents an overall picture of the Los Angeles regional foodshed across nine food system topics areas: Regional Foodshed, Environmental Sustainability, Health, Retail Food Environment & Street Food, Food System Workers, Food Security, Urban Agriculture, Animal Welfare, and Food Waste. These topic areas were chosen to reflect the realities and potentials of the Los Angeles foodshed. With data and statistics for over 100 indicators, this report covers a wide range of information related to our foodshed, Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles.
The Food System Snapshot serves as a resource for sharing knowledge about the health of the Los Angeles regional food system and will provide a baseline evaluation from which to track progress over time. It also reflects the collective impact of the hundreds of organizations, government agencies, businesses, universities and concerned residents who are working to build a healthy, sustainable and equitable regional food system for Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Food System Snapshot is the first step towards an assessment of the Los Angeles regional food system, laying the groundwork for the Los Angeles Food Policy Council’s first Los Angeles Food System Progress Report in 2014.
Regional Foodshed, Agriculture & Food System Economy
The Los Angeles regional foodshed covers the 10-county area within a 200-mile radius of the Los Angeles urban core. The 23,000 farms spread throughout the foodshed generated a total agricultural crop value of $16.1 billion dollars in 2012 —a significant contribution to the state’s economy. The food system also employed 1.3 million people across the food chain, accounting for one in every 7.5 jobs in the region. These jobs include farm work, food processing, distribution, food service and retail. However, the median hourly wage of non-supervisory food system workers in the LA foodshed was just $10.20 per hour—well below a “living wage” of $20.07 per hour for a household with two adults and one child. More locally, Los AngelesCounty produced $326 million dollars of fruits and vegetables in 2007 and was home to 1,734 commercial farms. And despite its great swaths of urbanized land, LA County contains 1,261 urban agricultural sites (such as community gardens, farms and nurseries) as of 2013. These sites provide access to fresh food for urban residents, and a variety of efforts are underway to transition even greater amounts of urban space into food-producing land.
Social & Community Impacts
The distributional inequities of our regional food system can have enormous impacts on the people and communities of Los Angeles. Hunger, obesity, poor health and lack of access to fresh, healthy food all go hand-in-hand, disproportionately impacting low-income communities and communities of color. In LA County, 42% of low-income adults are food insecure, and 61% of all adults are obese or overweight. In South Los Angeles 72% of restaurants are fast food establishments. Improving the unhealthy retail food environments often found in low-income neighborhoods and “food deserts”—by increasing the affordability of and access to healthy food—can help transform a neighborhood’s food options, making it easier for residents to “make the healthy choice the easy choice.”
Environmental Impacts & Animal Welfare
Both food production methods and the types of food that people eat can have major implications for environmental and public health. Seven percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in California come from agriculture, which may include sources such as farm equipment and methane gas emissions from livestock. And in a region where dry weather is often the norm, only 0.3% of the agricultural water used in the LA foodshed came from natural rainfall—with irrigation being the primary source of applied agricultural water. On a national level, 40% of food is wasted in the United States, signifying a need to use food more efficiently, thus saving resources and easing the burden on municipal landfills. Identifying indicators to characterize animal welfare presents a challenge, as the most important data—the number of livestock per square acre—are not publicly available. Therefore the Animal Welfare section of the Food System Snapshot simply provides information on how many animals were on the average livestock farm in California in 2007—18,796 cattle, 1.4 million chickens, 11,921 hogs and more than half a million egg-producing hens.
The baseline findings of this Snapshot report reveal that our regional food system is just that—a complex set of activities and relationships related to every aspect of the food cycle—and underscore the need to aggregate and comprehensively analyze this data to help change makers respond to shifts in our local food system and target our efforts accordingly. The Los Angeles Food System Snapshot is the first step towards an annual assessment of the Los Angeles regional food system, and will provide a starting point from which to track the progress of our collective efforts to make it more equitable, healthy and sustainable.