COUNCIL DISTRICT 4: DAVID RYU
What role should the city have on the issue of food insecurity?
My family relied on food stamps from time to time – so I know that process well. And beyond my own personal experience, I have seen first‐hand how services can go ignored in the actual communities they are meant to target. At the County, and at Kedren I saw that providing services is useless unless the community actually knows about them!
And that is where the City can have a major impact – in not only assisting in the services, but also making sure that the communities the programs are meant to address know that they are there, and how to take advantage of them. Marginalized, hungry people are often not good at asking for help, and so we have to be proactive in that assistance.
So, while this is a County issue and County administered service, the City is more on the ground, especially to the communities in LA proper. The City, City Council and my council office should work closer with LAC DPSS to see what additional synergies to both outreach and educate struggling families of these services and programs. Additionally the office can collaborate with LAC and direct our state and federal legislative lobby to work with LAC to further pursue and expand these programs.
How will you make farmers’ markets more accessible to low-income residents?
Farmer’s markets in low‐income communities are absolutely key to addressing the needs of what are often called “food deserts.” On this, my answer is two‐fold:
a. The City needs to be working with farmers’ markets on permitting and assisting the County in their inspections, because we all know that farmers’ markets are good for health, for the community and the economy – so we cannot be making it harder to bring these markets to the communities typically ignored. Having worked in South LA, I know that when a farmers market tries to acquire land or a lease, even in the most disadvantaged areas, there can be a variety of problems. This is a larger problem in the City, but farmers’ markets need to know that they will have an open ear at the City, not an adversary seeking to put them through the bureaucratic wringer just to get the necessary permits.
b. The use of CalFresh/EBT and the other assistance is key to making farmers’ markets viable in the areas where they are used. Incentivizing their usage through tax breaks, permitting assistance, or even something as simple as a sympathetic ear for parking issues that these markets might face will go far.
How will you reduce soda consumption?
I’ve seen this problem, where some residents’ only option for grocery shopping is the corner mini market, or the vendors walking by their house. This leads to children consuming empty calories instead of healthy options, and limiting their cooking options to the pre‐made food and “just add water” type of options at those stores. My approach to this would be three initial steps:
a. Incentivize healthy options, as stated in the answer to question 2. Enable farmers’ markets to locate in places that are underserved, and work with them to be held on days when working people can actually get to them. Do this through collaborating and putting the full weight of the council office behind these markets.
b. Do the same work to get larger grocery chains to relocate into areas that currently are underserved. Often, a Ralphs or Vons is the first step in building up the character of a neighborhood, and the Council offices can work with these businesses to make sure that they know that City Hall will support their entry into these neighborhoods.
c. Finally, a part of heading off obesity and diabetes is ensuring that kids get proper exercise. So while the one period of PE a day might not be enough to stave off the pressures of soda advertisements and cheap carbohydrate calories, it will help. We need to increase options for inner‐city kids, so they are able to go play in school grounds during off ours. And even more important is setting up pocket parks and urban parkland. My District has an incredible amount of open space and parks, but it is mostly located up in the hills where the lower class residents can’t get to it. We need to increase those outside play options.
How will you use City contracts to increase purchases of Good Food?
I 100% support the Food Policy Council’s goals of promoting “healthy, affordable, fairly and sustainably produced” Good Food. The City can leverage its power in the same way that we have led the Nation in sustainability, energy usage and greenhouse gas reductions. First by leveraging our buying power as a large consumer of so many products. And then later incentivizing Good Food decisions. This is one area that I recognize I am not an expert in, but you can be assured that I support the goals of Good Food, and that my office would be a leader on pushing the City to use its power to promote those goals.
How will you increase food-growing opportunities such as community gardens and urban farms?
One big step that was taken recently, that I fully support, was removing the $400 permit required for residents to plant fruits and vegetables on the curbside strips. We’re not making any more land in LA, and the small pockets that have against all odds remained agricultural are vanishing quickly. So the only way we are increasing our urban agriculture is to utilize those small spaces that we already have – the curbside strips, roof‐tops, etc.
Urban agriculture has a variety of benefits, from pollution filtering to food security. So we need to work to make sure that we enable urban gardens, and the first step is actually getting out of the way. The next step is incentivizing new development projects to incorporate existing community gardens, or create their own. The Council office has substantial power, and should be able to do more to promote urban agriculture.
How will you support food system workers?
I support the Mayor’s plan to raise the minimum wage, and think we need to strive to a living wage. Affordability and livability is one of the largest issues facing Angelenos. Right now, most people that work in the food system, or blue collar jobs generally are being priced out of LA – and thus have to commute further to their jobs, which creates more GHG, more traffic, and a lower quality of life. Ensuring that LA’s working community can actually live here is a priority for me.
How will you support equitable access to healthy food for underserved communities?
Your only option to buy food cannot be a liquor store or mini‐mart. These “food deserts” are the modern‐day equivalent of housing redlining, and are making residents fatter, sicker and poorer. So first,
I would utilize the power of the Council office to ensure that we are working with the farmers’ markets, grocery stores and the like to enable them to enter these areas, not working against them.
We also need to make sure that we are aligning our relief and aid systems, so that the recipient doesn’t have to use their aid at the liquor store. So often the other side will claim that welfare recipients are buying lobster, caviar and lottery tickets with their aid – we all know that is wholly false, but there are ways to make it so healthier options are actually available for purchase with that aid. Finally, the City generally, and my office can be a source of education and for dispelling myths about these areas and the food deserts. We can educate people on what they are entitled to. Often congressional offices help residents with their benefits – and I don’t see why a Council office shouldn’t do the same. It’s time that the office was used for purposes like that.
How will you support food enterprise and entrepreneurs?
First and foremost, this is a public safety issue. We can’t look the other way and allow unsanitary or unhealthy carts just because they are small businesses, or we like their food. The rules still have to apply to food trucks and pushcarts, but we have to bring them out of the shadows, because right now they are a target for crime and we are not properly protecting the public.
To me the question is how do we encourage small business and innovators to “change the game” in these areas. It certainly is not by making them jump through hoops for years, buy a consultant, then beg the Council for a permit! Small businesses, including these small restaurants need to know that they have an ally on Council, not someone that is more focused on ensuring the City takes a cut of their profits. So that is the balance that has to be struck.
I’ve seen Council ignore these small businesses for years. A friend of mine who runs a restaurant asked me why the street sweeper has to run in front of his business between noon‐2 on a weekday, when his lunch rush is the greatest. It’s not like those two spots in front of his business are going to make or break him – but at least the City needs to make a showing that they are not actively working against businesses. The margins for new restaurants are small enough, we don’t need to make it harder on them by letting City Hall act as some mafia boss taking their cut through a labyrinth of permits and fees.