Overview of Food System Issues

Introduction to Food System Issues

2011-Dec8 McGrath Farm 070Within a 200 mile landward radius of Los Angeles is a remarkable abundance of good food. California leads the country in agricultural exports, particularly of fruits, vegetables and nuts. Among the top producing counties in the state are Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, Fresno and Kern. Yet very little of the food that is produced in the region, is consumed in the urban core. Over one million LA County residents suffer from insecurity about whether they will have enough to eat and their choices are limited to cheap food stuffed with empty, sugary calories.

We can work together as local government agencies, businesses, institutions, non-profits and community partners to re-invigorate our local and regional food system. The food system has the potential to impact jobs, public health, community development and small business growth. Food can become an economic engine, while improving community and individual health in neighborhoods desperately in need of good jobs and access to healthy and affordable food.

So how do we do this? Strategies include improving our region’s food infrastructure and distribution system by connecting regional good food producers with all of Los Angeles’s neighborhoods; creating more and better food jobs so people can afford to buy healthy food and encouraging the creation of more food companies and small food enterprises; keeping more local food dollars in our neighborhoods and the local economy by promoting regional supplies of food and protecting the rights of farm and food workers through local government, schools and other food service providers adopting good food purchasing policies; reducing diet related diseases and disparities in access to high quality foods by improving healthy food options in our schools and all of our neighborhoods, enrolling more residents in CalFresh and connecting these residents to good food through farmers’ markets and other healthy food retail, re-establishing cooking traditions that celebrate the cultural diversity of Los Angeles; and finally greening our food supply by decreasing our food miles, encouraging more environmentally sustainable agricultural practices, expanding urban agriculture in vacant lots, alleys, and pocket parks, and increasing composting throughout LA.

What is the picture now? What could the picture be? To achieve our vision of a healthy, just and sustainable food system, we must first understand the current state of the plate in Los Angeles.