With our pride in the region’s growing reputation as the “Farm to Fork” capital, we must also deal with the reality that many suffer from hunger and live in “food deserts” with limited access to fresh, locally grown food. This unacceptable contrast exists despite the fact that we live in a region rich with agriculture and farmlands. Solving this complex problem requires coordinated effort that involves all sectors of our local food economy.
The Foundation’s leadership in Connecting the Regional Food Economy involves learning and advocacy to create upstream changes that ensure everyone benefits from a healthy and thriving regional food system with access for all. We partner with the key players in the food economy – including local farmers, distributors, and sellers – to pursue that aim.
Through a partnership made possible by this initiative, for example, Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services streamlined its system of 220 partner agencies, building a more effective and efficient emergency food distribution system to escalate the fight against hunger in Sacramento County. Because of our sustained collaboration, SFBFS has improved its use of computers and databases to track the food its agencies distribute, purchased more trucks and forklifts to move food pallets with ease throughout Sacramento County, and has increased its refrigeration storage to keep foods fresh.
The Healthy Food Economy Fund collaboratively funds the large-scale investments that are improving the greater Sacramento region's entire food system.
That partnership advanced one goal of the Sacramento Region Food System Action Plan (the Action Plan), a Foundation-funded report that recommends strategies to strengthen the region’s food system that we developed with Valley Vision as part of this initiative.
The Action Plan shows that area youth and elderly are disproportionately represented among the hungry. It shows that many local low-income communities are “food deserts” with limited access to grocery stores and fresh produce, and their residents have higher chronic disease and obesity rates.
Our Sacramento Region Food System Action Plan details strategies to connect the regional food system; its findings prompted our $100,000 grant to the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.
To begin addressing the strategies recommended by the Action Plan – strengthening access to healthy food in underserved communities, teaching young people in the community about proper nutrition and cooking, and bringing more locally grown produce into the food system – we awarded a $100,000 grant to SFBFS to streamline and strengthen the emergency food provider network and opened the Healthy Food Economy Fund to collaboratively fund the large-scale investments that will improve the greater Sacramento region's entire food system.
As a result of that work, SFBFS launched twelve Neighborhood Food Access Networks to maximize collaboration among emergency food distributors in its service area.
After they arrive in Sacramento, refugee families rely on the emergency food system that a grant from our initiative is making more sustainable.
Even when the government is fully funded, food insecurity—the limited or uncertain ability to acquire nutritionally adequate and safe foods—is a scourge in the Sacramento region, despite the area’s agricultural abundance.