Santa Barbara, CA, March 10, 2015 —
A newly formed partnership between local agencies is tackling the food system — looking at how one of the largest sectors in Santa Barbara County can increase access to good food, improve the health of residents, secure agricultural resources for the future, strengthen the region’s economic vitality, and protect natural resources and the climate.
The Food Action Plan partnership — which includes the Community Environmental Council, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, Orfalea Foundation, and the Santa Barbara Foundation — announces its launch with three inaugural community listening sessions to be held March 17 and 18, 2015 in Santa Maria, Solvang and Santa Barbara. The gatherings are an opportunity for the community to participate in the development of a countywide food system blueprint.
Food insecurity is one concern that will be addressed during the planning process. While Santa Barbara County has rich agricultural land that produces over one million metric tons of fruits and vegetables each year, it struggles to provide adequate access to affordable and nutritious food. "In spite of all the healthy food grown in our county, our region experiences high rates of diabetes and obesity, and one in four children struggles with hunger," offered Erik Talkin, CEO of the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.
Over the course of 14 months, the Food Action Plan will take a far-reaching look at the strengths and weaknesses of the food system, delivering a community-based blueprint with recommendations that may include increasing small-scale gardens and farms, improving food literacy, and reducing food waste.
“With our year-round growing climate, rich farmlands, and diversity of crops, Santa Barbara County should be able to provide a healthy, affordable and environmentally resilient food system,” said Sigrid Wright of the Community Environmental Council and a member of the Plan’s executive team. “At the same time, like many California communities, we’re faced with some significant challenges — such as a multi-year drought, pressure to develop agricultural lands, climate change, and other threats to our long-term sustainability.”
In addition to seeking community input, the partnership is reviewing similar efforts around the nation. For example, Vancouver’s planning process resulted in an increase in neighborhood ‘food assets’ by 30% — including farmer’s markets, community gardens, urban farms, and community kitchens — and Seattle’s plan updated the city’s land-use code to support urban agriculture, making more city-owned land available for food production.
Sharyn Main, Director of the LEAF Initiative (Landscapes, Ecosystems, Agriculture, Food Systems) at the Santa Barbara Foundation stated: “Our goal is to create long-term solutions that not only improve our current food system, but that inform and influence policy decisions of the future.”
Adds Barbara Andersen, Strategic Partnerships Director for the Orfalea Foundation: “We aim to design and provide the foundation for a more resilient local food system that works effectively in times of plenty, but that can also withstand the shocks of natural or man-made disasters.”
Community Listening Sessions
Community members and agencies are invited to attend community listening sessions to engage in the development of the Food Action Plan. The sessions are free and open to the public, and Spanish translation will be provided. Participants will be asked to contribute based on their professional knowledge, expertise, or personal experiences. An RSVP is requested but not required at www.sbcfoodaction.org.