California Ag Community
at California State University, Fresno, the California State Board of Food and
Agriculture (of the CDFA) held an open meeting with
representatives from several state food banks, non-profit Calif. organizations
that are invested in food provisions, growers, and the media, plus a filmmaker
via Skype and members of the community. Craig McNamara, Board President,
chaired the meeting, and CDFA Secretary Karen Ross was present.
“The San Joaquin Valley is one of the most productive agricultural
regions in the nation and yet we have a number of individuals in these
communities who do not know where their next meal is coming from,” said
Secretary Karen Ross stated in a recent statement. “Bringing together the
agricultural community with local food banks, faith-based organizations and
other stakeholders, is an important step in addressing food insecurity in the
|CDFA Secretary Karen Ross|
some surprising statistics:
· 23% of the Central Valley (CV) population
is food-insecure (1 in 4).
· 1 in 3 children in the CV are food
· 50% of children in Chico receive 2
meals a day.
· In some Fresno public schools, 98%
of students have free or subsidized lunch.
are some of the meeting highpoints:
All those present watched a trailer for the sobering film, A Place at the Table, directed by Lori
Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson. Silverbush, who joined the meeting via
videoconference, said, “Hunger is fixable.” She said that poverty is not about
personal failure, laziness or poor choices; rather, the hungry people she has
met are typically hard-working adults with insufficient income who struggle to
feed their families.
She claims that hunger exists in our 1st world country “because
we are not holding our representatives accountable. I don’t blame the government
for this situation; I look at fellow citizens and say, ‘We are the
Sarah Reyes, of the California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation, began by describing herself as having come from a food-insecure family.
Silverbush, has observed that food-insecure families typically have two working
adults; they just have a hard time making ends meet.
she explained, many hungry families suffer from obesity because they only have
access to cheap, nutrient-deficient food.
This is where the
California agricultural community comes in.
The Food System Alliance, a county-based collaboration of
community leaders, ag leaders, and CEOs, addresses, among many issues, the need
for growers to be able to have a market right here in the Central Valley. “For
instance,” said Reyes, “Fresno Unified School District just signed with local
strawberry farmers to provide berries for school lunches.
talked about seeking agricultural partnerships to teach people to work in
community vegetable gardens, for example. “This isn’t about me; it is about us,“
the CDFA, Reyes urged Board Members to invite residents to their meetings; look
at how SNAP and Food Fresh programs work and sign up participants; examine
state-created barriers that prevent outreach; and review service program accessibility.
Strawberry Associates Inc. and CDFA board member said that unfortunately, “We have a
cheap food policy. We must make grocery stores accessible because it is so easy
for a working parent to go through a drive through.”
Coate, Ag Against Hunger, said we need
to provide a necessary link between agriculture and community needs. Her
organization, initiated by the agricultural community, provides a clearinghouse
for surplus crops in a 3-county area. With their own fleet of trucks and a cooling
facility, the organization provides the local ag community with a distribution
system that gave out 210 million pounds of vegetables, particularly leafy
greens, last year. In wintertime, they send their trucks to Yuma for fresh
Barriers to distribution, reported by many panelists, include
poor farm yields, short shelf life, availability of cool storage, increasing
poverty and food insecurity, competition for non-retail quality food with feed
needed by ranchers, high cost or shortage of farm workers, processors and
transportation, cost of liability insurance, and high cost of crops (e.g.,
were a lack or high cost of transportation, poor harvest timing when gleaning
volunteers are unavailable, limited storage, difficulty in maintaining stable
food availability year-round, and the high cost of canning and dehydrating food
for preservation. Finally, presenters noted the lack of volunteers, packaging, and agricultural providers for
Strategies to encourage the
agricultural community’s participation are: solve some of the above problems/barriers for farmers,
use peer pressure among growers and the rest of the agricultural industry’s services,
enjoin packers to provide packaging, and engage transportation companies to
also emphasized getting grower-buy-in by including them more in meetings and
decision-making, providing incentives for more participation, encouraging
farmers to allow access to their crops they wouldn’t have picked anyway, giving
tax credit by the IRS, continued fundraising.
Potential solutions for food
establishing local grocery stores, providing education on how to eat (i.e. peel
a kiwi) and cook food, teaching how to exercise voting rights to pressure
government representatives, starting community fruit and vegetable gardens, and
finding volunteers. Other possibilities include the subleasing of cold storage,
use of fairgrounds as distribution centers, and the provision of working wages
and emergency-gleaning committees.
Lundberg, a rice grower in Yolo County and CDFA board member, asked about the anticipated effect of
severe water deficits on food banks, panelists either did not know or would not
comment. Aside, he commented about the necessity and lack of water storage in
California, both above and below the Delta, and surface and ground water.
Labels: Bryce Lundberg, California Endowment, California State Board of Food and Agriculture, CDFA, Craig McNamara, food insecurity, Hunger in America, Lindsay Coate, Lori Silverbush, Sara Reyes, Secretary Karen Ross