In a state which owns the role as largest agricultural exporter in the country, how its largest city deals with food policy is important, not only for the state, but the nation as a whole. Such is the case with Los Angeles, California, a place where local produce runs abound. The problem is, it’s not only support for local food production that’s integral for regional food policy, but it’s the distribution of it.
According to the 2005 LA County Health Survey, only 14.6 percent of adults eat over five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Add that to a population over half (55.5 percent) of which is either obese or overweight, and it’s easy to posit the correlation between good food and improved health.
This week the Los Angeles Food Policy Task Force, established last year by the L.A. Board of Public Works, released a its report, “Good Food for All Agenda: Creating a New Regional Food System for Los Angeles.” The report focuses not only environmental concerns related to the LA food system, but also the political and social side of things. With studies showing that there is a direct correlation between income and health, these are the issues that local, and national, leaders have to start taking a serious look at, and it’s good to see one of the nation’s most abundant agricultural regions starting to do so.
In the land of plenty, the report paints a grim picture of the reality for many LA residents:
A block from backyard vegetable gardens whose vitality could make you gasp, displays of cheap-calorie, high-profit, chemical-laden snacks, and vivid, sugary sodas all but crowd out the produce sections of neighborhood markets. Children eat prepackaged school lunches designed to ease the problems of distribution rather than nutrition. Billions of consumer dollars that could go towards sustainable, fairly priced locally grown food goes out of the region and out of the country. Improbably, even here, many thousands of Angeleno families go hungry each day.
Local food can’t just be a trend or a movement, it has to be practical, affordable and accessible, and when we’re talking about environmental, social and political issues, this is something that all cities across the country should be considering.
The report also calls for the city to establish a Good Food council, which would aid in connecting the dots between all the groups within the city that are doing work that’s related; focusing on local food means strengthening the community around it. University researchers can work with soup kitchens and activists can work with industry professionals.
You can read the full report here.