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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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local food systems

To Stem Rising Tide of Obesity in SoCal Neighborhood, HEAL Program Tackles Local Food Access and Nutrition

February 8, 2016 |
Courtesy Heal Zone

The Eastside Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Zone program seeks to improve the overall wellness of Riverside, CA’s Eastside community through education and increased access to healthy local food.

As of 2012, in Riverside, California’s Eastside neighborhood, more than half of the adults and almost a quarter of the teenagers, were considered overweight. To stem this rising tide of obesity, Kaiser Permanente awarded a $1 million grant to establish a Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Zone program to improve the Eastside community’s overall wellness through education and increased access to healthy local food.

Kaiser sees the HEAL Zone program as a community benefit, according to health manager Cecilia Arias.

“Wellness isn’t just about the absence of illness. It’s about how you live,” she says. “Is your community supportive of you having a healthy lifestyle? Is it safe for you to go out to exercise and walk or do something the park?” Read More

California Congressman Takano Works to Unleash Power of Agriculture for Riverside’s Health and Prosperity

February 1, 2016 |
Official Portrait - Mark Takano 113th

Congressman Mark Takano, whose district includes the City of Riverside, spoke at the 2014 GrowRIVERSIDE conference and is a champion of local and sustainable food and agriculture. (photo courtesy Josh Weisz/Office of Congressman Mark Takano)

Congressman Mark Takano, a Democrat from California’s 41st congressional district, was born in Riverside, California. The longtime Riverside Community College Board of Trustees member delivered a keynote address at GrowRIVERSIDE’s “Citrus and Beyond” conference in 2014, and he understands the importance of local sustainable agriculture to the economic prosperity of Riverside.

Seedstock caught up with Congressman Takano, who answered some of our questions:

Seedstock: What are your impressions on the pursuit of the development of local food system infrastructure in your district?

Takano: We’re making good progress, but there’s more work to do. The efforts of GrowRIVERSIDE are really encouraging and I was honored to be a keynote speaker at the GrowRIVERSIDE “Citrus and Beyond” conference. It really takes buy-in from consumers to get this kind of thing going and that’s what I’ve been seeing.   Read More

Local Food for Global Urbanites: Milan Urban Food Policy Pact Gains Momentum

January 11, 2016 |
Mercato del Suffragio: a old municipal covered market in the center of Milan renovated thanks to the investment of four small food companies. credits: courtesy of Mercato del Suffragio

Mercato del Suffragio: a old municipal covered market in the center of Milan renovated thanks to the investment of four small food companies. credits: courtesy of Mercato del Suffragio

Urban agriculture is the essence of thinking globally and acting locally, and ag advocates in Milan, Italy have found a way to blend those two aspects into municipal policy with worldwide implications. 

The Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, initiated in 2014, is a five-year plan intended to coordinate policies dealing with food supply and sustainability from varied perspectives: community, welfare, education, environment, well-being and international relations, and to support city governments in making change.

The city of Milan began the four-stage process to develop the pact by assessing strengths and weaknesses. It then began developing objectives in partnership with the public, continuing onward to seeking buy-in from major institutions. Lastly, it is working on developing pilot projects. The goal is to target world hunger by establishing local supply chains right where people live. Read More

Real Food Challenge: Student Activists Help Campuses Eat Smarter

December 22, 2015 |
Real Food Challenge at San Francisco State University, Courtesy of Real Food Challenge.

Real Food Challenge at San Francisco State University. Courtesy of Real Food Challenge.

Institutional food systems are typically a tough nut for food activists to crack, relying as they do on economies of scale and mass logistics. But the growing movement toward real, sustainable eating has a natural ally in hungry, well-informed college students – and ever since 2008, the Real Food Challenge organization has helped them speak with one voice for change.

The challenge “leverages the power of youth and universities to create a healthy, fair and green food system,” according to the organization’s mission statement. 

To that end, the Real Food Generation organization – founded by Ghanian-born Harvard Kennedy School grad Anim Steel – provides coordination, support and tools to campus organizations that are working toward change. Read More

Massachusetts Teenager Hooked on Local Ag After Completing ‘30 Day Challenge’ to Survive on Local Farm’s Produce

December 3, 2015 |
Noah’s peanut butter and jelly “sandwich.” Courtesy Noah Kopf.

Noah’s peanut butter and jelly “sandwich.” Courtesy Noah Kopf.

Sixteen-year-old Noah Kopf recently embarked on a challenge to eat only foods he produced or grew on his own for 30 days. The name of the challenge was appropriately called “Homegrown 30: A Month of Backyard Eating.” Kopf was successful – and while he says he found the challenge trying at times, he learned a lot during his journey.

Kopf first became interested in local agriculture about five years ago. “My family got a CSA at a local community farm and part of the requirement for the CSA is a certain amount of working volunteer hours,” he says. “My mom would bring me over after middle school and I helped weed the beds and pick stuff. I really enjoyed the work. I thought it was really cool that people were growing so much food right around us.” Read More

New Alliance Strives to Preserve Rich Local Food Culture of Louisiana’s Acadiana Region

November 24, 2015 |
Okra, used in gumbo, jambalaya and other Cajun/Creole foods, is one of several locally-grown crops in southern Louisiana’s Acadiana region. (photo courtesy Chris Adams/Acadiana Food Alliance)

Okra, used in gumbo, jambalaya and other Cajun/Creole foods, is one of several locally-grown crops in southern Louisiana’s Acadiana region. (Photo courtesy Chris Adams/Acadiana Food Alliance)

The rich Cajun and Creole food tradition of southern Louisiana’s French-speaking region of Acadiana is the target of preservation efforts by a new local food alliance.

Until recently, efforts to bolster local foods in the Acadiana region were disparate and disjointed, according to Christopher Adams, executive director of the Cultural Research Institute of Acadiana. The Acadiana Food Alliance is trying to change that.

“There’s been a fair amount of movement in the area for local food, including an upsurge in farmers’ markets and lots of restaurants featuring local food on menus,” says Adams. “These have been independent and scattered efforts, with lots of individual potentials. Our hope is to bring together an effective collaboration.”

The journey toward the new food alliance began in February 2014 when about 30 interested people began meeting regularly. The group applied for technical assistance from the U.S. EPA’s Local Foods, Local Places program, and were one of 26 recipients (out of 300 applicants) nationwide. The Local Foods, Local Places program seeks to enhance economic opportunities for locally based farmers and businesses by improving access to healthy local food and supporting food hubs, farmers’ markets, and community gardens and kitchens. Read More

Survey Shows New Hampshire Residents Want More Local Produce

November 10, 2015 |
Photo by Jay & Melissa Malouin (via Flickr)

Photo by Jay & Melissa Malouin (via Flickr)

A survey out of the University on New Hampshire has uncovered a few surprising bits of information about the value consumers place on local produce.

The survey questioned 200 people and was conducted by John Halstead, professor of environmental and resource economics, and university students.

“There’s a lot of momentum toward producing more of our food locally and a lot of statements being made about how we should buy X percent of our food locally, and how if we just did this we’d produce all these jobs,” Halstead says. “I felt like there hasn’t been a lot of real economic research done that talks about why, for example, don’t we do this now if it’s such a great idea? Why is nobody doing it, and if it is such a great idea, what’s keeping it from taking hold?” Read More

Indiana Urban Farm Takes Whole Lifestyle Approach to Local Food

November 9, 2015 |
Yoga is part of all programs at Growing Places Indy, where food is viewed as one component leading to health and wholeness. (photo courtesy Laura Henderson/Growing Places Indy)

Yoga is part of all programs at Growing Places Indy, where food is viewed as one component leading to health and wholeness. (Photo courtesy Laura Henderson/Growing Places Indy)

The phrases “grow well, eat well, live well, be well” adorn the website of Indianapolis urban farm Growing Places Indy, which uses food to help people find more wholeness in their lives.

For the past seven years, the work of Growing Places Indy has evolved to include a winter farmers’ market, yoga classes, a summer apprenticeship program, educational offerings, and several urban farm sites.

The journey started with the Indy Winter Farmers Market, founded in 2008 by Laura Henderson, who now serves as executive director of Growing Places Indy. Created to give Indianapolis residents a year-round supply of locally-produced foods, the winter market operates from November to April inside the Indianapolis City Market in downtown Indianapolis. Read More