Healthy Food for All
by Shawn Harrison, Soil Born Farms Founder & Co-Director
Since the first seeds were sown at our Farm on Hurley Way, Soil Born Farms# main goal has been to make healthy food a core part for people who live and work in the urban environment. This vision for an Edible City is taking root with a focus in south Sacramento.
Five years ago we embarked on an intensive project in partnership with the California Endowment's Building Healthy Communities Initiative. Soil Born Farms' task was to lead the development of and organize strategies to help improve access to healthy food in this community.
In south Sacramento higher rates of poverty drive hunger and the associated high levels of diet-related disease. This income and health relationship plays out in everyday life as residents are forced to spend their limited food dollars on readily available cheap food that is typically high in fat, sugar and calories.
Recognizing the impact that limited income has on access to healthy food, Soil Born Farms and over two dozen community partners have targeted, bolstered and aligned existing food access assets in south Sacramento. This work has started to have a major impact on community food security.
Environment and Economy
Vacant lots, parks and yards are perfect sites for growing fresh fruits and vegetables. Each year partners including Soil Born Farms, Yisrael Family Farms, Oak Park Sol, Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, Ubuntu Green, landowners, park districts, and residents are working to glean over 50,000 pounds of fruit from neighborhood trees and to date have built over 120 gardens in south Sacramento.
Recently food access partners in the Sacramento Urban Agriculture Coalition also guided the development of the region's first Urban Agriculture Ordinance adopted by the City of Sacramento, which empowers people to produce and sell their own food from urban lots. These activities have flipped the notion of food deserts on its head, as an increasing amount of food is now being grown in the city.
People and Economy
There is a vast and untapped resource of residents with cooking and food production expertise in our neighborhoods. Working with food access partners, Soil Born Farms' Harvest Sacramento program has been developing clusters of activity in neighborhoods throughout south Sacramento facilitated by resident volunteer leaders. These leaders are now helping to expand building gardens, gleaning fruit and providing food policy activities. Currently, eight neighborhood harvest clusters have been developed.
Partners including Soil Born Farms' Growing Together Program, Food Literacy Center, Sacramento Chinese Community Service Center and Edible Sac High are helping to develop comprehensive edible schoolyard programs at many school sites. With these programs, students experience food education in the garden, classroom, cafeteria and at home. This work is framed within a larger policy and curriculum focus that will support the development of a comprehensive food and agriculture career pathway model throughout the entire Sacramento City Unified School District. Recently, this school garden work was highlighted in Sacramento's first A Garden in Every School Symposium that brought together over 225 educators from throughout the six-county region.
Improving access to healthy food through partnership with existing retail outlets including corner stores, farm stands and farmers# markets is simply smart. Over the last five years, Alchemist CDC has helped integrate healthy snacks and fresh produce into four corner stores, and Neighborworks has developed the successful Oak Park Farmers' Market.
Emergency food distribution is a critical food access strategy, and in the last five years Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services has worked with partners to develop innovative mobile distribution points of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the south Sacramento community. As the new Feeding America provider, over 250 food pantries throughout Sacramento will be able to improve access to high quality foods for under served families.
For more information about Building Healthy Communities: www.sacbhc.org or