Member Highlights: Harvest Crops on Track to Glean 100K Pounds in 2016

Harvest C.R.O.P.S. (Community Residents Offering Produce Seasonally) is currently gleaning at over 3 ½ times volume from last year.  The first quarter of 2016 had a yield of 27,212 lbs vs. 2015 annual total at 31,150 lbs.  Our first quarter also showed the increase in the wonderful people that are helping make this happen with 30 residents donating their bounty and 231 volunteers spending multiple hours picking. 

To handle this surge we are now offering a number of different ways to volunteer such as businesses doing team building events, food pantries providing their own volunteers to pick locally and transport directly back to their pantry for distribution to those they serve.  We are engaging with large youth organizations in San Diego County to provide programs for gleaning as well as learning about waste, food recovery opportunities and being of service to those that need it.

Besides adding to our Volunteer drive we are in need of operational funds.  We are still borrowing the Founders truck and trailer and are in need of funds to pay for the additional gas, office equipment and volunteer insurance that we need to meet the growing demand.  We provide a value added service when monetarily valued at $.75 cents per pound we have already added over $20K worth of food to the existing food stream this year with a potential of over $81K for 2016 at our current rate.

We are putting out a call to organizations that have existing public information materials they are willing to share.  We need curriculum and marketing materials for adults as well as 4th through 12th graders.  These materials are needed no later than the end of April 2016 for curriculum selection and prep for the start of our summer programs in June 2016.  We are interested in teaching about the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy and how the public can actually do something to help feed those that need it.

Please help us with our mission to help feed the hungry of San Diego County.  Thank you for your support.

 

Karen Clay

Chair, Harvest C.R.O.P.S.

Member Highlights: Ecology Artisans- San Diego’s First Public Food Forest

Ecology Artisans is proud to announce the completion of their water harvesting earthworks project at Coastal Roots Farm in Encinitas. Ecology Artisans was contracted by the Leichtag Foundation and Coastal Roots to pioneer the installation of San Diego County’s first public food forest.

For those of you who are not familiar with our company, Ecology Artisans is an ecological landscape and farmland design and development firm.  Now what does that mean? We work with homeowners, farmers, real estate developers, governments, and many other stakeholders to create regenerative living and built systems for their homes and farms.

We have been installing drought tolerant landscapes for homeowners throughout San Diego for the past two years. We have also been working with farmers and homesteaders to drought proof their lands and install resilient food production systems. We were very excited to partner with the Coastal Roots farming team to help kick start their public food forest project.

Coastal Roots Farm is a non-profit community farm that is being incubated by the Leichtag Foundation. The Leichtag Foundation Commons is a farm located on 441 Saxony Rd. in Encinitas, CA. Together, the Leichtag Foundation and Coastal Roots Farm are developing an amazing community farming project that is going to be a world class model for sustainable community development for generations to come.

Coastal Roots mission is to nourish connections—to ourselves, our neighbors, and the land. Inspired by Jewish wisdom and centuries-old agricultural traditions, Coastal Roots practices sustainable farming and shares their harvests with communities that lack access to healthy food. Their goal is to become a model for community farming and creative Jewish expression, both at home in Encinitas, California, and around the world.

The farm team hired Ecology Artisans to design and install the earthworks pattern for their future agroforestry/food forest project. At Ecology Artisans, we like to say that water management earthworks provide the whole pattern for the farm.

What are water harvesting earthworks you might ask? Water harvesting earthworks come in many different forms. There are swales, irrigation channels, water conversations channels, infiltration basins, dams, and many more forms of structures to harvest water directly in the soil. In the simplest description, earthworks are structures in the soils that are meant to alter the water pattern to achieve certain goals of moving water to a specific site (usually a drier site) or allowing it to remain on site (i.e. a dam).

Farming in a Mediterranean climate can be tough. With seasonal rains in the winter and long dry summers, farmers needs to capture as much rain as possible on their land during the dry spells. The goal with any water harvesting project are to slow the water down, spread it out, and sink it down in the soil profile. The act of slowing it down, spreading it out, and sinking it into the ground will dramatically improve the water budget for the whole site by increasing height of the water table.

Above is an aerial photo of the earthworks that we installed courtesy of the Josh Sherman of the Coastal Roots Farm communications team. 


Member Highlights: Wild Willow Farm - Food and the Value of Culture

by Mel Lions

Through every phase of human development, food has been central to human cultural identity. In every culture, everywhere, through all time, whenever humans come together in cultural moments, there is food. From our births to our deaths, in every family and civic celebration, for religious and secular holidays, at sporting and entertainment events, there is always food. If you’ve gathered with others and there’s no food there, you’re at a meeting.

Family and cultural heritage are strung together, meal by meal, with recipes from our ancestors. Food provides us cultural memory and enriches our lives as we share our heritage with other cultures. We know ourselves and each other through food. 

Throughout history, it has been common practice for humanity to express the value of culture by saving the best of our agricultural output for celebratory feasts. The freshest produce, the ripest fruit, the prize bull, the most-wholesome of grains. These were set aside for the moments when it mattered. 

What matters to our culture?

If I am forced to use food as the scale to judge the value placed on 21st-Century American culture, I’d say that we don’t have a high opinion of ourselves. We seem to value cheap food, no matter the cost. Over the span of just a few generations, we’ve outsourced most food production and preparation to a food-service industry whose only goal is to minimize costs and maximize profit. Cheap food seems to be a cultural goal, but at what cost? 

When I was a kid and introduced to the concept of the potluck, probably at a church function, I remember my mom putting real care into preparing her famous ratatouille, which in the ‘60s, was a pretty exotic dish. It must have been summer, because that was the only time that special blend of summer-garden veggies was available. Mom’s dish was put on the banquet table alongside other mom’s dishes (it was the ‘60s, remember), each of which had been as carefully prepared. For whatever reason we were there, we feasted because it mattered. 

At any potluck these days, carefully and consciously prepared foods are a remarkable and welcome rarity, and always the first things devoured, even by the vast majority of those who took the cheap way and brought something packaged and preserved. What does that say about the value put on our culture when bringing a bag of chips fulfills a cultural obligation? It seems like we all know what quality is, but don’t necessarily understand the role quality and care has in keeping our culture together. Cheap food, cheap culture.

Cheap Food

Cheap food — or what’s better described as the illusion of cheap food — has many hidden costs. There is no other human activity that is more devastating to the environment than how we grow food. Industrial agriculture is a leading driver of habitat loss, including soil, water and air pollution from agricultural chemicals; fossil fuel use; genetic modifications to allow for increased pesticide and herbicide spraying; poisoned and depleted aquifers; disruption of climate patterns; rising sea levels; and loss of biodiversity. The poor-quality food that industry sells us is harmful to human health and provides mostly low wage jobs that tax social systems and which perpetuates an underclass. As food prices have dropped, these conditions have all been exacerbated. 

When environmental and human health costs are not paid for by the producers of these problems, it does not mean that the costs are not paid for; instead, the costs are outsourced. Most environmental costs, aside from those that we’re hoping nature will take of (thus climate change, the depletion of fisheries, unaddressed pollution), are born by taxpayers, who pay to clean up industrial messes (Exxon Valdez, BP’s Deepwater Horizon). Human healthcare costs have skyrocketed as our food system has cheapened, largely because the cheapest foods are high in sugar, fat, refined flours, artificial ingredients and preservatives. By all measures, our culture is in a race to the bottom, a race that has only losers. 

The Value of Fresh Food

By and large, our culture has lost touch with the value of fresh, whole, ripe, delicious seasonal food: Produce grown in our yards, or coming from nearby farms. Milk and cheese from local dairies. Bread and meat from neighborhood bakeries and butchers. While there has long been a global food trade, until recent decades this was restricted to non-perishable foods such as grain, legumes, spices and herbs. It is only in recent years — as we have lost the threads of a fresh food culture — has there been a global trade system in fresh produce. We used to know and celebrate the seasons by the food on grocer’s shelves. In today’s society, we expect to have everything we want, when we want it, no matter if it’s in season or not. Produce is selected, grown and picked not for flavor or nutrition, but for its ability to be shipped around the globe. That may look like a tomato on your sandwich in January, but it is really a pale, flavorless shadow of a real one. We’ve been tricked into accepting this as okay, and convinced that cheaper is better. 

One rap that fresh, whole, delicious, locally grown food often gets is that it is elitist, that only the well-off can afford it. That argument has some legs as long as we — as a culture — accept that the producers of cheap food do not have to bear the social and environmental costs of providing it to us. You can bet that if they did, they’d quickly change their practices to that which causes the least harm as this would become the least-costly means of production. 

Rather than waiting for industry and government to change, we can re-energize our culture by growing food ourselves, in our neighborhoods, at our schools and places of worship, in our civic spaces. Food grown close to home is fresher, more flavorful, picked when ripe and full of nutrition. Kids who grow vegetables are likely to eat them, enjoy them, and ask for more. Food bought from nearby farmers helps strengthen our local economy. The character and nature of our back-country is preserved when populated by family farms.  

If you don’t know how to grow food but want to, there are people willing to teach you. San Diego Roots Sustainable Food Project has been offering food-growing programs in our area since 2008. Our Victory Gardens San Diego program give classes in people’s yards all over central San Diego, giving three-class, hands-on lessons in building a garden from scratch. Over the course of three weekends, a homeowner gets a garden and a dozen people learn how to do it themselves. 

For those who have bigger ambitions or agricultural pursuits, we have Wild Willow Farm & Education Center, where we operate the only land-based sustainable agriculture program in southern California. Our six-week Farming 101: Introduction to Sustainable Farming course gives students a solid base of understanding in what they need to grow food successfully in urban environments. Our agricultural philosophy is based on the development of healthy, living soil, and the use of the most environmentally appropriate means to grow food. The school operates year-round. Proceeds from produce grown by the farm is sold a local farmers markets and in a small CSA and supports operation of the school. School kids come to the farm on field trips and learn that not all carrots are the size of a little finger and shaped alike. Watching a kid pull a real carrot from the ground never gets old, and you know that that carrot will live in that kid’s memory, and become a cultural touchstone in her life. 

Please join me in regenerating our culture with delicious food. There is no reason that each of us, no matter our status, cannot be eating like royalty. We have the power, we only need to make the choice. 

————-

Mel Lions is founder and director of San Diego Roots Sustainable Food Project, a 501(c)3 educational non-profit whose mission is to educate, cultivate and empower sustainable food systems in San Diego County.

Member Highlights: Linda Vista Community Garden: On-site Sales

The Linda Vista Community Garden was created in summer of 2011 as a community-driven effort to increase resident access to fresh, local produce. The garden started as a small project at local nonprofit Bayside Community Center with a passionate coordinator who was very engaged in the Linda Vista neighborhood. As it grew, the garden attracted additional community resources, including involvement from the Linda Vista Resident Leaders in Action (Leaders in Action) team. This team includes residents that have been trained in pursuing policy, systems, and environmental changes in their community to improve access to healthy food and physical activity. The Leaders in Action team also includes staff from Bayside Community Center and from the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) North Central Region.

 

In Linda Vista, the diverse and collaborative Leaders in Action team organized members to work on a Communities of Excellence in Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Prevention (CX3) project to enhance the garden.  The team’s contribution to the garden’s growing momentum is a project of the County of San Diego Healthy Works program, implemented by Bayside Community Center. This work supports the County’s Live Well San Diego vision for a healthy, safe and thriving region.

Since the garden produces more than the residents and their families can consume, the Leaders in Action team sought to sell fresh, pesticide-free produce grown in the garden to Linda Vista residents for an affordable price. In Spring 2015, the team created a system to sell produce from the garden directly to community members. Since then, growers have been holding on-site sales every Tuesday afternoon.

 

Challenges

Getting started with selling garden-grown produce to the public is not as easy as it sounds. It was difficult for community stakeholders to interpret the city’s policy regarding where and when residents are able to sell produce from a community garden. The team misinterpreted the policy and believed produce could only be sold within 50 feet of the garden, which is located behind the community center. The team asked a senior planner at the City of San Diego for help and clarification. Their willingness to reach out to city staff offered them avenues to become educated and make real progress. It also reflected their training and increased capacity to delve into policy and city permitting issues. The planner did some research and clarified that they were allowed to sell in the front of the building. The team was excited to move its produce stand to the front where it is more visible and benefits from the foot traffic.

 

Access to land to expand the garden has also been identified as a major issue. Currently, the Linda Vista Community Garden is at full capacity with a long waitlist. However, the local school district owns a vacant lot next to the garden, and the team is working with the district to explore expanding the garden onto school property.

 

Future Directions

The Linda Vista Resident Leaders in Action team plans to continue weekly on-site sales in the garden and at Bayside Community Center. They are determined to grow the program to offer more local produce to residents. Access to land is an identified obstacle to this goal, but Leaders in Action team members will continue advocating and working with the school district to provide opportunities for residents to grow and sell healthy food. 

By Roberto Ramirez

County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency

Roberto.Ramirez@sdcounty.ca.gov

This material was produced by the California Department of Public Health’s Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch with funding from USDA SNAP-Ed, known in California as CalFresh. These institutions are equal opportunity providers and employers. CalFresh provides assistance to low-income households and can help buy nutritious food for better health. For CalFresh information, call 2-1-1. For important nutrition information, visit www.CaChampionsForChange.net.

Member Highlights: UC San Diego’s Healthy Retail Program Helps Transform Oak Park Neighborhood Market

UC San Diego’s Healthy Retail Program recently collaborated with the Oak Park Community Town Council in Southeast San Diego to help transform Louie’s Market Place, a small neighborhood market, into a new grocery destination for healthy, fresh affordable foods. The Healthy Retail Program is dedicated to working with small markets and neighborhood residents to build a healthier and more equitable food landscape for all.

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    Healthy changes at the cash register and a brand new produce section.      

Healthy changes at the cash register and a brand new produce section.  

With support from UC San Diego’s Youth Advisory Council, fellow San Diego Food System Alliance members Dwight Detter of Food Centricity and Ariel Hamburger of San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Agency, collective efforts focused on implementing healthy market improvements to benefit neighborhood shoppers. Louie’s Market Place owner, Latif Georges, welcomed technical assistance, new partnerships, and help with the heavy lifting (literally and figuratively) involved in achieving a healthy market makeover. Changes to the market thus far include: improvements to the exterior façade, new produce section, new meat and deli section, new signage showcasing prepared sandwich and salad menu options featuring Oak Park neighborhood-themed names, signage and marketing materials with healthy food and lifestyle messages, and a newly painted public phone booth being transformed into Oak Park’s first “Little Neighborhood Library”. UCSD continues to support the growth of Louie’s Market Place as a healthy community food destination. Likewise, UCSD continues to assist the Oak Park Community Town Council in realizing their vision of revitalizing neighborhood businesses for a connected and thriving Oak Park.

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     Louie’s Market Place Owner Latif Georges greets UCSD’s Youth Advisory Council members. 

Louie’s Market Place Owner Latif Georges greets UCSD’s Youth Advisory Council members. 

You can read more about this healthy market makeover in a featured KPBS Story here. To find out more about the Healthy Retail Program, contact Elle Mari for services inside the City of San Diego or Chelsea Baron for services outside the city. 

UC San Diego's Healthy Retail program is funded by San Diego County's Health & Human Services Agency. 

Submitted By: Elle Mari, M.Sc., Senior Manager, Healthy Retail in the City of San Diego
Center for Community Health University of California, San Diego
E: emari@ucsd.edu
T: 619.681.0655
ucsdcommunityhealth.org
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Member Highlights: Good deeds and…drones? Another 1600 pounds of citrus picked for San Diego Food Bank

For Produce Good's first good deed of the year, 27 CropSwappers picked 1600 pounds of citrus for San Diego Food Bank on January 4, 2016 ! We also got a visit from Derek Chung, of Canary Drones to film some footage of the orchard for us.

Canarydrones.com specializes in aerial agricultural photography, focusing on early pest and plant disease detection.

Sci-fi just met low-fi and it was good!!

Member Highlights: Somali, Swahili and Other Ethnic Recipes Go Low-Cal Thanks to Community Health Partnership

Several SDFSA voting member organizations, Leah’s Pantry, UCSD Center for Community Health and IRC San Diego, collaborated on a cookbook celebrating the cuisine of San Diego’s refugee communities. Recipes are nutritious, low-cost, easy to prepare, and delicious. 

Read more in this article published by UCSD Senior Communications and Media Relations Manager Bonnie Ward. A community celebration is planned for February 25 at the Copley YMCA. Details to come!
  

Member Highlights: CHIP Grows Farm-to-Institution in San Diego County in 2015

INTRO
From farmers workshops to farm-to-school (F2S) planning to a local food tradeshow for over 200 people, 2015 has been a busy year for Community Health Improvement Partners’s (CHIP’s) work to expand farm-to-institution in San Diego County (SDC). Below is a brief description of our work to grow the good food movement in 2015.

CONVENING & COLLABORATION
CHIP continued convening the SDC Farm to School Taskforce (F2ST) the Nutrition in Healthcare Leadership Team in 2015, two groups leading the farm-to-institution charge in SDC. Through the F2ST and its strong partnership with UC San Diego, CHIP provided local foods procurement expertise to SDC school districts participating in the Harvest of the Month program. CHIP also worked with the Center for Ecoliteracy to expand its California Thursdays program in SDC from 5 to 12 school districts. Through the NHLT, SDC hospitals continue to work in partnership with Healthcare Without Harm to increase purchases of poultry and meat raised without the use of medically important antibiotics.  These shared procurement initiatives are bringing more healthy, local, sustainable foods to hundreds of thousands of SDC children, employees, patients, and community members.

CHIP’s largest annual event, the Let’s Go Local! Produce Showcase was hosted on October 23rd in conjunction with Food Day and brought together institutional buyers and sellers of local food together to develop face-to-face business relationships. Over 200 attendees from schools, hospitals, community orgs, higher education, childcare, restaurants, and more met nearly 50 exhibitors including local farms, produce distributors, and educational exhibitors. The event was followed by a superb reception catered by our friends at Kitchens for Good.

TRAINING & TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE
CHIP hosted two key trainings in 2015. One was a USDA Procurement Training where 15 SDC school districts learned how to prioritize local and regional foods in their competitive bids. CHIP also hosted a Farm-to-Institution 101 Training in September attended by over 25 local growers interested in selling to institutions. CHIP also worked closely with two school districts this year, Vista and Sweetwater, to guide them in developing 3-year F2S plans. Both districts hosted F2S visioning statements in July attended by a wide range of district stakeholders, crafted F2S vision statements, identified challenges and commitments, and are finalizing plans for how to move F2S forward in their districts.

MARKET RESEARCH
This year was one of intensive research for CHIP’s Food Systems Department. Using the data gathered for CHIP’s 2014 State of Farm to School in San Diego County report, CHIP released a 2-page Farm to School Profile for every school district in SDC. The largest 2015 research effort was to reach out to over 400 local farms to learn about their comprehensive projected offerings of 75 crops in 2016, which resulted in CHIP’s 2015 Crop Availability Chart. These research efforts improve the quality and quantity of market information available to institutional buyers, local farms, distributors, and good food advocates. CHIP also worked hard to collaborate on other valuable food systems research, such as the San Diego Food Systems Alliance 2015 survey to assess barriers to new and young farmers.

Stay up to date on our activities on CHIP’s Food Systems Blog, as the coming year is ripe with as many (if not more!) activities that continue to grow the good food movement.  

 

Member Highlights: Kitchens for Good Finally has a Kitchen!

Above: Kitchens for Good expanded staff- 28 and counting

Kitchens for Good (KFG) was founded in 2014, under the belief that kitchens can be economic and social drivers for good in communities.  With a mission to break the cycles of food waste, poverty and hunger through innovative programs in workforce training, healthy food production, and social enterprise, KFG set out over the past year to make this concept into a reality.  After a long search for a kitchen, in the past two months KFG has been catapulted forward towards these goals.  Since September KFG has grown from a staff of 2.5 to 28, operating a 25,000 sqft facility, running a vibrant social enterprise, preparing its first ever meal contract, and finally having the capacity to put these important programs into action.  

In September 2015 Kitchens for Good was selected to operate the 25,000 square foot events space and kitchen at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation.  In this community events space in southeast San Diego, KFG has taken over operations of a robust social enterprise catering and events company (formerly True Roots Catering).  This food enterprise creates livable wage jobs for graduates of KFG’s culinary job training program, and generates revenue to support its social programs.

"It’s kind of trite, but we want to be part of the solution that ends hunger," Chuck Samuelson, Founder/President of KFG said. "And it really is about creating good paying jobs for people. That’s the way you eventually end hunger. You lift people’s economic status by giving them jobs."  

KFG’s approach to tackling hunger is to look at it as a full cycle, not only treating its immediate needs, but addressing it at its sources. In January 2016 its three core programs will launch: Project Reclaim - a recovery program for cosmetically imperfect but still nutritious food; Project Launch - a culinary job training program for the individuals typically considered difficult to employ; and Project Nourish – a healthy meal production program carried out by culinary students and distributed through hunger relief agencies.  Project Kitchen – the social enterprise that creates jobs for culinary graduates and a sustainable financial foundation, has begun through the catering and events and contract meals. 

These interconnected programs rely on continuous collaboration with those who share our vision of building a community of opportunity and health. For these reasons KFG is thrilled to be a member of the Food Systems Alliance through which it can develop relationships with local farmers, government agencies, and regional hunger relief nonprofits towards a goal of using food, not only as nourishment, but as a powerful tool for community change and empowerment.