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Published on July 9th, 2009 | by Ryan Van Lenning

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Newsom Makes Eco News Again With Ambitious Sustainable Food Policy

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San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom recently made waves in sustainable city news with the new mandatory recycling and composting initiative and yesterday proclaimed San Francisco as the epicenter of electric vehicle technology in the latest installment of what might be called the ‘sustainability wars’ between San Francisco and Portland.

Continuing in that vein, Mayor Newsom yesterday issued an Executive Directive outlining San Francisco’s first comprehensive regional food policy. The press release reads:

“The stark reality is that hunger, food insecurity, and poor nutrition are pressing health issues, even in a city as rich and vibrant as San Francisco,” said Mayor Newsom. “From the alleviation of hunger, to the need to support local and sustainable agricultural practices, these recommendations form a comprehensive and strategic approach to addressing pressing needs in all sectors of the food system.”

In making the announcement, Newsom was joined by California Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura, representatives of the United State Department of Agriculture, Bay Area farmers, and members of local food advocacy groups such as Roots of Change at West Oakland Woods Farm, one of the several community urban gardens run by City Slicker Farms.

Among the elements of the new food policy:

  • Requiring all city departments to conduct an audit of land under their jurisdiction in order to inventory land suitable for gardening
  • New health and sustainability requirements for food sold by vendors under city permits
  • A “healthy meetings policy” requiring the purchase of healthy, locally produced foods for city meetings
  • A call for a new law to be made that would require food purchased by the city to be grown regionally and sustainably

The directive calls for these to be completed with in 6 months. And within two months, Newsom says he will send an ordinance to the Board of Supervisors mandating that all food served in hospitals, homeless shelters, jails, and community centers be healthy.

The announcement is the culmination of collaboration between the city and local food advocacy groups. The directive includes several recommendations resulting from that collaboration, including a proposal for connecting regional food growers to local San Francisco restaurants and food purchasers as well as an initiative to help residents who use food stamps buy food at local farmers markets.

This plan is not only a first for San Francisco, it is also certainly one of the most ambitious and comprehensive sustainable food policies in the nation. Let the sustainability wars continue!

Read the mayor’s full press release of the regional food policy.

Photo Credit: Roots of Change

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About the Author

I'm a Bay Area writer and organizer focusing on issues of sustainability and social justice. I'm particularly passionate about urban agriculture & food justice, sustainable cities, alternative economics, clean energy, and eco-justice for all. I try to focus on citizen action and positive successful projects and ideas. I have worked for nonprofits advocating for sustainable transportation and peace issues and taught environmental ethics, philosophy, and comparative religion at a college in Ohio before moving to the Bay Area. When I'm not engaged in yerba mate fueled ink-slinging, you can find me traveling, organic gardening, participating in a local demonstration or direct action, or hiking the trails. I also write for Oakland Local, Truthout, Matador Change, and Terrain Magazine. Follow me at @vanlenning and visit my blogs at Pull the Root, Travelin' Bones, and Rumi and the Cholo.



  • http://www.rootsofchange.org Haney Armstrong

    Thanks for covering this and for the link to Roots of Change – heres a page with lots of links about this announcement and the related Direct Farm Marketing Summit that ended today in Oakland – http://tinyurl.com/m73qln We hope this will inspire other mayors across the country.

  • Cyndy Abbott

    This is a very thought provoking article. Congratulations to San Francisco in their efforts of ongoing sustainability. I do have reservations on the idea of the “mandatory” part of the recyling and composting. I tend to believe that through education and the community efforts being put forth, this is something that people will want to do voluntarily, therefore making sustainability more successful. Kudos to the local food advocacy groups Roots of Change and City Slicker Farms for working with the communities in this vain. I have recently moved into a small town from the country and am working on my own sustainable Urban Garden, not because it’s mandatory but for the satisfaction of being more self-sufficient through the work of my own hands.
    Thank you for your informative article and I look forward in anticipation for more of your writings.

  • haleh

    Hopefully Newsom’s progressive words are followed by action, funding, and community participation! this is such an important moment for the health of bay area communities. thanks for writing about this!

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