The Sacramento region is at the heart of one of the world’s largest agricultural economies, producing food for people around the globe. Our region’s food and agriculture industry creates $3.4 billion in annual output and employs more than 37 thousand workers in the Sacramento region.
The food space across the region is being invigorated and strengthened by hundreds of individuals, agencies and groups achieving important outcomes. Our region is becoming widely recognized as America’s Farm to Fork Capital for the diversity, quality and vitality of our food and agriculture. Yet in spite of this great work, our agricultural abundance and our reputation as a leader in the local-sourced food movement, there exist many disconnects in our food system. Sadly, very little of the food grown in the region actually makes its way to local plates. Worse, too many residents suffer from persistent hunger and food insecurity. Lack of access to affordable, healthy food is a major contributor to poor health status, especially as related to certain chronic diseases.
In early 2015, the Sacramento Region Community Foundation enlisted Valley Vision—already known as a regional leader in the food, agriculture and health sectors—to conduct a study of the Sacramento region’s food system and to formulate an action plan that would align a broad network of community leaders, partners and stakeholders around common strategies. We knew that to get to real levels of scale and impact, the region would need a shared roadmap for stakeholders in the food space to work together across the entire system.
What is the goal?
The goal is to create and implement a data-driven Food System Action Plan—a shared framework that identifies the strategic priorities, actions, resources and leadership needed to transform the regional food system, reduce hunger, increase local healthy food consumption, improve health outcomes, and grow the regional economy.
Why is this important?
This is important because we still have high levels of hunger and poor food-related health outcomes in communities across the Sacramento region, most of the food we consume is not produced locally, and our agriculture industry faces ongoing challenges such as farmland development pressures.
The Sacramento region has tremendous assets in food and agriculture, and there have been significant studies and initiatives over the past few years that have resulted in many activities to advance an economically vibrant, accessible and sustainable food system. While there has been significant progress, more work remains. If the Sacramento region is going to capture its economic potential, address systemic health and hunger issues, and ensure the long-term viability of its agricultural assets, all stakeholders in the food system need to be aligned and organized. The Food System Action Plan provides that framework by detailing the integrated goals, strategic priorities and recommended actions to strengthen the food system for the region.
What is Valley Vision doing about it?
Valley Vision has worked across the food sector for more than a decade to advance our regional agriculture economy and improve food access. Our work aims to make the region a leader in agricultural innovation and exports, as well as to support the growth of regionally-focused, local agriculture and food businesses. Our experience, relationships and expertise across the regional food system made Valley Vision the right partner for the Sacramento Region Community Foundation to administer the research and development of this initiative.
Beginning in March 2015, Valley Vision conducted a systematic assessment of the players, initiatives and capacity within the region’s food and agriculture industries. The results informed the Sacramento Region Food System Action Plan, released jointly by Valley Vision and the Sacramento Region Community Foundation in September 2015.
The Action Plan is the first of its kind to document the region’s food system across public and private sectors, exploring practical opportunities to increase access to locally-grown food for the area’s most vulnerable residents and grow new markets for local farms, businesses, and food and agriculture entrepreneurs. Because the Action Plan highlights the complexity and dynamism of the entire regional food system, new insights from the report are guiding efforts to address systemic health and hunger issues as well.
The Action Plan was developed as part of the Foundation’s newly launched strategic initiative, Connecting the Regional Food Economy, aimed at creating a healthy and thriving regional food system with access for all. The Action Plan:
- Offers innovative maps that show food deserts overlaid with food access points, including emergency food access sites, clearly identifying fresh food access gaps in urban and rural communities throughout the region, including among our neediest communities.
- Catalogs primary program areas for fifty-seven nonprofit organizations working within the Sacramento region to create a healthy food system and identifies where organizational resources and capacities could be refined and strengthened.
- Quantifies the opportunity to maximize federal nutrition programs that would help relieve hunger, improve health outcomes and bring an additional $215 million to the local economy annually.
What is our desired impact?
To boost our food economy, train the next generation of growers, greatly increase access to healthy, locally grown foods, improve health, and incubate technologies to make our food system more efficient and sustainable.
How does this effort affect triple-bottom-line objectives?
Economy: The food and agricultural industry is an unparalleled economic cluster for the Sacramento region, offering immense growth opportunities and sustainable economic vitality. The FSAP is designed to grow our regional food and ag economy.
Environment: FSAP actions include support for incubating new technologies that make the food and agriculture system sustainable and resource efficient by reducing water and energy use throughout the value chain, reducing pollution, and keeping land in production, which helps our carbon footprint. Increasing the amount of viable food going to underserved areas also reduces waste going into landfills.
Equity: Access to plentiful and healthy food is a social equity challenge that exists for many in the Sacramento region. The FSAP embodies strategies and actions to help reduce hunger, increase local healthy food consumption, and improve health outcomes.
Valley Vision began working with the Sacramento Region Community Foundation in spring 2015 on the initial research phase of this project. The research was analyzed and compiled over the subsequent months and the Food System Action Plan was published in September of that same year. Currently, the plan is actively being implemented.
Sacramento Region Community Foundation