Community members within the Pima County Food Alliance and the Leadership Council have teamed up and tackled many food-related projects aimed at strengthening our local food systems. We’d like to showcase a few of them here.
During the years 2014-16, we participated in a successful effort to get the state to make local food more available to schools. Our first effort involved working with the state health department to create reasonable guidelines so that schools could get their gardens certified to serve the food they grow in the cafeteria. (Prior to this, it was illegal for them to do so.) After this victory, we later lobbied the state legislature to re-define the term “approved source” to automatically include school gardens. House Bill 2518 passed in 2016, meaning that school garden food is now automatically an approved source. Much like farmers can sell their food directly to consumers at the farmers’ market, children can now eat the food they grow in the garden AND the cafeteria, without the health department threatening to shut them down.
This project was inspired by a desire to make USDA’s MyPlate graphic (while more intuitive than MyPyramid, it still needs a little help) even more applicable to our local food system. We asked ourselves, “If we wanted to create a MyPlate with only local ingredients, what would it look like?” We came up with some delicious food as a result! For more on it, check out the full breakdown by seasons.
This past June we set out to ask ourselves: What does our Local Food Web look like? We got together and collaboratively illustrated all of the different groups and individuals that participate in our local and regional food systems (ie. the players involved in food aggregation, distribution, advocacy, donations, internships, farmer training, food production, production planning and farmer services). Take a look at the PDF of our working Food Hub draft. We welcome additions and suggestions; please don’t hesitate to reach out and share your ideas with us.
Farm to School
The USDA has awarded one of our partners, the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, $98,000 to ensure that local food starts making it into school cafeterias. This Farm-to-School grant will provide the Food Bank with funds to partner with Tucson Unified School District to work on getting fresh, local food into schools. Visit our blog to get the full scoop about this exciting news.
Water Policy in Southern Arizona
Our Water Policy Intern, Marisa Tackett, has written a wonderful series of blog posts about water policy issues in Southern Arizona. Check out her amazing work in this four part series.
Other Completed Projects
- Organized “A Place At The Table” Movie Showing as the opening to the Community Food Bank’s “Closing The Hunger Gap” national conference of food banks. We were awarded a national grant to make the showing possible.
- Successfully advocated for the Arizona Department of Health Services to institute reasonable policies encouraging rather than hindering school gardening. As a direct result, compost and rainwater are now allowable for growing food in school gardens.
- Published article in September 2013 issue of Edible Baja Arizona magazine detailing Native MyPlate Project, along with Policy Editorial on USDA, school food, and child food insecurity.
- Successfully advocated for inclusion of an Urban Agriculture section within the City of Tucson’s general plan known as Plan Tucson in 2013.
- Took a lead role in petition against closure of Manzo Elementary School and its agroecology program, helping keep the school open.
- Co-sponsored a comment forming event at the Food Conspiracy Coop’s administration office regarding the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act. FDA has announced it will be significantly reviewing some of the policies we—and many other small farmers around the country—were most concerned about.
- Participated in Colorado River Day press conference with Phoenix Mayor Gibbs to address the importance of water resources and quality to agriculture in Arizona.
- In collaboration with the Community Food Bank, organized the “Leap What You Sow Conference” that brought together over 100 food activists and farmers from all over Southern Arizona and surrounding states to discuss ways we could work more effectively together on local food access and market issues.