In 2012 my office began a new phase of our work on the Local Food Action Initiative (LFAI). We have completed many of the key initial land use and funding actions identified in the LFAI, and have made major progress in creating secure institutional homes for continued work on food policy. Seattle now has a Food Policy Coordinator and a Food System Action Plan, and the Regional Food Policy Council (RFPC) is taking on some of the larger issues that extend beyond Seattle’s borders.
Consequently, in 2013, we will be completing work on several specific priorities, and then taking our systems approach to a new level in moving towards a strategy for systematic transformation of the food system.
Specific actions that we will seek to complete in 2013 include:
- Providing a secure home for the University District Farmers Market (currently threatened with displacement) and adopting a second set of policies to ensure the future of Farmers Markets in Seattle (we have commissioned the RFPC to develop model policies around Farmers Markets).
- Advancing work on farmland preservation through adopting the Transfer of Development Rights program currently under review in my Committee and scheduled for a vote in early spring, while partnering with King County to pursue additional opportunities for protecting and/or acquiring farm land.
- Developing an assessment tool to evaluate urban agriculture (also in conjunction with the RFPC).
- Continuing to strengthen our P-Patch Program and provide new opportunities for immigrant and refugee populations and other urban farmers to practice agriculture on City-owned land.
- Develop an approach for food reserves for emergencies, scheduled to be completed in 2014 as part of our new Disaster Recovery Plan.
- Incorporate food system policies in the Seattle Comprehensive Plan, currently under review in my Committee and scheduled for a vote in early spring.
- Approve healthy food guidelines for vending machines on City property, currently scheduled for a Council vote on March 4.
This January, after several years of advocacy by the food community, the State launched a new food policy coordinating group that will bring together state agencies and organizations from around the State to develop common approaches to food issues. I serve on this group, and we are excited about the potential this process has for moving beyond the regional level that we are currently engaged in and bringing about dialogue and unity between farmers and consumers on the West side of the Cascades and the strong farm and rural communities on the East side of the Cascades.
Finally, in our most expansive project yet, Phyllis Shulman of my staff is working with key food activists around the region to develop a new concept for a regional strategy that will bring together governmental, nonprofit, and private sector groups involved with food issues in an approach called Food Web. Food Web will be an initiative to increase and sustain the capacity of the Puget Sound regional food system. Its goal is to create a viable and vital regional food system that nourishes families and communities, generates economic prosperity, contributes to public health and social justice through increased access to healthy food, safeguards the health of the environment, increases regional self-reliance/food security, and regenerates communities through civic/democratic engagement. The project is currently working to secure funding, and has generated enthusiasm among a broad array of those involved in food issues and growing and providing food in Western Washington.
Our work in Seattle has demonstrated that people are seeking a healthier food system. We will continue to look for new ways to advance this goal, blending specific actions in Seattle with work to develop regional, statewide and national alliances that will make this healthier food system possible.