What's A Food System?
A healthy food system is one that can feed its community now and in the future.
What are the pieces?It takes more than just growing nutritious foods. It takes more than just preserving the environment. There are many pieces to resolve the food system puzzle:
Sustainable Agriculture & Organics
Cooking & Nutrition
Urban & Community Gardens
Composting & Used Oil
Land Conservation & Sustainable Development
Farm Workers Rights
Policy Makers n Shakers
Media & PR
Sustainable Agriculture & OrganicsThese organizations work to educate and empower the community about farming itself in the long-term: fresh foods, abundant supply, successful farmers, healthy soil, healthy eco-systems, and/or bio-diversity. This also includes organics and anti-GMO efforts.
Californians for GE-Free Agriculture, Ctr. for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA), Chefs Collaborative, Community Food Security Coalition, CA Food & Justice Coalition (CFJC), Ecology Ctr., Grown in Marin, Hunters Point Family (HPF), Husbandry Inst. and Meat Matters: Ask for Change, Marin Agricultural Education Alliance (MAEA), Marin Organic, Occidental Arts & Ecology Ctr. (OAEC), Om Organics, People’s Grocery, Pie Ranch, Seafood Watch, Slide Ranch, Slow Food, Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE), Wise Food Ways
Agricultural & Land-Based Training Assoc. (ALBA), Bay Area Seed Interchange Library (BASIL), CA Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), CA Farm Link, Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), Eco-Farm, Inst. for Fisheries Resources, Marin Organic, Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA), UC Cooperative Extension
Local Foods“Buying Local” is now just as popular (or even more than) organics. Today, we can buy just about anything, at any time, from anywhere on the planet. This may be convenient, but it comes with a cost: weakened local economies, significant fossil fuel pollution, and lower quality, homogeneous varieties. These organizations promote buying locally as a way to keep money circulating within communities, provide fresh foods, and retain the cultural heritage of regional foods. (Farmers markets also promote local foods; see the Distribution section for more info.)
Cooking & NutritionEnvironmentally-friendly farming means more variety and an emphasis on diverse, seasonal produce. These organizations offer cooking and nutrition education -- to provide essential food and nutrition skills for the general community, or as a means to combat the acute food crisis in lower-income communities. (Some of these organizations are also in the Food Justice section.)
The Bread Project, CA Nutrition Network, Ctr. for EcoLiteracy, CHEFS Program (pictured), Freshtopia, From the Garden to the Table, Hunters Point Family (HPF), Next Course, Om Organics' What’s In Season, People’s Grocery, SF Dept. of Public Health, Nutrition, SF Head Start Nutrition Program, School Lunch Initiative, Prevention Inst., UC Cooperative Extension
DistributionOur existing prevalent food system already has issues effectively distributing healthy foods to lower-income and elderly people. With the local, organic food movement, there are even more obstacles to efficiently connect suppliers and buyers. These organizations are working to create more efficient regional distribution channels, so everyone in the community can access healthy, fresh foods.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Delivery Programs
Fresh, affordable, organic produce from local farmers delivered to your home, office, or a drop-off point in your neighborhood. (Learn more and find farms…)
Alemany Market, City Slicker Farms, CUESA, Ecology Ctr. markets, Marin Farmers Market Assoc., Mo Better Food, Pacific Coast Farmers Market Assoc., Urban Village (Find more farmers markets…)
Food Banks, Pantries, Kitchens
Congregation Emanu-El, Garden Project, Glide Memorial Church, Haight Ashbury Food Program, Hunters Point Family (HPF), St. Anthony Foundation, St. Gregory’s Food Pantry, SF Food Bank (Find another food bank...)
Food Delivery Programs
CAFF Growers Collaborative (to institutions), Food Runners (to shelters & neighborhood programs; pictured above), Marin Ag Institute's Farm-to-Fork (to institutions), Marin Organic (to schools), Meals on Wheels SF (to elderly), People’s Grocery (to schools), Produce to the People (to food pantries & kitchens), SF Food Bank (to lower-income & elderly), SF Glean (to food banks & pantries), SF Summer Lunch (to children)
We do have several conventional distributors focusing on local, sustainable foods. (Find a local distributor…)
Food Justice“Food Justice” means the right of every person to have access to fresh, nutritious food. These organizations educate, organize, and foster new social relations around food to change eating and distribution patterns. Their work is typically focused on lower incomes, elderly, homeless, or others lacking access to fresh, wholesome foods. (Food Banks, Food Pantries, and Food Delivery Programs are also considered Food Justice; see the Distribution section for more info.)
The Bread Project, CA Nutrition Network, CHEFS Program, City Slicker Farms (pictured), Garden Project, Hunters Point Family (HPF), Mo Better Food, Next Course, People’s Grocery, Produce to the People, St. Anthony Farm, SF Dept. of Public Health, Nutrition
Food Business Assistance
Community Food Security Coalition, CA Food & Justice Coalition (CFJC), Food First, Prevention Inst., SF Food Systems
School GardensSchool gardens provide an environment in which students can learn about the relationship between plants and people, gaining a better understanding of how nature sustains life. Students learn where our food comes from, how it’s grown, and how it gets from garden to plate. These organizations operate school gardens and educate children about agriculture and ecology.
Berkeley Community Gardening Collaborative, Collective Roots, Ctr. for EcoLiteracy, Rethinking School Lunch, Edible Schoolyard (pictured), Garden for the Environment, People’s Grocery, Planting Justice, SF Green Schoolyard Alliance, School Lunch Initiative, Urban Sprouts
Urban & Community GardensMany neighborhood residents are coming together to form community gardens in vacant lots, or even on rooftops. These gardens are a great way to get adults and children involved in their neighborhood, while they gain hands-on knowledge about nutritious foods. Through community-based food production, these organizations create local jobs, promote good health, and emphasize the importance of a self-sufficient food system.
Alameda Point Collaborative (APE), Berkeley Community Gardening Collaborative, City Slicker Farms, Collective Roots, Common Ground Garden Supply & Education Ctr., Double Rock Garden, Garden for the Environment, The Garden Project, Graze the Roof, Peah Garden, People’s Grocery, Plant SF, Planting Justice, Produce to the People, Quesada Gardens Initiative, San Francisco Garden Resource Organization (SF GRO) Directory
Composting & Used OilEach day, these recycling companies collect tons of food scraps and yard trimmings and transform them into nutritious compost. The compost is then used by Bay Area farmers to grow vegetables, which are sold back to consumers -- essentially closing the loop.
Biodiesel and vegetable-oil vehicle companies also pick up used restaurant cooking oil to be converted to green fuels.
Berkeley Public Works Composting Info, Golden Gate Recycling, SF Recycling, and Sunset Scavenger Co., Marin County Public Works Recycling Info, Nor-Cal Waste Systems (with Alta Environmental Services, Inc., Feather River Organics, Inc., Jepson Prairie Organics, South Valley Organics, Inc.), SF Dept. of Environment Composting Info, StopWaste.org Composting Resources
SF GreaseCycle (SF City free used oil pickup program); Got Grease: 888-269-3115; Health Fuel in SF, Ben Jordan: email@example.com; Plant Drive in East Bay, Craig Reece: firstname.lastname@example.org
Land Conservation & Sustainable Land DevelopmentSupplying the community with healthy food requires healthy soil and farmland that continues to be used for farming, not development. These organizations work to integrate appropriate land use, building design, and conservation & construction strategies to ensure we can supply foods now and in the future.
Agricultural & Land-Based Training Assoc. (ALBA), American Farmland Trust, Bay Area Open Space Council, Brentwood Agricultural Land Trust, CA Inst. for Rural Studies (CIRS), CA Rangeland Trust, Committee for Green Foothills, Greenbelt Alliance, Inst. for Fisheries Resources (sustainable aquaculture), Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), Northcoast Regional Land Trust, Monterey Bay Aquarium (sustainable aquaculture), Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE), UC Inst. of Urban & Regional Development
Farm Workers RightsDue to the low wages and difficult working conditions that prevail in agriculture, the labor force is almost entirely foreign born. Rural areas are afflicted lands of toxic contamination, hunger, illiteracy, and exploitation. There is an interrelationship between production, worker, and environment. These organizations work to address immigration reform, immigrant civic participation, labor law enforcement, rural health, pesticide use, and water policy.
Agricultural & Land-Based Training Assoc. (ALBA), Binational Ctr. for the Dev. of Indigenous Communities, CA Inst. for Rural Studies (CIRS), CA Rural Health Policy Council, CA Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Central Vly. Partnership for Citizenship, Citizenship Project, Northern California Coalition for Immigrant Rights, UC Agriculture & Natural Resources (ANR): Farmworker Food Security
Policy Makers n ShakersThese organizations and government offices work to influence food policy in any of the areas above to create a safe, secure food supply for years to come.
Ag Futures Alliance, Berkeley Food Policy Council, CA Coalition for Food & Farming, CA Food Policy Advocates, Community Food Security Coalition, CA Food & Justice Coalition (CFJC), Food First, Inst. for Fisheries Resources, Marin Food Systems Project, The Oakland Institute, Oakland Public Works Agency, Prevention Inst., Roots of Change: Vivid Picture, SF Board of Supervisors Food Security Task Force, SF Food Systems: Food Alliance, SF Dept. of Environment, SF Dept. of Public Health, SF Interagency Healthy & Sustainable Food Working Group – new!, Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE)
Media & PRThese Bay Area (free!) publications and PR firms help spread the word about local, sustainable food businesses and issues.
And, your online portal: Om Organics
Additions, Corrections?We did our best to create a comprehensive Bay Area list, but you can see from the LARGE number of organizations, they’re not easy to track. Please let us know if we forgot anyone! Note: Some organizations fall under more than one category.
What’s wrong with our current system?We’re at a point where the prevalence of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, genetically-modified organisms, industrial agriculture, and global food distribution has created a pretty dysfunctional system that cannot provide for future generations.
Our foods have toxins and/or toxic residues, soil fertility is decreasing, chemical runoff contaminates fresh water and creates dead zones in the ocean, farmland is converted to urban sprawl developments, farm workers are underpaid and/or treated unfairly, food transport contributes significant fossil fuel pollution... Our personal health and environment suffer.
And then there are economic and access issues. Processed, junk food is so cheap that healthy, farm-fresh food has become a luxury item. Many people have been raised on basic, commoditized foods (think broccoli, carrots, baked potatoes...) that they don’t even know how to shop for or cook diverse fruits and vegetables. Others may want to buy local, organic foods but don’t have geographic or financial access. Wholesalers share this access problem where they lack the simple tools to track availability and place orders.
Sounds pretty dismal, doesn't it.
Why and how to use this info?WHY: A) You like to eat. B) You'd like to eat tomorrow. C) With so many areas, we know there’s at least ONE that interests you. Or, if you already work in the world of foods, we hope you discover some new allies. Collaboration and cooperation for the future!
HOW: Pick a topic that interests you. Click on an organization name and check out what they’re doing about it. For those you like, sign up for their newsletter, contact them to get involved, or make a donation to help their work. However you’d like to help or just learn...
Many thanks to Rebecca Harkinson for her research and writing contributions!
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