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A Vision for San Mateo County Food and Farm Bill

Staff Perspective Justin Watkins

Get Healthy San Mateo County and its partners have a long history of working to ensure that all residents of San Mateo County have access to healthy and affordable fresh food. Get Healthy SMC has supported numerous projects to achieve this goal, while we’ve made great progress, there is still work to do. Get Healthy SMC along with the San Mateo County Food System Alliance recently embarked on an ambitious project to connect all of the various food related efforts underway in the county to maximize their impact in the community.

In spring of 2016, the SMC Health System contracted with Sustainable Agricultural Education (SAGE) to develop a Vision for a Food and Farm Bill in partnership with the SMC Food System Alliance. The purpose of the vision document is to describe the ideal food and farming system in San Mateo County and includes specific policy and action steps to help the County realize its vision for a sustainable, equitable, and connected food and farm system.  

With guidance from the SMC Food System Alliance and Health Policy and Planning staff, SAGE conducted four stakeholder engagement sessions that addressed the following four issue areas: Urban Gardening and Farming; Healthy Food Access; Agriculture; and Farm to School. The sessions allowed SAGE staff and County staff to engage local residents and community partners to identify the best strategies to support current efforts related to each issue. They also provided insight into what is currently being done as well as the potential to do more in these areas.

The final report recommends that A Collective Impact Model be utilized to align government, business, philanthropy, and non-profit efforts to address the complex issues related to creating a healthy local food system. The Collective Impact Model requires a common agenda for all participants, rigorous data collection and analysis, continuous communications, and most importantly a backbone organization with staff to coordinate participating organizations and agencies. The final report highlights the need for staffing to support each of the four topic areas that were addressed in the stakeholder meetings as well as an overarching position to connect all of those efforts. The economic analysis indicates that if each of the five positions is fully staffed, almost $3 million would be returned to the local economy annually.

The report provides a framework to move forward with creating a more just and equitable food system in San Mateo County. It is now up to the residents of San Mateo County to work with community-based organizations, local government and other key stakeholders to make it a reality. The full report is forthcoming and will be published on www.gethealthysmc.org.  If you’re inspired to work on improving our local food system, follow Get Healthy SMC on social media to look for opportunities to get involved.

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