On July 9th, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced an executive directive outlining a new initiative to reshape the city’s food system. This move marks a critical attempt by the mayor’s office to organize efforts to support the local, sustainable food economy and address growing concern over food insecurity, malnutrition and hunger in the city.
The directive, entitled “Healthy and Sustainable Food for San Francisco,” includes creating new food sourcing procedures for government programs. These new policies, to go into effect immediately, include the requirement that, in making purchase decisions, all city agencies and departments must “utilize guidelines for ‘healthy meetings’ and purchase healthy, locally produced and/or sustainably certified foods to the maximum extent possible.” This will foster much-needed changes in the food purchased for city council meetings, government-owned vending machines and more. For the coming months, Newsom has also promised changes in the purchasing guidelines for city community centers, jails and hospitals.
The directive also requires a comprehensive evaluation of unused government land suitable for urban gardening, as well as increased financial and administrative support for urban farming programs carried out by the Department of Recreation and Parks. We can also plan to see changing zoning regulations, increased tax incentives and modified permit timetables to support new food businesses.
The broader effort will be supervised by a new Food Policy Council, which will comprise representatives from various government agencies and stakeholder and community groups. Across the bay, a similar Oakland Food Policy Council is also bringing public, private and community interests together to tackle food sustainability and availability issues. These organizations will join a growing national list of councils organizing long-term strategies to assess, improve and localize urban food systems.
This announcement is an important step toward institutionalizing cultural and economic shifts toward sustainable and nutritious living. While many citizens have the luxury to adapt buying, eating and disposal patterns to make our cities more sustainable, governments are now playing an active role in making clean, healthy, local food available to the broader community. And holding city government officials, purchasers and programs accountable to this immediate need is an important part of the process.