Timeline of Accomplishments
A food system is the path that food travels to get from "farm to fork" and includes every step in between, from growing food to eating food to recycling food. Creating a healthy food system that benefits everyone equally is a cornerstone for helping us build better health in the San Diego region.
Community partners are working across sectors to improve the local food system by increasing access to healthy and affordable food, supporting the local food economy and food supply chain, and protecting our natural resources through the support of small-scale farmers and sustainable farming practices. By taking a comprehensive look at all elements of the food system, from farm to table, we can provide intervention where it will be most impactful.
San Diego’s climate and natural resources provide the perfect environment for growing popular crops like avocados, tomatoes, citrus, and much more. The San Diego County Farm Bureau works to promote the economic viability and sustainability of local farming and supports local farmers by providing training, networking, and taskforces. The San Diego Farm Bureau also invests in our future farmers through its scholarship programs; in the past 20 years, a total of $338,175 has been awarded to 309 students. Through this continued investment in small San Diego farmers, the San Diego Farm Bureau provides support to the first step in the food system.
Furthering the mission of providing healthy food to food-insecure
Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank
Feeding San Diego support the distribution
step in our food system. In 2017, they distributed 51.2 million pounds
of food locally, serving hundreds of thousands of people each year
through their more than 500 nonprofit community partners. In this past
fiscal year, the Food Bank and their North County Food Bank chapter
distributed 28 million pounds of food – the equivalent of 23.3 million
Kitchens for Good provides important support in the next step of the food system by providing culinary training programs to individuals who might otherwise struggle with employment. Apprentices prepare thousands of healthy meals for hungry San Diegans, using surplus and cosmetically imperfect produce from wholesalers and farmers. Kitchens for Good’s Project Launch has enrolled 112 students with an 85% employment rate post-graduation. Not only are these apprentices learning valuable career skills, but they are also providing meals to those in need. Project Launch’s students support Kitchens for Good’s Project Nourish by helping to prepare nutritious meals for food-insecure children. To date, nearly 125,000 meals have been prepared for more than 40,000 at-risk youth.
The County of San Diego created the Live Well San Diego Food System Initiative in 2016 to take on a greater role throughout the region in the advancement of a healthy, safe, and thriving food system. From this initiative, the Live Well Community Market Program was launched and the Food Donation Action Plan and State of the Food System Report were released. The Live Well Community Market Program provides technical assistance to small- to medium-sized community food markets to improve access to healthy affordable foods. The Food Donation Action Plan was developed to support and improve food donation in the region to help address nutrition insecurity, while also reducing food waste. The State of the Food System Report was developed to understand what the food system looks like in the San Diego region, its current state, its challenges, and areas of opportunity. The development of these reports was possible thanks to the collaboration of dozens of organizations including government agencies, research and education institutions, nonprofit organizations, and industry groups.
The San Diego Food System Alliance has been a strong force in our region and uses the power of collaboration to cultivate a healthy, sustainable, and just food system in San Diego County. They provide a space for multiple partners from each step of our complex food system to come together to pursue the opportunities identified in the State of the Food System Report. The Alliance is currently working to engage community members, industry professionals, and stakeholders to develop the San Diego County Food Vision 2030, which builds on and complements the efforts initiated by the State of the Food System Report.
Food Vision 2030 is a ten-year strategic plan to guide the collective action toward a healthy, sustainable, and just food system in our region. The Alliance has partnered with 8 local organizations in underserved neighborhoods and has created a 17-member steering committee to advance this much-needed work.
The steering committee plans to focus more than ever on racial equity within the food system to bring about widespread change in the upcoming decade. Food Vision 2030 will build on the data and opportunities identified in the State of the Food System Report and will summarize the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats relating to how we grow, produce, process, distribute, consume, and manage disposal and recovery of food. In addition, the plan will present high priority goals, objectives, and strategies along with a shared measurement system to track progress over the next decade. The overall goal is for Food Vision 2030 to inform planning, policy, program, and investment opportunities to improve the regional food system in San Diego County.
Partner Success Stories
Reclaiming Food Before it Goes to Waste
ProduceGood joined as a Live Well San Diego partner in 2017 but has been working throughout the community since 2014 to addresses food insecurity through sustainable solutions that focus on repurposing and reclaiming food that otherwise would go to waste. ProduceGood’s gleaning program relies on community volunteers at every level to donate, collect, and deliver the food they are able to gather.
Gleaning is the practice of gathering surplus food, usually fresh fruits and vegetables, from backyards, farmers’ markets and farms to help feed those in need while also reducing food waste. A recent report estimated that as much as 40% of the food we produce is never eaten. To help shrink that statistic within San Diego County, there are a growing number of gleaner groups where residents can join either as a donor or volunteer.
Through the work of over 800 volunteers, ProduceGood’s gleaner program has provided over 7 million servings of fresh local produce in one year!
Innovative Project Transforms Food Waste into Soil
The Solana Center for Environmental Innovation has developed a program where they accept community members’ food scraps and process these organic materials to create a high-quality soil supplement. The Food Cycle program is a co-op where San Diego residents and small businesses collect their organic waste in buckets using the Bokashi method and then deliver it to Solana Center to be turned into a nutritious soil amendment and distributed back into the community. Part of the program allows the participants to collect finished compost for their home gardens.
By participating in Food Cycle, a typical family of four will divert 45 lbs. of food waste per month from landfills. This is not only equivalent to keeping 32 lbs. of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere, but it also transforms the food waste into a healthy soil amendment for plants.
Participating in Food Cycle raises awareness amongst participants about the type and quantity of food that gets wasted and typically leads to change in buying and cooking habits. This reduces the quantity of food waste generated, helping participants' pocketbooks and environment. All Food Cycle participants are environmental leaders inspiring fellow community members to do their part to reduce food waste and their environmental footprint. They have individuals, households, businesses, and local governments enrolled.
Nicole and Mike have joined the community compost program committed to living zero waste and are documenting their efforts on social media @SustainabilitySaturday . All you have to do is Save Your Scraps, add them to your Food Cycle 5-gallon bucket, add a sprinkle of bokashi bran and when the bucket is full, drop it off at Solana Center. Last year they helped turn 2,000,000 pounds of organic material into healthy soil.
Fish to Families Reduces Waste from Unsold Product
The San Diego Fishermen’s Working Group alongside Chef Phillip Esteban and his group, Open Gym, have collaborated to create Fish to Families, a meal distribution program that purchases responsibly harvested fish from local fishermen and brings them to the plates of people who need it most during the COVID-19 crisis. Funded by The San Diego Foundation, this program also supports food service staff who would otherwise be under- or unemployed during this time. California Sea Grant and NOAA Fisheries contribute to this program through the creation of sustainable seafood outreach materials and assistance with tracking program impacts. Meal distribution throughout San Diego is accomplished with the help of the Third Avenue Charitable Organization, I Love to Glean, Good Neighbor Project, Our Savior Lutheran Church, Olivewood Gardens & Learning Center, Project New Village, Luther Tower Apartments, Mundo Gardens, South Bay Community Services, Western Service Workers Association and Nueva Vida.
As the program finishes its sixth week of operation, over 3,600 healthy, delicious, sustainable seafood meals have been prepared from nearly 2,500 pounds of whole fish provided by ten local fishermen. By purchasing the fish from local fisherman the program supports these small producers and enables them to continue operations while also reducing waste from unsold product. The program also helps to keep local fisherman in business and able to continue to serve San Diego residents with local healthy food.
Improving Food Access: Hidden Gem in
City Heights is Transformed
The Live Well Community Market Program works with small- to medium-sized community food markets that are located in low-income, ethnically diverse, and/or high minority population neighborhoods to improve access to healthy affordable foods. The program provides technical assistance to help owners to improve interior and exterior store designs, expand promotion and availability of fresh and healthy foods, attract new shoppers and nurture shopper loyalty, and increase the bottom line.
To date, 31 community markets have participated in the program which is implemented through UCSD Center for Community Health, Vista Community Clinic, Community Action Service Advocacy (CASA), SAY San Diego, and the County of San Diego.
In 2017, a complete market makeover transformed African Caribbean Market on El Cajon Blvd in City Heights with the goal of seeing these improvements increase small business patronage, particularly related to accessing good affordable food in City Heights. The project engaged small businesses and residents together to improve the market and beautify a small section of El Cajon Blvd. Over 65 volunteers and stakeholders stenciled and painted the façade of the market and interior back wall, planting new landscape greenery, and building benches. A social gathering space was also built in front of the market and adjacent beauty salon to create a more welcoming look and feel to a neglected area of the block. The project helped to promote El Cajon Blvd as a green, walkable/bikeable, and economically thriving small business corridor, while maintaining City Heights’ rich culture of diversity.