City Councilmember and LA mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti responds to LAFPC’s food policy questionnaire:
Los Angeles was called “the epicenter of hunger” by the USDA Deputy Administrator of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, because of its high level of residents that are food insecure, and its low rates of enrollment in CalFresh (the California name for SNAP), administered by the County Department of Social Services. The city has attempted to increase SNAP enrollment through its Family Source centers. What additional role, if any, do you think the city should have on a local, regional, and statewide level on this issue?
While Los Angeles has the unfortunate distinction of being the epicenter of hunger, we also have an opportunity to be a leader in eradicating it. As Mayor, I will expand on the Family Source Center system that I helped to create, as well as mobilize our city’s libraries, schools, parks and community centers to deliver information and enrollment services to constituents who can benefit from CalFresh. Putting together a network like this can be a great example for other cities and hopefully influence how regional and state agencies conduct their education and delivery of these services. Hunger is a shared responsibility, and I’ll make sure we’re working together to utilize all available resources to feed Angelenos.
What incentives would you give to farmers’ markets to continue use of CalFresh/EBT at their farmers’ markets, and to locate in disadvantaged communities?
For many families, farmers markets are an important outlet to purchase fruit and produce. These outlets are even more crucial in food deserts — areas like South Los Angeles and Pacoima — where residents have limited access to healthy and affordable food and have a higher population of EBT users.
As Mayor, I will continue my work to support local farmer’s markets and encourage grocery stores to serve all of LA. The Mayor’s Office, in partnership with other local city offices and departments, should help promote local farmers markets to ensure that there is a steady demand for the products served, and that CalFresh/EBT-eligible families know that they can obtain good food through these outlets. I will also work to help farmers market operators obtain EBT machines for their vendors.
To incentivize more farmers markets in disadvantaged neighborhoods, I will support low-income neighborhoods, to educate residents on how to start or attract a farmer’s market. I will explore entitlement incentives to attract more healthy food choices in underserved areas.
Sugar sweetened beverages and the predominance of unhealthy food and beverage options in many restaurants, supermarkets, and smaller markets have been identified as important contributors to obesity and diabetes in LA County, particularly in disadvantaged communities that otherwise have limited access to healthy food options. What would you do to address these issues in the Los Angeles area?
The limited access to healthy and affordable food makes it difficult to live a healthy lifestyle. As Mayor, my office will focus not only on attracting new grocery stores and food establishments, but also on connecting existing businesses to programs like the FreshWorks Fund, or the LA Food Policy Council’s “Community Market Conversion Program.” These programs help small grocers diversify their product offerings and obtain capital they can use to revitalize their stores with new refrigeration, new signage and even new relationships. As Mayor, I will make sure that all available resources are activated to support healthy communities, healthy lifestyle choices and entrepreneurs that are committed to feeding the residents that live there.
I will also continue to support the community’s effort to break the stronghold of fast food chains and increase access to fresh, healthy food and sit-down restaurants. I am proud to have supported Councilmember Perry’s plan to ban new fast food restaurants in areas like South LA where there is an over concentration of fast-food businesses in low-income areas.
Chapter 11 of UCLA’s “Vision 2021 LA” calls for support of the LA Food Policy Council’s Good Food Purchasing Pledge, and its Community Market Conversion Program. In what ways, if any, would you support these efforts?
Last fall, I supported a Councilmember Koretz’s motion to adopt the Good Food Purchasing Pledge and directing all city departments to develop and adopt local food procurement goals consistent with the recommendations of the LA Food Policy Council and the Good Food For All Agenda. I am supportive of the Community Market as well. As Mayor, I intend to build upon these efforts by integrating the Community Market Conversion Program into our Business Source Centers.
Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is the largest food service provider in the region, and the second largest in the state, serving around 650,000 meals daily, mostly to students in need of nutritional assistance. LAUSD has adopted the Good Food Purchasing Pledge and Guidelines, and has instituted Breakfast in the Classroom, a program hailed by many food policy advocates as an important nutritional adjunct that improves student learning. What would you do, if anything, to continue support for these programs at LAUSD?
I support LAUSD’s efforts to provide breakfasts so students do not go hungry and direct our food purchases to encourage and incentivize healthy, affordable, fair and sustainable food.
As Mayor, I will support and oversee the Partnership Schools, if the LAUSD renews the five-year Memorandum of Understanding. I will fight for resources for our most impoverished communities so that schools can have wrap-around services such as Breakfast in the Classroom and health clinics. I am proud to have helped bring Promise Neighborhoods to Los Angeles, a signature initiative of President Obama modeled on the Harlem Children’s Zone, a cradle-to-career pipeline with high quality schools and wrap-around services for students and families that will transform communities into vibrant centers of excellence and opportunity. Los Angeles is now the largest city in America with a Promise Neighborhoods implementation grant. I will also provide ways for all Angelenos to help with lending a hand at neighborhood schools, whether it’s participating in health clinics in schools or building a school garden.
Mayor Villaraigosa created a mayors’ food policy task force at the US Conference of Mayors, which passed a resolution regarding the farm bill. The resolution, among other things, urged support for smaller scale farmers in a local food system, support for agriculture conservation programs, and maintaining 2011 levels of funding for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP) and the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). (http://usmayors.org/resolutions/80th_Conference/chhs03.asp) Do you think it important for LA to continue to have a role in the national leadership on the farm bill and its program areas?
As the second largest city in the country, I think it is very important for Los Angeles to play a role in the development of state and federal policy, especially on bills as important as the farm bill, and locally I have been a longtime advocate and champion for urban farming authoring legislation and reducing city fees to support community gardens and farming in dense areas. It is critical to provide funding for nutritional assistance programs for our neediest residents and to support healthy food options. As Mayor, I will use my decade of experience of building relationships at all levels of government to make sure that our policies recognize the needs and experiences of farmers, entrepreneurs, and residents of Los Angeles.
Los Angeles is ranked 42nd out of 50 major cities in the nation in supporting urban agriculture activity. If elected, how would your administration address this? What would you prioritize?
If elected, I will make sure that we are engaging leaders in food policy and urban agriculture and will set strong goals to change this. For starters, Los Angeles has many unused spaces, corridors and parkways that could be sites for urban agriculture with the community’s support. This is a missed opportunity. We should be activating under¬used spaces and exploring how we can use these spaces to catalyze small urban farms managed by local residents.
I’m proud to have authored the Food and Flowers Freedom Act to promote community gardens and healthy foods. We’ve aggressively pursued new farmer’s markets and community gardens in my district as well.
One in seven jobs in Los Angeles County is in the food system, yet many of the workers are underpaid or otherwise experience substandard working conditions. What labor issues in the food system are you most concerned with, and how would you address them?
I have a long history of standing with food system workers and making sure that their rights are protected. I am proud to have earned the endorsement of the 30,000-¬strong United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 770, which represents many local grocery store employees.
I am very concerned that the health and safety of food workers are not being adequately protected. Undocumented workers, in particular, are often exposed to substandard and dangerous working conditions.
I am also concerned with making sure that food workers have access to affordable health insurance. I believe that the City should actively assist restaurants and other food establishments get their workers enrolled in health insurance through the California Health Benefit Exchange. In 2011, I stood with grocery store employees when stores were threatening to cut their employees’ healthcare benefits.
Some cities are creating food enterprise zones for value-added food products (processed, prepared or preserved), and are supporting small food business such as mobile vendors (food trucks and sidewalk pushcarts) as healthy food retail options in disadvantaged communities. How would you support the growth of the small and micro-enterprise food businesses sector?
Los Angeles is the only city of the 10 largest cities in the US that does not have formal regulations around street vending. The city must find a way to create entrepreneurship opportunities for street vendors while protecting traditional brick and mortar businesses.
The Los Angeles Food Policy Council (LAFPC) is a collective impact initiative that actively manages around 325 organizations, and has an extended network of around 700, spanning across the food system spectrum.
What role do you see for the LA Food Policy Council in your administration?
I support the LA Food Policy Council and other community-based organizations and networks that are advocating for better food for all Angelenos. The work of the LA Food Policy Council has been instrumental in bringing people together around this important issue, and as Mayor, I will work with its leaders to define strategies on how we can make the LA Food Policy Council even more impactful across Los Angeles.