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Sustainable, accessible and economically vibrant food system

Sacramento, Calif. – Valley Vision and the Sacramento Region Community Foundation (the Foundation) announcedย a joint project to develop a Regional Food System Action Plan that will create a more sustainable, accessible and economically vibrant food system.

With a $76,000 grant from the Foundation, Valley Vision will develop the Action Plan to document, coordinate, align and strengthen food system efforts across public and private sectors for optimum economic, community and environmental benefits.

“There are more than 40 different agencies and nonprofits all actively pursuing separate activities to strengthen our regional food system,” explained Bill Mueller, chief executive of Valley Vision.ย  “This is because there is a great enthusiasm for making our farm-to-fork assets bigger and better.ย  But we have reached a point where we must get on the same page and do a better job of coordinating efforts behind a few priorities to boost overall impact.ย  This multi-phased project is designed to bring leaders together from all across our food shed, harness our tremendous assets, and build an action plan that everyone contributes to and can get behind.”

In 2010 Valley Vision, on behalf of the Sacramento Region Food System Collaborative, documented the range of players working in the regional food system environment. While an important baseline, most of that data is now outdated, especially given the acceleration of activity, organizational churn, and the increased policy focus over the past few years.

“Connecting the Regional Food Economy is one of the Foundation’s newly announced long-term strategic initiatives,” said Linda Beech Cutler, CEO of the Foundation. “We know that we will need strong partnerships, clear vision and a focus on lasting solutions rather than short-term fixes to our region’s challenges. The partnership with Valley Vision to create a Food System Action Plan is a first step towards the Foundation’s goal in achieving impact in food accessibility in a real and tangible way.”

Valley Vision has been working in the regional food sector since 1999 and is currently administering projects across 11 linked areas to advance our regional agriculture economy. The six-county food and agriculture business cluster generates $3.4 billion annual output and employs 37 thousand workers, making the region one of the largest ag economies in the world. However, because there are so many stakeholders working to improve and strengthen the food system, a threshold has been reached where a better, more organized approach is needed to capture full economic potential, address systemic health and hunger issues, and ensure long-term viability of agriculture assets.

While there has been visible progress across the entire regional food system platform, much work remains. “Most of the food we consume is not produced locally,” said Tim Johnson, President & CEO, California Rice Commission and Valley Vision board member. “We still have high levels of hunger, we have continuing poor food-related health outcomes in communities across the region, and agriculture faces ongoing challenges such as farmland development pressures. This grant will go a long way toward addressing these important economic and social issues.”

According to Mueller, “With this significant grant, Valley Vision and the Foundation will produce an action plan that connects regional leaders and stakeholders in common purpose, working together on breakthrough actions that can be quantified.”  The action plan will focus on activities that increase consumption of locally-produced food; create a more effective distribution system for locally-sourced food; reduce hunger and food insecurity; increase economic opportunities for growers and communities; train and educate the next generation of farmers; increase food literacy and health outcomes; keep valuable farmlands in production; and reduce food waste.

“The Foundation’s focus in the food and ag sector is no accident,” said Cutler.  “Agriculture is a major driver of the regional economy and shapes our community. The diversity, vitality and dominance of agriculture in the Sacramento Region-along with vast public, business and consumer interest in local, healthy food-have firmly established our regional community as America’s Farm to Fork Capital.”

According to the Rural-Urban Connections Strategy (RUCS) conducted by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), the region has almost 1.5 million acres of farmland and more than 7,200 farms and ranches of all sizes. Production output from more than 150 crops totaled 3.4 million tons in 2010 and the direct farm gate value of these products reached $2.15 billion in 2013.

“Even with many worthy projects underway working across the region’s food system, there exists a lack of organizational and institutional capacity,” said Johnson. “This hinders our ability to achieve full potential and to bring innovative efforts to scale. That makes this work both timely and significant.”

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