Food Justice & Community Health in Richmond

Introduction

Introduction 

“The Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay represents more than a development project – it is an opportunity to leverage the largest public investment in the Richmond community since World War II to serve the broader community goals. Building the power and capacity of marginalized communities to engage in transforming these structures is the most sustainable and effective way to create inclusive opportunity and equitable community health and expand opportunity for all.” - john a. powell, Director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society"1

THE FOOD WE EAT AND THE FOOD SYSTEMS around us have a profound effect on our communities’ health and wellbeing. Richmond, California, like many low-income communities and communities of color, has a food system that is contributing to health problems among its residents by producing insufficiently healthy, sustainable, and equitable food access. For example, more than half of Richmond’s youth and adults are considered overweight or obese. Simultaneously, over 30,000 Richmond residents live in food deserts or “critical food access areas.”2 In order to address these and other issues, many communities have begun to localize their food systems. A local food system incorporates “a collaborative network that integrates sustainable food production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste management in order to enhance the environmental, economic, and social health of a particular area.” Richmond community leaders and local government have launched innovative efforts to transform the local food system through the Richmond Food Policy Council, the city’s General Plan, and other efforts. The development of a new anchor institution, the Berkeley Global Campus, is a rare opportunity to bolster these efforts by leveraging the purchasing, research, education, and other capacities of the university to shape a more sustainable and equitable local food system. 

The Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay (BGC) and the University of California Global Food Initiative (GFI) are promising new developments within the University of California (UC) that have great potential for work that aligns their values of sustainability, equity, and global inclusion with the aspirations of the local community in Richmond. The city of Richmond is on the forefront of policy innovation with food justice initiatives that have improved the overall quality of life for residents and provided a powerful model of civic engagement. From this lens, Richmond could be seen as a microcosm of the broader vision that the BGC and GFI both hope to advance in their planned work. Furthermore, Richmond has the potential to be the ultimate partner in bridging the gap between research and practice. By developing research strategies that inform and elevate equitable policies to ensure access to a sustainable food system, the UC can help provide local, healthy, and nutritious foods to communities, particularly low-income communities and communities of color, on a local and regional scale. 

 This report is the culmination of more than three years of work in Richmond in partnership with local community leaders and organizations. The Haas Institute has been working alongside community partners to develop anchor institution policies and practices that would achieve the community’s vision of increasing economic inclusion and community health. Throughout this process, local leaders have called for a legally binding community benefits agreement (CBA) between UC Berkeley and Richmond around the issues of housing, jobs and training, procurement, and education. A report published by the Haas Institute in October 2014, Anchor Richmond, addresses the important role of anchor institutions in facilitating greater opportunity within local communities: “Universities, hospitals, and other ‘anchors’ are embedded within the community and uniquely positioned to have far-reaching impact on the local and regional economy. Their promise can be realized by connecting the core mission of the institution to the aspirations of the community.”3 The report also provides key strategies to leverage the anchor on behalf of the community and best practices that have been implemented by other anchor institutions across the country.

 There is great hope that the forthcoming community benefits agreement with UC Berkeley will enhance opportunities within Richmond and strengthen partnerships between UC Berkeley and the communities surrounding the Berkeley Global Campus. Given that food was not an explicit area outlined in the recommendations for the CBA, the Haas Institute decided to pursue this research around food policy and community-campus partnerships in hopes of creating a path toward strategic partnerships between UC Berkeley, the new Berkeley Global Campus, and Richmond that will achieve positive changes in the local food system. To this end, the Haas Institute organized meetings over the last year with relevant stakeholders at UC Berkeley, the Global Food Initiative, Richmond City Government, the Richmond Food Policy Council, and other Richmond-based community organizations to survey existing initiatives, resources, and needs. A draft of this research was circulated in October at a Food Policy Convening in Richmond where local leaders and others spoke about the potential for collaboration between UC Berkeley and Richmond. This was followed by a rich discussion that included Richmond community members, Richmond city government officials, and UC Berkeley staff, faculty, and students about the paper and its recommendations. The feedback and insights gained from this convening and subsequent meetings have been incorporated into this edition of the report. 

This picture is of Richmond youth gathering basil from a local garden

This paper provides a general overview of food systems and community health, followed by a description of the current landscape of existing food challenges and food equity efforts in Richmond and food-related work at UC Berkeley and within the Global Food Initiative. The final section presents strategy recommendations that can bridge these broad-based initiatives housed within community, city government, and academia in a way that includes and centers the needs and contributions of marginalized communities. In so doing, these efforts can be better aligned to optimize meaningful collaborative work that can enhance opportunity structures within the food system in Richmond and UC Berkeley. Lastly, this paper aims to bring discussions around food and the local food system to the BGC planning table so that existing work in food justice, procurement, public health, and environmental sustainability can be incorporated within the new plans for the BGC. 

Food Systems and Community Health

Food systems today are more complex than ever as they have become increasingly globalized and consolidated within the hands of a few multinational corporations.4 As a result, farmers and consumers alike have less leverage, agency, and choice when growing, distributing, purchasing, and selling food commodities. Moreover, as urban populations continue to grow, the need for localized, sustainable food systems becomes more urgent. To put this in context, in half a century, urban populations have expanded from 34 percent in 1960 to over 50 percent of the world’s population today.5 The current food system is contributing significantly to our carbon footprint and exacerbation of climate change. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that cities with 10 million people must import 6,000 tons of food every day.6 Additionally, the average meal in America travels an estimated 1,500 miles from farm to plate.7

Although the US produces enough food to feed its population, there are 49 million Americans who are food insecure, meaning that they do not have “consistent, dependable access to enough food for active, healthy living”.8 The impact of food insecurity falls disproportionately on communities of color and single women—as of 2014, 26.1 percent of Black households, 22. 4 percent of Latino households, and 35.3 percent of households headed by single women faced food insecurity; in contrast, white households faced food insecurity at a rate of 10.5 percent.9 Visions of local and sustainable food systems point to how challenges related to food security, access, and equity can be alleviated and eventually eliminated altogether. 

In order to shift the food system so that those who are growing and buying food have more power, many communities have begun to localize their food systems. A local food system incorporates “a collaborative network that integrates sustainable food production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste management in order to enhance the environmental, economic, and social health of a particular area.”10 Local food systems attempt to shorten supply and distribution chains by decreasing transportation distances between farms and consumers, connecting farmers more directly to consumers, and supporting a more sustainable local economy. In the US, and especially in California, there have been groundbreaking efforts to localize food systems to increase support for local farmers and farms, improve food equity, access, and health in both rural and urban communities, improve local economies and job creation, and offset many of the environmental damages associated with modern industrial agriculture and food systems.11

Producing and processing food locally can reduce energy consumption, increase access to whole and healthy foods, and improve the local economy by creating local jobs and revenue, all of which positively contribute to community health and equity. Moreover, as climate change advances, there is a pressing need for alternatives as much of the current food system is carbon-intensive. Agricultural inputs such as synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, petroleum-powered farm equipment, and transportation of food commodities from farm to table, are a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. Much work needs to be done to better equip the current and future generations with the tools and skills needed to sustainably inhabit the planet. The BGC has the potential to be a hub and catalyst for researching and implementing more sustainable alternatives to the current food system. 

In order to shift the food system so that those who are growing and buying food have more power, many communities have begun to localize their food systems.

  • 1. Eli Moore, Nadia Barhoum, and Alexis Alvarez Franco. Anchor Richmond: Community Opportunity and Anchor Strategies for the Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay. Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, October 2014.
  • 2. “Richmond Grocery Gap,” Social Compact, accessed February 2, 2015, http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/DocumentCenter/Home/View/7976.
  • 3. Eli Moore, Nadia Barhoum, and Alexis Alvarez Franco. Anchor Richmond: Community Opportunity and Anchor Strategies for the Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay. Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, October 2014.
  • 4. “For example, as of 2007 in the United States, four corporations own 85 percent of soybean processing industry, 82 percent of the beef packing industry, 63 percent of the pork packing industry, and manufacture about 50 percent of milk. Five corporations control 50 percent of grocery retail.” Ayazi, Hossein and Elsheikh, Elsadig, “The U. S. Farm Bill,” Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society (forthcoming).
  • 5. “Urban Population Growth,” World Health Organization, accessed July 9, 2015, www. who. int.
  • 6. “FAO Releases Annual State Of Food And Agriculture Report Showing Worldwide Number Of Hungry People Rising Slightly,” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (1998), accessed July 9, 2015, http://www.fao.rg/waicent/ois/press_ne/presseng/1998/pren9869.htm.
  • 7. “Globetrotting Food Will Travel Farther Than Ever This Thanksgiving,” Worldwatch Institute, 2014, accessed July 9, 2015.
  • 8. “Household Food Security In The United States In 2013,” United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, 2014.
  • 9. Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Matthew P. Rabbitt, Christian Gregory, and Anita Singh. “Household Food Security in the United States in 2014,” ERR-194, U. S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, September 2015.
  • 10. “Local Food Systems,” Democracy Collaborative, accessed February 3, 2015, http://community-wealth.org/.
  • 11. “Industrial Agriculture,” Union of Concerned Scientists, accessed August 19, 2015, http://www.ucsusa.org/our-work/food-agriculture/our-failing-foodsystem/i....