Food Justice & Community Health in Richmond

Strategy Recommendations

Strategy Recommendations 

The BGC and UC Global Food Initiative have the potential to collaborate with Richmond partners to catalyze transformations in the food system that advance sustainability, equity and innovation. The BGC and GFI can work to further localize the food system in the region and lift up communities that disproportionately bear the burden of the current broken food system. There exist many strategies to transform local food systems that have proven effective and impactful. The following proposals briefly outline some of those strategies that could be incorporated into the BGC, along with the help and support of such partners as the Global Food Initiative, local community stakeholders in Richmond, the Richmond Food Policy Council, and UC Berkeley campus entities such as the Berkeley Food Institute and Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. 

UC Berkeley Food Policy Council

UC Berkeley has a vast network of entities, scholars, and programs working on food-related efforts. To better organize this work, UC Berkeley could form its own food policy council that would oversee and create more synergy toward food-related efforts and initiatives that are oftentimes disconnected and/or redundant. The council could provide a governing structure to guide and support projects and programs related to food and agricultural issues. A focus within this policy council on campus-community partnerships would provide a venue for increased collaboration between the university and surrounding communities, increase awareness about ongoing and past work, and allow for more meaningful change in the food system. Most importantly, such a council could develop strategic plans for campus-community work that would hold a longer-term vision so that on-campus efforts with community partners adhere to principles and initiatives whose aims prioritize transformational systemic and structural change. 

Regional Food Hub

Another strategy worth exploring further is a regional food hub. A food hub is “a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand.”44 Communities have organized local food hubs to build community wealth, improve health, and provide anchor institutions with more local models of procurement that support the local food supply chain. Food hubs can serve as the means to localize food systems, increase sustainability, expand opportunities for local jobs, support local farms and farmers, and improve availability and access to healthy, nutritious foods within marginalized communities. 

To begin exploring the regional food hub as a strategy, UC Berkeley and the Global Food Initiative, together with local community partners in Richmond, could conduct a feasibility study in Richmond. The study would review existing food hub models that have been successful; as well as assess the local food system, relevant infrastructure in Richmond, and food value chains to determine the costs, benefits, and potential for developing a local food hub in Richmond. The food hub could be modeled on other examples such as Common Market in Philadelphia or Sprout in Springfield, Oregon, that include incubator commercial kitchens for local food entrepreneurs, refrigerated storage space for local produce, and space for educational programming and community events. 

This infographic includes a diagram of the food hub, showcasing how food cultivation, value added processing, aggregation storage distribution, and eaters end markets are all connected.

Transforming the local food supply shifts the production and distribution of food toward a healthier system that includes and lifts up marginalized communities. An exemplary case study of such an action is that of Common Market, which developed a sustainable business model that supports communities of color and, as of 2013, distributed $1.3 million of locally produced food, with a significant portion of this supply chain reaching low-income communities. 45

A food hub feasibility study would highlight the needs in Richmond’s local food system and analyze the ways in which a food hub has the potential to bridge gaps in health, equity, and sustainability. The food hub could serve UC Berkeley and the planned BGC, as well as other anchor institutions such as Kaiser Hospital, the Contra Costa County School District, and local stores and businesses in Richmond. 

Technical Assistance

Another way in which UC Berkeley and the GFI could engage in transformative research and community partnerships would be to provide much needed technical assistance to support community projects and programs. One area of technical assistance that could be beneficial is community-based mapping to gather and analyze data for the city’s environmental, food, and health-related issues. UC Berkeley could provide the technical assistance needed for surveys, data collection, and GIS expertise in this research as well as capacity-building, such as training local residents how to use these tools. Understanding the spatial dynamics of a region is key to identifying structural barriers to opportunity. Participatory mapping provides a critical visual analysis of challenges that then allows for conversation and development of potential solutions that center community concerns and needs. Community-based mapping projects could help provide much needed data on local food and health challenges such as healthy corner stores, vacant public land that could be used for urban agriculture, contaminated land sites and potential for remediation, and existing urban agricultural projects and sites. 

A similar initiative was completed in Baltimore; The Baltimore Food Policy Initiative partnered with the Johns Hopkins Center for a More Livable Future to create a food environment map and report. This partnership and research was developed “to better understand Baltimore’s food environment and food deserts…and to more proactively and effectively promote equitable access to healthy food. The materials and information…provide a resource to inform decision-making in policy, planning and legislation related to healthy affordable food access, and in improving health outcomes.”46

Other possibilities for technical assistance include support in the creation and development of urban gardens and the rehabilitation of green spaces, such as agroecology trainings and soil testing of Richmond’s vacant lots and public land. Providing technical assistance in agroecological methods would improve urban agricultural initiatives in Richmond by increasing their sustainability as well as building overall community knowledge. With respect to creating new urban gardens and green spaces, Richmond could benefit greatly from soil testing and support for research around soil testing, remediation technologies, and best practices for using vacant, public lands. Richmond’s past and current heavy industry has generated soil contamination that can make food production unsafe, but the high cost of soil testing is often a barrier to understanding and addressing unsafe levels of contamination. As such, the City of Richmond and community organizations could benefit greatly from the expertise of UC Berkeley’s scientists and environmental engineers, and their engagement in innovative research about soil remediation could potentially be applied in Richmond. Technical assistance in this area could greatly improve the built environment in Richmond and provide green pathways to renew and revitalize the urban landscape. 

UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business could provide technical assistance related to financial planning and business models for small businesses, small farms, and community-based organizations working in the food and agriculture sector. The Social Sector Solutions program in the Haas School of Business already partnered with the City of Richmond and published a report entitled, The Richmond Bay Campus Report: Strategic Business Plan and Marketing Strategy Positioning Richmond for Success,47 which outlines a strategic business plan for the new Berkeley Global Campus that focuses on best practices for procurement as well as a marketing strategy for the City of Richmond.48 Similar efforts could be made to follow-up on this type of research and work directly with local stakeholders in Richmond’s food economy to support their sustainability, impact, and growth.

Local Vendoring and Procurement

This picture is of a Richmond resident harvesting from the Greenway

The BGC could potentially provide a wide range of opportunities for local food businesses on its new campus. One approach to this would be to incentivize locally-owned food businesses and businesses owned by members of marginalized communities to contract with and become vendors on the new campus. These contracts should include responsible contracting policies to ensure that any and all food jobs ensure worker security, equity, and health. In so doing, the campus would create local jobs and opportunities to start new businesses that help support the local economy and social sustainability. The new campus can also institute a weekly farm stand and promote Community Supported Agriculture boxes on the new campus that feature local produce from organizations like Urban Tilth and other local growers in Contra Costa County. These farm stands could also implement a “Double Up Food Bucks” program so that customers can purchase goods with their EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards to improve food access for low-income individuals. “Double Up Food Bucks” is a statewide incentive program that doubles the value of CalFresh benefits when used for fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets and grocery stores. An initiative like this would create a direct pathway for local farmers to sell to local residents while also providing whole, healthy foods to students, workers, staff, and faculty at the Berkeley Global Campus. Local Vendoring and Procurement The BGC could potentially provide a wide range of opportunities for local food businesses on its new campus. One approach to this would be to incentivize locally-owned food businesses and businesses owned by members of marginalized communities to contract with and become vendors on the new campus. These contracts should include responsible contracting policies to ensure that any and all food jobs ensure worker security, equity, and health. In so doing, the campus would create local jobs and opportunities to start new businesses that help support the local economy and social sustainability. The new campus can also institute a weekly farm stand and promote Community Supported Agriculture boxes on the new campus that feature local produce from organizations like Urban Tilth and other local growers in Contra Costa County. These farm stands could also implement a “Double Up Food Bucks” program so that customers can purchase goods with their EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards to improve food access for low-income individuals. “Double Up Food Bucks” is a statewide incentive program that doubles the value of CalFresh benefits when used for fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets and grocery stores. An initiative like this would create a direct pathway for local farmers to sell to local residents while also providing whole, healthy foods to students, workers, staff, and faculty at the Berkeley Global Campus. V$√¢√¢ Local Vendoring and Procurement The BGC could potentially provide a wide range of opportunities for local food businesses on its new campus. One approach to this would be to incentivize locally-owned food businesses and businesses owned by members of marginalized communities to contract with and become vendors on the new campus. These contracts should include responsible contracting policies to ensure that any and all food jobs ensure worker security, equity, and health. In so doing, the campus would create local jobs and opportunities to start new businesses that help support the local economy and social sustainability. The new campus can also institute a weekly farm stand and promote Community Supported Agriculture boxes on the new campus that feature local produce from organizations like Urban Tilth and other local growers in Contra Costa County. These farm stands could also implement a “Double Up Food Bucks” program so that customers can purchase goods with their EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards to improve food access for low-income individuals. “Double Up Food Bucks” is a statewide incentive program that doubles the value of CalFresh benefits when used for fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets and grocery stores. An initiative like this would create a direct pathway for local farmers to sell to local residents while also providing whole, healthy foods to students, workers, staff, and faculty at the Berkeley Global Campus. 

A research team from the Johns Hopkins School of Health partnered with the city of Baltimore and local community organizations in the Baltimore Healthy Stores Project. The research helped identify structural barriers to food access and health and led to the formation of a program that aims to support the transition of corner stores to supply healthier and whole foods. UCSF has already been engaged in public health work in San Francisco through its San Francisco Health Improvement Partnerships (SF HIP). SF HIP is a collaborative effort between community-based organizations, researchers, local government, and clinics that aims to positively impact public health within low-income communities and communities of color.49

The schools of public health at UC Berkeley and UCSF can provide experiential learning programs in local schools and at the new campus that could address intersections between food and health and find solutions to alleviate the negatives outcomes of the food system. Such programming might include linked learning opportunities and educational pathways in the field of public health. 

  • 44. Barham, James, et al. , “Regional Food Hub Resource Guide,” U. S. Dept. of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service, April 2012, accessed July 11, 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.9752/MS046.04- 2012.
  • 45. “Common Market Case Study: Rebuilding A Regional Food Economy And Increasing Access To Healthy Food,” PolicyLink, 2014, accessed July 11, 2015. http://www.policylink.org/sites/default/files/wkkf-common-marketcase-stu...
  • 46. Behrens Buczynski, et al. , “Mapping Baltimore City’s Food Environment,” Johns Hopkins, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for a Livable Future, June 2015, accessed July 2, 2015.
  • 47. The Berkeley Global Campus was formerly known as the Richmond Bay Campus. The new name for the campus was announced in October 2014.
  • 48. Jenna Goodward, et al. , “The Richmond Bay Campus Report: Strategic Business Plan and Marketing Strategy Positioning Richmond for Success,” University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business, Social Sector Solutions, 2013, accessed January 2016.
  • 49. “About UCSF Clinical & Translational Science Institute,” UCSF Clinical and Translational Science Institute, accessed September 20, 2015, https://ctsi.ucsf.edu/about-us/programs/community-engagement-health-policy.