Saturday, February 26, 2011

Seattle City Council, local farmers and activists sign food health resolution

Farm Bill principles promote healthy farms, which create healthy citizens, resilient communities

It’s not difficult to point to Seattle as a raring multiplicity of communities within communities to find positive news about farming and healthy foods in a time when federal and state funds are being axed and food and farming giants gain more control over politicians and Supreme Court justices.

Seattle announced Feb. 15 that it will direct Congress on why food security and access to nutritious, fresh food are not only important to the Emerald City, but to the nation as a whole.

In Resolution 31019, passed April 28, 2008, Seattle’s City Council announced that cities must develop food security policies regionally. This week’s resolution continues that direction, as a way to influence the 2012 Farm Bill by highlighting the necessity of not only promoting and invigorating sustainable food systems, but demanding funding for programs and research that bring healthy food from local farms to tables.

Seattle pays more than lip service to initiatives protecting farmland, farmers, and the local and regional food system. Its Local Food Action Initiative is a template for codifying local and regional farming and food security measures.

The Seattle way attempts to influence Congress by highlighting the Seattle Farm Bill Principles, which have the backing of farmers, non-profits and civic leaders. The idea is really to have a national conversation promoting national action through regional planning on growing and distributing fresh, biologically appropriate, and nutritious foods.

The six goals in the Seattle Farm Bill Principles offer a philosophical and policy-driven platform to the renewal of the 2012 Farm Bill renewal. These include:

Health-centered Food System

The driving principle of the Farm Bill must be the relationship of food and ecologically sound agriculture to public health. Food that promotes health includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, dairy, and lean protein. Improving the health of the nation’s residents must be a priority in developing policies, programs, and funding.

Sustainable Agricultural Practices

Promote farming systems and agricultural techniques that prioritize the protection of the environment so soil, air, and water can continue producing food into the future. Integral to both domestic and global policies should be agricultural techniques and farming practices that enhance environmental quality, build soil and soil fertility, protect natural resources and ecosystem diversity, improve food safety, and increase the quality of life of communities, farmers and farm workers.

Community and Regional Prosperity and Resilience

Enhance food security by strengthening the viability of small and mid-scale farms, and increasing appropriately scaled processing facilities, distribution networks, and direct marketing. Develop strategies that foster resiliency, local innovation, interdependence, and community development in both rural and urban economies. Opportunities that create fair wage jobs are key.

Equitable Access to Healthy Food

Identify opportunities and reduce barriers by developing policies and programs that increase availability of and improve the proximity of healthy, affordable, and culturally-relevant food to urban, suburban, and rural populations. Protect core programs that fight food insecurity and hunger while promoting vibrant, sustainable agriculture.

Social Justice and Equity

The policies reflected in the Farm Bill impact the lives and livelihoods of many in the U.S. and abroad. Develop policies, programs, and strategies that support social justice, worker’s rights, equal opportunity, and promote community self-reliance.

Systems Approach to Policymaking

It is essential to reduce compartmentalization of policies and programs, and to approach policy decisions by assessing their impact on all aspects of the food system including production, processing, distribution, marketing, consumption, and waste management. Consider the interrelated effects of policies and align expected outcomes to meet the goal of a comprehensive health focused food system.

At the Seattle Council meeting, some of Eastern Washington’s wheat and grain growers were represented by Shepherd’s Grain co-founder, Karl Kupers.

“The interaction of farmers from mid-scale family owned and operated farms in Eastern Washington with the community of Seattle, is essential to a sustainable regional food system. That relationship then must be extended to the leaders setting policies to aid in the creation of safe and reliable food,” he said.

Washington State University and other schools are working towards health policies, social justice and community-based programs, economic development plans and meeting the challenges of climate and environment. But civil society and community-based groups are the fire in the belly of the sustainable food movement.

While a farm bill looks at the nitty-gritty of farming and sustainability, big agriculture’s role in driving farm discourse and policy, and the upsurge in community- and local-based plans being squandered for large national commodity policies, including food for fuel farming, many participants are looking at a Farm Bill that honestly addresses specific problems and attainable solutions — hunger and disease reduction, local and family farm viability, food affordability and accessibility, environmental protection, land use planning, regional resilience, and social justice.

Seattle-King County Acting Food Policy Council and the American Planning Association Board, plus the American Public Health Association, have been examining food systems as a way to not only fix our broken health, but also to mitigate issues of environmental degradation and climate change. More than 82 cities and regions have established Food Policy Councils. In this area, we have Spokane Regional Health District’s Food Access Coalition.

In a press release announcing the council’s resolution, several Washington stakeholders and activists in food and farming were quoted: “The City of Seattle’s food policy work is very forward thinking. As a farmer, I applaud Seattle’s effort to build connections between urban and rural communities,” stated Siri Erickson-Brown, co-owner of Local Roots Farm in King County. “Sound food and agriculture policy is only possible with the involvement of both farming communities and cities.”

For more information on Seattle’s farm bill response and its principles visit, or Spokane Regional Health District’s Food Access Coalition at

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