Planning For Food Security In Plumas County V2
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  • Introductions –Elizabeth Powell is Community Food Coordinator for Plumas Rural Services and facilitates Community Food Council meetings. She also has a degree in Culture, Ecology and Sustainable Communities. She has previously worked for Dawn Institute and the Food Bank of Northern Nevada… Kristi Jamason is a Food Council member and has worked fighting hunger for the last 6 years as Grants Manager for the Food Bank of Northern Nevada, which serves this area.Elizabeth and Kristi met when we both worked for Sierra Valley Farms for a short time.
  • The Census Bureau measures household food insecurity annually, but it is reported only at the state level in 3-year averages. For 2006-8: California’s food insecurity rate was 12%. The very low food security rate was 4.3%Food insecurity rates, like poverty rates, are always higher in families with children. In 2005-7: California’s child food insecurity rate was 16.8%The situation is certainly much worse now with the recession in full swing.
  • Taking a broader view to look at a whole community, food security is where ALL residents have a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritious diet that they get through a sustainable food system that features community self-reliance and social justice.
  • The Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty data for Plumas County indicated 12% poverty rate, with 20% of children living in poverty. To put that in perspective, for a family of 3 in 2008, the federal poverty threshold was $17,600 – or a little over $1400 per month. According to the Economic Policy Institute’s Basic Family Budget Calculator, it takes closer to $40,000, or $3400 per month to meet just basic expenses in rural California.According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Plumas County’s January unemployment rate was 18.9% - 6th highest in the state – which is nearly one out of every five people out of work.The average food stamp case load through November of this fiscal year was 346, compared to 164 in 2002-3.The 2007 California Health Interview Survey indicated that 35.8% of adults in the combined Del Norte, Siskiyou, Lassen, Trinity, Modoc, Plumas and Sierra County region were food insecure. A more recent report from the Food Resource and Action Center (FRAC), based on a 2-year national Gallup Survey that has been interviewing 1000 people per day, indicated that our Congressional District 4 had a food hardship rate of 13.9% in 2008-9. (Note that ALL of the other counties in District 4 have significantly lower unemployment rates than we do, so odds are that our food hardship rate is much higher than this average.)Plumas County’s obesity rate in 2007 was 25%, and another 32% of us are overweight, according to the CHIS. That’s over half the population struggling with weight issues and their related health consequences. (Obesity and food insecurity are correlated)(California’s 2008 obesity rate was 24.3%, with another 37.1% being overweight.)6.2% of Plumas County residents had been diagnosed with Diabetes in 2007 (CDC)
  • In 2007 and 2008, Plumas Rural Services undertook a community food security assessment for Lassen and Plumas Counties.This project was a collaborative effort designed to increase understanding of food access and nutrition issues faced by low-income residents of these counties, and to strengthen our ability to respond to these issues.The project also aimed to identify the needs of local agricultural producers, and highlight the role of locally grown food in increasing food system self sufficiency.During this project, we formed a Community Food Council, administered a written survey to low-income community members, held community forums, facilitated focus groups, and more.
  • A survey on household food insecurity was distributed to low-income residents across Lassen and Plumas Counties. We found people were eager to share about their experiences.Actual wording of data points is below: 30% of adults surveyed didn’t eat for a whole day during the past 12 months because they didn’t have enough money for food. 14% of surveyed families with children said that their children didn’t eat for a while day within the past 12 months because there wasn’t enough money for food.<<In both of these cases, around half of the respondents said this happened almost every month>> 68% of respondents said they sometimes or often could not afford to buy fresh fruits and vegetables every week53% of survey respondents said they almost always or quite often shop in cities outside of the county.
  • Accessibility & Affordability:Low-income families need food to be more accessible and affordable. Actions to address thisissue include increasing: transportation options; supply of fresh and/or local foods; variety offoods available through assistance programs; and availability of quality, low-cost foods.Education:Community members want and need education about food production, collection,preparation and preservation.Local Agricultural Viability:Many small-scale local food producers need increased profits to create economicsustainability for their operations.
  • Our assessment laid the foundation for securing further funding, and we’re pleased to say that we’re now in the process of implementing some projects to increase food security. Mountain Bounty is a multi-faceted effort to address the MFSP priority areas. We’re working to increase accessibility to local, fresh and affordable foods by operating a Community Supported Agriculture operation with local farmers. We’re educating the public through a workshop series on food production, preparation and preservation, and we’re promoting local agriculture through our Think Local First campaign and the creation of new markets for farmers. And as part of this work we’ve continued coordinating the Community Food Council, a group of local agencies and individuals who are stakeholders in our local food system. The Council exists for networking and information sharing purposes, and also to tackle pertinent projects as they arise. For instance, recently we’ve been attempting to make a better transportation system available to Plumas County food pantries. It was the Community Food Council members who decided to share these issues with the Planning Commission in hopes of raising awareness about food insecurity in our region, and having these issues incorporated into the General Plan. And in fact, Council members brainstormed a list of food security issues that they would like to see addressed in the General Plan, which the Planning Commission has copies of. This brainstorm list contains suggestions ranging from allowing backyard chickens for food production in all zonings, to encouraging County agencies to purchase food from local growers, to expanding public transportation options so people have better access to grocery stores.
  • Conclusion from the February 2010 USDA Rural Economic Forum – p.67
  • Clearly, we don’t want to see our families, our children going hungry.Food insecurity is bad news for anyone, contributing to poor health, absenteeism from work or school, and even obesity and its myriad related consequences. It’s even worse news for children with their developing brains and bodies. I have stacks, binders, overflowing file cabinets full of information about this, if anyone is interested – and I’m sure Mimi Hall does, as well.While it is a PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUE, food security also relates to the economic security of our county – as both a cause and an effect. Those adults who are absent from work due to nutrition-related illnesses, and the children who can’t concentrate and learn in school because they are hungry – are not going to excel in contributing to society. And, it is those very people who lack economic security who don’t have enough money to buy food and are therefore food insecure. It’s a vicious cycle.A vibrant local food system should also be considered as a positive influence on the county’s economic security – it’s an economic development strategy.Because we are a remote, rural county, we also need to be thinking about food security in terms of an emergency response strategy. The more food that is being produced locally, the better off we are going to be if we are cut off from the very transportation-dependent food supply we rely on now. We also need to acknowledge that as fuel prices continue to rise, the cost of food will rise – if we are transporting it all in.One of the consistent comments that has come up in visioning meetings is our need for our communities to be more sustainable – these are some good reasons why food security and local food production are critical to that goal and our self-sufficiency.Beyond all the need statements, the concerns, the fears, there is also the simple joy of growing your own food and eating from the bounty of the land in which you live, knowing the farmer, seeing a productive and vibrant rural landscape around you. Quality of life.
  • Did anyone see the letter to the editor last week – presumably from a child – asking if a local businessperson couldn’t possibly open a KFC? This is not the solution.
  • I’m sure you are all now thinking about how Planning – and our General Plan in particular – can help.Of the three priorities identified in the community food security assessment, the first and third have the most natural connection to Planning – Accessibility of food to low-income families and Agricultural Viability. We have seen specific General Plan Goals, Objectives and Policies that support each of these priorities.Underlying our presentation from here on out is the concept that a General Plan, a Planning Department, a Community can not only allow an activity, it can encourage one. An example might be serving as a conduit for incentive programs and resources for farmers, or launching or supporting “Think Local” campaigns – both are ideas we’ve seen in other model Plans.The list on the slide is certainly not exhaustive.
  • Just some ideas for how these concepts can fit into the standards 7 elements.Land use Accommodate public structures such as farmers’ and public markets to serve as direct sales outlets for local producers. Retain industrial land for local businesses critical to the food system. Regulate undesirable land uses such as fast food drive-thrus. Affect the location of supermarkets and community gardens.Open space: Accommodate urban agriculture and community gardens and promote farmland preservation.Transportation/circulation: Improve roads to make them safe for pedestrians and bicyclists; connect public transit to major retail areas; and create pedestrian-centered commercial corridors.Conservation: Compost green waste (such as food scraps and yard trimmings) and use gray water for urban agriculture and community gardens.Safety: Form closer-knit communities through community gardens and farmers' and public markets
  • But there are also some distinct connections to our new optional elements.According to the USDA’s agriculture census, Plumas County had a drop of 29% in its land in farms between 2002 and 2007. The 2007 Ag census also indicated that the average age of the principal farm operator here was 59.7 years.While the Plumas County 2008 Crop Report does not break out food crops, specifically, it’s clear that the majority of agricultural production here is not food (we are excluding cattle that are sold to others to finish off and slaughter elsewhere). So, unlike some other parts of the country, our challenge may have to focus less on keeping family farming operations going and more on recruiting enthusiastic younger people (with stout backs) to stay here and take up the calling. (We love the idea of FRC starting a farm and curriculum that would help.)
  • Because we are not Planning Experts, we will call these “Promising Practices,” instead of “Best Practices,” but you should know some of these are award-winning. Madison, Wisconsin Natural and Agricultural Resources Element - section on Agricultural Resources (starts on page 6-16), in particular, for its innovative ideas around preserving and supporting agricultural resources and local food production. (Note that we also liked the way this plan was structured – user-friendly and with specific implementation steps with lead and coordinating agencies identified in a table at the end of each section)Marin County Natural Systems and Agriculture Element – this goal, for example:“Encourage and protect local, organic, grass-fed, and other ecologically sound agricultural practices, such as dry farming, including field crops and animal agriculture, as a means to increase on-farm income, diversify Marin agriculture, and provide healthy food for the local supply.”Healthy Planning Policies: A Compendium from California General Plans - excerpts language from California general plans that have gone a step beyond the traditional to promote public health- from Public Health Law & Policy, September 2009Other Resources: Food System Planning White Paper – by the American Planning Association’s Legislative & Policy Committee Healthy Planning Toolkit - from Public Health Law & Policy Jobs, Economic Development & Sustainable Communities: Strategizing Policy Needs and Program Delivery for Rural California – USDA Rural Development, February 9, 2010 (specifically the Regional Food System section, pages 41 – 47)
  • Economically viable family farms, supporting our vibrant communitiesSustainable local food system – not only is food produced here, but there is a ready and willing market to purchase it.20% of the food consumed here is produced here! (in the early days…)
  • Start-up costs – land, equipment, knowledgeChallenges – There are challenges, but we also have a history of success. According to “Fariss & Smith’s History of Plumas County,” dated 1882, Plumas County was a productive source of oats, wheat, barley, rye and flour; peas, onions, potatoes, and beans; milk, butter, and cheese; fruit and honey; and beer – not to mention meat – in 1881.Regulations – so many were set up for large agribusiness and become so painful as to be prohibitive for small-scale growers.The details… (reference to minimum ag parcel size debate, property rights issues, checklists for removing ag land from ag zoning and on and on).But there are some very promising ideas out there – from our fledgling Community Supported Agricultureprogram to reviving an Agriculture Ombudsmenposition in the county to using some of the existing health-department-approved commercial kitchens as “community kitchens” for small-scale food processing businesses to large ag land owners leasing fields and equipment to beginning farmers to establishing a food program and farm at FRC. Our conversations have been exciting. We have a document that we worked on with specific general plan language, but per your last meeting, we have not brought that forward today. We clearly would like our concerns and ideas represented in the General Plan. What would you say the next steps would be?


  • 1. Planning for Food Security in Plumas County
    February 18, 2010
    COMMUNITY FOOD COUNCILPresenters: Elizabeth Powell and Kristi Jamason
  • 2. Our Goals for Today…
    Establish the framework for the discussionWhat is the need and the desire?
    Explore the nexus between Food Security and PlanningWhat does the general plan have to do with food?
    Inspire you with our vision for a local, sustainable food systemLocal produce, grains, dairy and meat from family farms!
  • 3. Household Food Security
    Food Secure – access to enough food for an active, healthy life
    Low Food Security – limited or uncertain access to enough food for an active, healthy life
    Very Low Food Security - food insecurity with hunger, skipped meals, reduced/disrupted food intake
    In 2006-8, one out of every eight (12%) Californians was food insecure. One out of six (16.8%) California children were food insecure (2005-7). The situation is certainly much worse now.
  • 4. Community Food Security
    A condition in which all community residents obtain a:
    culturally acceptable,
    nutritionally adequate diet through a
    sustainable food system that
    maximizes community self-reliance and
    social justice
  • 5. Is there a problem in Plumas County?
    Poverty at 12% – and 20% for children (2008)
    Unemployment at 18.9% (December 2009)
    Food Stamp case load climbing
    Food hardship rate of 13.9% (CA District 4)
    Obesity rate: 25%
  • 6. We wanted to know more
  • 7. Low-income survey results
    30% of adults didn’t eat for a whole day
    14% of families with children said their kids didn’t eat for a whole day
    68% sometimes or often could not afford to buy fresh fruits and vegetables every week
    53% said they almost always or quite often shop in cities outside of the county
    This happened once per month on average
  • 8. Food Security Assessment Report – Top 3 Priorities
    Increase Accessibility and Affordability of food for low-income families
    Education for community members about food production, collection, preparation and preservation
    Local Agricultural Viability
  • 9. Mountain Bounty
    Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
    Workshop series
    Think Local First campaign
    Community Food Council
  • 10. Food Policy Councils
    Educate officials and the public
    Shape public policy
    Improve coordination between existing programs
    Start new programs
  • 11. “Consumers in the nation’s leading food-producing state are not eating enough healthy food. Many cannot afford it or find it in neighborhoods lacking full service grocery stores. Others are unaware of or simply ignore dietary guidelines such as USDA’s healthy food pyramid. The results are food insecurity for the one out of six Californians who live in poverty, an increase in chronic health problems associated with obesity and malnutrition, and lost market opportunities for California growers of fruits, vegetables and other healthy food products.”
  • 12. Food Security is important for a number of reasons
    Public Health issue
    Economic Security issue
    Emergency Response issue
    Quality of Life
  • 13. "I think we need to recognize that cheap food has a very high cost, in terms of health and the environment. That cost is getting paid by other people, by the public health system… I think that's where there's a disconnect, between what you pay for a cheap, fast-food meal, and the ultimate price of eating that way."
    - Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma
  • 14. And so, the Nexus with Planning
    Farmland preservation
    Fostering sustainable agriculture practices, including market supports (e.g., linking farms with school and institutional cafeterias)
    Food enterprise/processor and retail development
    Transportation planning for increased food access within neighborhoods (esp. low-income)
    Linking farms and gardens with food assistance programs
    “Buy Local” programs
    Provisions for agriculture/food production within town limits
    Composting and gray water supports
  • 15. Ideas for the standard elements
    Land Use – Ag land designations, locating farm stands and markets, community gardens, store locations, fast food allowed?
    Open Space – Urban agriculture, farmland preservation
    Housing – community gardens
    Circulation – pedestrian-centered commercial corridors, bike paths/sidewalk access to healthy food sources, public transportation
    Conservation – gray water, composting
    (Public Health and) Safety – food access and production support for resident self-sufficiency & resiliency, emergency plan for food access
  • 16. Opportunities in Agriculture and Economic Development
    Agriculture Element
    Preserve agriculture lands and resources
    Protect environmental resources essential for sustainable local agriculture
    Encourage new and protect existing farms
    • Economic Development Element
    • 17. Make Plumas County food-production friendly
    • 18. “Buy Local” support
    • 19. Specific supports for producers
  • Promising Practices
    Madison, WI Agriculture Resources section
    Marin County – Natural System & Agriculture Element: Agriculture & Food
    Healthy Planning Policies: A Compendium from California General Plans (Food Access section)
  • 20. Our Vision
    Revival of the family farm
    Sustainable local food system
    • Low-income families with ready access to affordable healthy foods
    • 21. 20% of the food consumed here is produced here!
  • Challenges
    Start-up costs and other barriers to entry for beginning farmers
    Challenges of high-elevation growing
    Onerous regulations
    Lack of established local markets
    The details…
  • 22. “Ere long the most valuable of all arts will be the art of deriving a comfortable subsistence from the smallest area of soil. No community where every member possesses the art can ever be the victim of oppression in any of its forms.” —Abraham Lincoln
  • 23. Thank you for your time
    Do you have questions for us?