"Working together for the health of our community."
New Mexico currently ranks seventh in the nation for food insecurity. Many individuals in our communities have difficulty obtaining food or providing balanced, nutritious food for their families on a regular basis. In Santa Fe County, obesity and diabetes levels are above the national averages, and pressure for development threatens agricultural land and water resources.
The best ways to address these issues is through a coordinated approach—one that provides an opportunity for both the public and private sectors to participate—one that results in meaningful solutions. A proven way to do this is through a food policy council. The Santa Fe Food Policy Council (SFFPC) is devoted to developing and promoting laws, rules and regulations for the city and county that create and maintain a food system that nourishes all people in our community in a just and sustainable manner.
Some of the council’s recent policy accomplishments include completing an assessment of the city and county’s foodshed (the area where our food comes from) to give us information on our community’s food culture and access issues from which to make recommendations for institutional changes. We have collected information that provides a picture of the health of our community members. We’ve also collected statistics related to hunger and observed how many residents get support from local food banks or shelters. We have held community conversations and focus groups with our seniors at city and county senior centers to hear from them directly about the needs and challenges related to food and food access.
We have also been busy working to support the New Mexuci Food and Agriculture Policy Council through our endorsement of the Healthy Kids-Healthy Economy resolution, a proposal to allot funding for New Mexico-grown produce in our school meals. This would improve the health of our children, support New Mexico farmers and create a positive impact on our state and local economies. With our support and the hard work of many committed individuals, the resolution passed unanimously at the county level and has been endorsed as a legislative priority for the 2013 session by the City of Santa Fe.
This year we are embarking on the development and implementation of a Food Plan and Food Action Plan for the City and County of Santa Fe. We are working on a community research process to collect information to help us direct our efforts and ensure that our work upholds the priorities determined by our community. Through this process we are aiming to promote equity and sustainability within our food system that will help improve our community’s relationship with food on collective and individual levels.
If you are passionate about strengthening our local food system or looking to share your creative ways to support our mission, we encourage you to get involved with our efforts. Our 13-member council meets the fourth Thursday of every month (except in November and December, when we meet on the third Thursday) at 8:30 am at the Food Depot, 1222 Siler Road. Our meetings are open to the public. To learn more about our work and current initiatives, visit www.santafefoodpolicy.org
Alena Paisano is an AmeriCorps service member working with the Santa Fe Food Policy Council to promote equity, cultural competency and social justice. She graduated from Portland State University with a degree in Community Development last spring and is looking forward to building a career working to strengthen and empower communities in New Mexico.