Long Beach Fresh Questions Long Beach Council Candidates on Local Food Policy

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Local food policy council, Long Beach Fresh, recently sent a questionnaire to Long Beach City Council candidates to find out their positions on local food issues in an effort to inform the public of their knowledge and how they plan to improve local food access for all residents. The organization shared their results with the Post in a release this week, including the candidates' comprehensive thoughts on the matter. 

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“When choosing a candidate, access to good food is one area that many may not have considered, even though it affects everyone in each district in profound ways,” stated Long Beach Fresh Co-director Tony Damico. “We hope to see continued support from elected officials in improving our local food system to fill some major gaps in local food access, production, and local business models.”

Long Beach Fresh is supported by The California Endowment and works with over 50 local food organizations and businesses to expand the city’s local food economy and infrastructure. 

All candidates in the districts with contested elections (districts two, six and eight) were contacted 10 days prior to the survey closing, according to Long Beach Fresh, with reminders sent three days before and 12 hours before the survey closed. Seven candidates completed the survey, while current councilman Dee Andrews of the Sixth District, Erik Miller in the Sixth District and Wesley Turnbow in the Eighth District did not respond.

Released and provided by Long Beach Fresh on Friday, below are the questions posed to each candidate and their answers:

Answers have been condensed in the interest of time and clarity.

Long Beach Fresh: Long Beach is known for having great farmers markets nearly every day of the week. We also have a range of farmers' market organizations, both non-profit and for-profit. Still, markets in Central Long Beach (6th district) and West Long Beach (7th district) have struggled to succeed in the past and currently do not exist in the neighborhoods that need healthy food access the most.

How will you make farmers’ markets more accessible for low-income residents in your district?

Joen Garnica , Council District 2: I feel that council offices have to have an open door policy that allows event organizers to utilize their elected official’s knowledge and resources. Council offices should also be actively communicating neighborhood associations and local venders that may want to start a market but do not know where to start.

Eric Gray, Council District 2:  In the 2nd Council District we are fortunate to have a wide array of farmer markets. To make these markets more available to low-income residents in our district, I propose working with our local neighborhood organizations and existing farmers markets to bring satellite markets to lower-income communities. In this effort, I hope to encourage awareness of healthy food options that are also affordable to those in our communities who are most in need.

Jeannine Pearce, Council District 2: I plan to work with the property owner of the closed Walmart in Downtown Long Beach to create a community space that would host a year-round farmers market with local vendors selling products made in and around Long Beach with services for small business owners and entrepreneurs. This would open up a much needed space in the city to provide fresh, affordable food to our residents in a location that is central to public transportation.

Robert Harmon, Council District 6: I'm building the Cambodia Town Square and International Marketplace in the vacant RDA lot at Anaheim and Walnut. A Long Beach co-op and/or a permanent farmers market with merchants, Artisans and boutique retail is also planned.

Josephine Villasenor, Council District 6: Well for one I would like to see a Farmers Market in every Neighborhood in my District. Have an outreach program to bring more information to 6th and 7th district residents about when and where these farmers markets will be. I would also find public transportation for the residents that do not have transportation.

Laurie Angel, Council District 8: These markets need to be located in the areas they are to serve. Council offices need to proactively work with the city and vendors to find good, regular market locations.

Councilman Al Austin II, Council District 8: The 8th District has a farmers market on Thursdays in a central part of the district. I have promoted this market, and my staff and I are in active communication with the Harbor Area Farmers Market board and managers. We will continue to be engaged and help get the word out about this market.

Los Angeles County was called “the epicenter of hunger” by the USDA Deputy Administrator of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, because of its high level of residents that are food insecure, and its low rates of enrollment in Cal Fresh (the California name for SNAP), administered by the County Department of Social Services. More recently, Long Beach has been able to add more Cal Fresh service centers through The Children's Clinic branches, but we have a long way to go.

What role, if any, do you think the city should have on a local, regional, and statewide level on the issue of Cal Fresh enrollment and awareness?

Garnica, Council District 2: Government should always start local. If awareness is needed for a program such as Cal Fresh, running commercials is a way for the State to help but the city’s Health and Human Services should be given the resources to inform residents of their options. They are best suited to understanding where the needs of their residents are.

Gray, Council District 2: It is essential that our local, regional, and state governments work proactively to expand the quality of services delivered through Cal Fresh, and partner with our local community organizations to build awareness of the services and benefits available to our residents.

Pearce, Council District 2: Nearly one-third of Long Beach’s children grow up in poverty and lack access to healthy food because of where they live and/or due to affordability. Long Beach needs to do whatever we can to expand enrollment in Cal Fresh for those who qualify through education, working with the 

County to develop better ways to enroll people and work with farmers markets to ensure they take food stamps.

Harmon, Council District 6: Greater awareness of the hunger problem needs to be raised. There are three to four food 

banks distributing food within view of my front porch so I get it. I will facilitate the logistical improvements needed in the city (and region) to address both hunger, malnutrition and homelessness.

Villasenor, Council District 6: I would make sure that people who are eligible for Cal Fresh know how to enroll by featuring posters and or flyers where low income and homeless residents congregate, such as libraries, local businesses, public parks and public transportation.

Angel, Council District 8: The city can work with the city health department and regional and state officials to provide contact information through (e)-mailers, social media, information booths at public events held in parks, schools, social service offices, and possibly churches to inform residents, neighborhood leaders, administrators and pastors of resources that are available.

Austin II, Council District 8: The City can and does work to raise awareness about Cal Fresh. I think more could be done by utilizing existing resources like the EBT wagon at farmers markets.

Long Beach City government spends a significant amount of money on food - from Parks and Recreation's summer meals program to our local jail. The City of Los Angeles led the nation by becoming the first institution to adopt the Good Food Purchasing Pledge and Guidelines, committing to use its public dollars to buy nutritious foods grown locally, fairly, humanely and sustainably. Following suit, LAUSD School Board recently agreed to purchase 100 percent antibiotic-free chicken to ensure the highest quality, safest food for its students. Many opportunities exist to expand the depth and impact of "good food" in our government institutions, particularly around improving working conditions for food workers and environmental sustainability.

How will you use city contracts to increase purchases of good food?

Garnica, Council District 2: Understanding the power of contract negotiation can improve the bargaining position of the city to leverage greater support of nutritious food options. Along with supporting Long Beach local hiring, we must be aware of the culture we are trying to foster in Long Beach as well.

Gray, Council District 2: Long Beach must encourage and develop a comprehensive program, similar to the City of Los Angeles’s “Good Food Purchasing Pledge and Guidelines”, dedicated to the purchase of locally grown and nutritious foods for our community.

Pearce, Council District 2: I will work to ensure that the City’s Good Food Purchased Pledge and Guidelines are followed. Long Beach must follow through on its guidelines of purchasing nutritious foods grown locally, fairly, humanely and sustainably. I’m proud of my work with Building Healthy Communities - Long Beach and their focus on ending food deserts, tackling poverty and focusing on access to health care throughout Long Beach. I’ll continue to work with them and the California Endowment to ensure that all Long Beach’s contracts invest in nutritious food.

Harmon, Council District 6: I will level the playing field for local producers and advocate for them as much is allowable by law.

Villasenor, Council District 6: I would create Events for the schools around eating healthy as an incentive for continuing to eat healthy throughout the year and I would have field trips to local farmers markets to educate and show the students what eating healthy is all about. I would encourage the use of vacant lots for community gardens and have contracts with local schools, businesses and whatever is left over to the local food banks. In return the city will get a portion of the proceeds.

Angel, Council District 8: The city's contracting requirements can add points (toward contract award) to vendors that meet these requirements and city goals. Add points for fresh, locally / humanely / sustainably grown. Possible work with the school district for greater cost benefit to both for this quality of food.

Austin II, Council District 8: I have been active in working on Long Beach's Healthy Food Policies and have been supportive of urban farming initiatives and sustainability initiatives at the city level. I would like to continue this work.

Long Beach has about 30 percent of LA County's community gardens, and boasts a handful of urban farms. Still, many of our community gardens have 3-5 year waiting lists, and many of our urban farms struggle to meet the demand for locally grown food due to access to land and financial incentives. Urban agriculture provides a myriad of community, health and environmental benefits, including increased green and open space, improved access to fresh food and neighborhood beautification.

How will you increase food growing opportunities that include both community gardens and urban farms in your district? What steps do you propose to encourage and support residents growing food?

Garnica, Council District 2: By advocating for increased open spaces when development plans are proposed we can add opportunities for more community gardens and urban farming. There are also underutilized spaces currently available. As Councilwoman, I will continue to meet with neighborhood associations are explore the district to discover land that may be utilized for local growing.

Gray, Council District 2: As Councilmember, I will actively support our city’s investment to sustainable growth, and will work with our local community organizations to ensure that Long Beach’s meets its 2020 goal of having a community garden in every park five acres or larger. By doing so we can expand the healthy-living opportunities available to our residents and minimize the wait-list times many are currently facing.

Pearce, Council District 2: The key to creating more open space is being strategic on ways the City of Long Beach allows development. I think a major component of major development projects in the future must be to require more public open space within developments and turn unused city property or blighted buildings into green spaces for communities. Further, the City can turn abandoned and empty lots throughout the City into community gardens. A great way to create more green space in the city is through the Green TI freeway project, which would both reduce the amount of trucks driving through Long Beach and create 25 acres of new green space for residents. I also support new green zones along the 710 freeway to both reduce pollution near the freeway and create new open space for residents to enjoy.

Harmon, Council District 6: I will use eminent domain to acquire derelict properties and facilitate the organization and logistics for mass production of urban agriculture. Every inch of soil will be put to use in Long Beach.

Villasenor, Council District 6: I would streamline the community gardens so that there will not be a 3 to 5 year waiting list by cutting the red tape that is involved with setting them up. I would also like to see more government owned property converted into urban farms and community gardens. I would like to decrease regulations and/or repeal the legislation that prevents residents from creating farms within the city limits.

Angel, Council District 8: I believe that every school and most parks should provide the opportunity to grow food. Community gardens have proven to reduce crime by teaching children about cultivation, nurturing, caring, and giving them productive activities - which would be a perfect before or after school activity which would cut food costs for the schools and increase the nutritional level of food available. A section of each part could be set aside to allow for a community garden to provide the opportunity for area residents to grow their own food. The city and council staff can also work with landowners with undeveloped land to lease property for a nominal cost to allow it to be farmed by local residents.

Austin II, Council District 8: I actively promote the community gardens in our district, some of which currently do have openings. My staff and I have also worked closely with The Growing Experience and have both promoted this 8th District treasure as well as volunteered there on many occasions. I would like to see even more active engagement of residents in gardens like The Growing Experience and our other urban farms and community gardens. I have been supportive of urban farming initiatives that have come before the City Council and I will continue to support urban agriculture.

Food business opportunities abound to facilitate innovation and job creation with mobile vendors, neighborhood market owners, restaurateurs and micro-processors, distributors and others. Projects like MADE in Long Beach give a glimpse of what is possible when small, local food producers have a viable platform and support network.

How will you support food enterprise and entrepreneurs, particularly those who expand access to nutritious food in underserved areas?

Garnica, Council District 2: As a small-business owner, I know the power of the entrepreneurial spirit and will work to enable those who want to create jobs and opportunities any way I can as Councilwoman. By connecting residents to their local business organizations, neighborhood associations, and finally to City Hall, we can erase barriers, and breed a culture of innovation.

Gray, Council District 2: As with our local Farmers Markets, I will actively collaborate with our local restaurants, food suppliers, and community welfare organizations to offer satellite meal programs to our most underserved communities.

Pearce, Council District 2: I fully support MADE and would like to see other programs used to expand the enterprise of nutritious food in Long Beach. As mentioned earlier, I would like to see developments such as the closed Walmart in Downtown Long Beach be turned into a community space with a year round farmers market. In that open public space, I would also like to see spaces for entrepreneurs to have permanent stalls and pop-up locations for their new enterprises, access to small business services, and meeting space for groups to come together and have meetings.

Harmon, Council District 6: I'll continue to do what I'm already doing. I will be a voice for the local micro-processors and will level the playing field and help them to become competitive with outside bid "Ag."

Villasenor, Council District 6: I would create and grant that will offset the start up fees for any business that is involved in producing and or distributing healthy foods to underserved areas and promote them on social media such as the city's website.

Angel, Council District 8: Look at our local city ordinances to allow those growing certified organically grown food at home, in schools or community gardens to sell foods grown to local stores, food processors and restaurants. Several co-op markets that bring buyers and sellers together can facilitate this exchange to make it a one stop point to sell and buy these goods.

Austin II, Council District 8: I have been and will be supportive of food enterprise and entrepreneurs in all areas of my district.

Long Beach faces daunting health disparities, where the most food insecure residents also face the highest rates of obesity in the county, and limited access to healthy, affordable food is disproportionately concentrated in low-income communities and communities of color.

What would you do to remove barriers and create incentives to improve the quality of food and beverages sold in neighborhood food environments (neighborhood markets, grocery stores, restaurants, hospitals and wellness centers, etc) in underserved communities?

Garnica, Council District 2: Along with promoting an active, healthy lifestyle, we can limit the saturation of unhealthy food options. We can also search for options that increase health and wellness along with bringing jobs, such as farmers’ markets and food providers that promote healthy options.

Gray, Council District 2: As Councilmember, I will partner with the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that every resident of Long Beach has affordable access to nutritious foods. By working proactively to address health issues in our community, especially in our most underserved communities, we can ensure a healthier, more prosperous future for every resident of our city.

Pearce, Council District 2: I would work with experts in the food delivery field to remove the barriers and create incentives for neighborhood markets to sell. If I’m elected to serve on the council, I would seek out experts and link them to residents and owners of our local neighborhood markets to find real world solutions to get more fruit and vegetables on the corner market shelves.

Harmon, Council District 6: I'll continue to work with all the stakeholders, business owners, producers and regulatory agencies and will facilitate whatever is needed to put into place the robust and highly cost effective logistical infrastructure and organizational systems so that sustainable, zero waste permacultural people feeding initiatives can be expanded and improved. There needs to be one "credentialed" project management team coordinating the left and right hand and eliminating redundancies and wasted inefficient energy.

Villasenor, Council District 6: I would find a way to discourage the expansion of fast food restaurants while encouraging the expansion of healthy alternatives such as I Love Vegan, Fox Coffee House and Trader Joe's. The incentive I would create is a program that will pay the business licensing fee for new companies that provide healthy food and beverages to underserved communities for the first year.

Angel, Council District 8: As North Long Beach has done, they have encouraged local liquor stores and other markets to provide space for fresh food and to better advertise that it is available. Every little market in our neighborhoods can participate. The availability and location of this food just needs to be published. Those that are providing fresh food and selling fresh food can be actively promoted and encouraged through the council office, health department, churches, social services, and low cost health clinics.

Austin II, Council District 8: I think programs like the Choose Health LA Kids program that Kim Sun Kitchen in my district just became a part of can be one model for improving the quality of food in our communities. We need to continue to strive to improve access to healthy food options through innovative programs like this.

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