Recognizing that food insecurity among Los Angeles County residents has long been at a crisis level and worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Los Angeles County Food Equity Roundtable has issued an aggressive action plan for transforming the region’s disconnected food system.
USC researchers found that nearly one in four L.A. County households has experienced an instance of food insecurity in the past year. That means that millions of residents have lacked reliable access to sufficient food. And the currently-increasing economic uncertainty continues to heighten the risk of food insecurity, especially for the region’s under-resourced communities. Adding to the projected deficits, the food supply is susceptible to inflation and access gaps due to a changing climate and decades of market consolidation, which has exacerbated the impact on already struggling underserved populations.
The action plan proposes comprehensive and concrete steps to end food and nutrition insecurity in L.A. County by improving the affordability of healthy foods, increasing the equitable access to healthy food, building market demand and consumption of healthy food, and supporting sustainability and resilience in food systems and supply chains.
“This action plan provides a roadmap to help ensure L.A.’s most vulnerable populations can access food,” said Cinny Kennard, executive director of the Annenberg Foundation and co-chair of the Roundtable. “As we face a potential economic slowdown, the recommendations of this coalition could not have come sooner. We must work together to bridge gaps in access, increase communication and coordination across industries, and improve our infrastructure to make food more accessible and affordable for all of our communities.”
Food insecurity is about more than hunger. Chronic worry about putting food on the table is linked to overall poor nutrition, mental health challenges and increased risk for diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Food insecurity also has a broad, debilitating social impact, from reduced productivity to diminished academic performance.
Due to systemic biases and injustices, Latino and Black households in L.A. County report higher rates of food insecurity than white households. The plan outlines 14 priority population segments in L.A. County that are most vulnerable to food insecurity, from immigrant families to transgender individuals.
The current food system also places tremendous stress on the environment, with industrial farming practices and food waste contributing to climate change, which in turn diminishes agricultural productivity, further affecting access and affordability.
The Roundtable plan identifies six key objectives to create a healthier, more equitable, and more resilient food system: Modernize the food system, build a smart and connected food system, adopt a dignity of service approach to remove stigma and shame associated with benefits enrollment, elevate food to the status and importance of medicine, bolster nutrition education, champion a whole-person approach.
“Whole-system solutions are crucial to achieve and maintain food equity for the long term,” said Ali Frazzini, policy advisor for the L.A. County Chief Sustainability Office and co-chair of the Roundtable. “Governments all over the world are beginning to recognize the importance of food system transformation for a sustainable future, and I’m proud that LA County is leading the charge through a plan which uplifts community solutions and highlights the power of consumer demand for driving changes in the local food supply and beyond.”
For information, visit lacountyfoodequityroundtable.org/
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