In a groundbreaking decision, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors gave a nod to the creation of the Office of Food Equity on Tuesday, November 7. It is a strategic move considering the ongoing battle against food insecurity. The decision has marked a crucial step toward a unified front in addressing the alarming issue. The formation of the Office of Food Equity is likely to impact over a million households in the county annually, with Black and Latino residents disproportionately affected. There is double the likelihood for these residents to fall into food insecurity.
Cinny Kennard, the executive director of the Annenberg Foundation and co-chair of the LA County Food Equity Roundtable, shared his view on the new office, describing it as an “air traffic control center” that will connect various stakeholders involved in the day-to-day efforts to alleviate food insecurity. The LA County Food Equity Roundtable was born during the pandemic and has now laid the foundation for this initiative where the county and three foundations came together, namely the Annenberg Foundation, the California Community Foundation, and the Weingart Foundation.
During the pandemic, it was evident that a lack of coordination hindered the collective efforts against food insecurity. Kennard believes the Office of Food Equity would act as a central command post to foster collaboration among community partners such as food banks, growers, and small markets. This is a welcomed move that aims to streamline diverse efforts to battle food insecurity into a coordinated response.
Natalie Flores Blackner, CEO of Nourish LA, a local nonprofit formed during the pandemic, has shed light on the quality of the food discarded during those challenging times. Initiated through grassroots efforts and local collaborations, Nourish LA worked to minimize food waste while providing for struggling families.
Nourish LA is currently conducting food drives at strategic locations such as St. Mark’s Church in Venice, UCLA University Village, and a hub in Santa Monica. Leveraging the Office of Food Equity, Blackner aspires to secure the necessary resources to extend the reach of her food drives. Her goal is not only to address immediate needs but also to create sustainable solutions to alleviate food insecurity. She wants to educate communities about food waste and support businesses that will contribute to meeting the crisis.
Beyond immediate relief from food insecurity, the LA County Food Equity Roundtable has shared a comprehensive strategic plan to combat the issue in the long term. This includes facilitating urban farming through responsible zoning policies, addressing food waste, and enhancing public access to vital nutrition assistance programs. The Office of Food Equity is all set to implement and coordinate these initiatives, providing a multifaceted approach to address the root causes of food insecurity.
As the county braces itself on this new initiative, officials have received a 90-day window to present a staffing plan and budget for the Office of Food Equity. This planning reflects a coordinated and strategic response to the persistent issue of food insecurity. This decision by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors marks a significant milestone in the county’s ongoing efforts and a great boost to their creation of a sustainable and equitable food system.