To All Those Interested in Food and Justice...

A (usually) weekly update on food issues, promoting access to sufficient, affordable, healthy food—with a focus on campaigns you can become active in!

Three Anti-Hunger Bills on Governor’s Desk

Hunger Action LA Thanks Our Colleagues at St. Anthony Foundation for this easy Advocacy Link Three important bills that will help end hunger in California have made it to Governor Brown's desk:
AB 515 (Eggman) will increase the types of healthy food that California growers and food producers can donate to food banks. It's a win-win for helping California farmers reduce food waste while feeding hungry neighbors in need.
AB 1321 (Ting), the California Nutrition Incentives Act, will help California leverage federal dollars to allow low-income Californians to purchase healthy foods at farmers' markets.
SB 708 (Mendoza) will reduce the incidence of child hunger by improving access to translated school meal applications and will add links to those applications to connect families to other support programs, such as CalFresh (food stamps).

The deadline for the governor to sign is October 11. We don't know exactly when the Governor will take action on these bills, so the sooner you can email him to show your support, the better.
Use the sample letter at the link below to send a message to Governor Brown, asking him to sign AB 515, AB 1321, and SB 708. Feel free to use the language provided or customize the message to make it your own.
Send your email today.
Subject: Sign AB 515, AB 1321, and SB 708 to help end hunger in CA
Or just email [email protected] and ask for the link

LA Declares Homeless Emergency and $100 Million Commitment

LA Times:”Acknowledging their failure to stem a surge in homelessness, Los Angeles’ elected leaders on Tuesday said they would declare a “state of emergency” and devote up to $100 million to the problem. But they offered few details about where the money would come from or how it would be spent, leaving some to question the effort’s chances of success.

The announcement by seven City Council members and Mayor Eric Garcetti was a powerful signal of growing alarm at City Hall over L.A.’s homeless population, which has risen 12% since 2013, the year Garcetti took office. It coincided with a directive from the mayor Monday evening that the city free up an additional $13 million in the coming months to help house people living on the streets.”

City of LA Declares Homeless Emergency

Comment (Frank Tamborello of HALA) : We should be overjoyed that the city is designating homelessness as an emergency, as was done decades ago; but we have to be skeptical about the $100 million commitment. After all, back in 2002 the city established an Affordable Housing Trust Fund that was to have $100 million, to help maintain some stock of affordable housing in a city that is still rapidly gentrifying. That trust fund only has $10 million and has never had $100 million.

As with the LA Plan to End Homelessness, the establishment of LAHSA in the 1990’s, and all the other things that have been done over the decades---some of which the Mayor has alluded to in his speeches on this topic—without public hearings, wise decisions on how to spend the money, oversight, and involvement of those directly impacted, this plan will not achieve its goal. But what is worse is that if the plan does not produce tangible results, a permanent cynicism may set in about the ability to provide housing to the poorest of residents.

At a minimum, it seems like a great move by the city to actually attempt to address homelessness rather than sweep it away or criminalize it. But in fact, the city has admitted it’s already spent $100 million on homelessness and 85% of that was actually for law enforcement (see City Council Votes To Make It Easier To Sweep Homeless Encampments). There are no details in yesterday’s announcement about how much will be spent on permanent housing. In fact, there was some mention of building more storage units----so that people’s belongings can be housed, but not the person.

And what is $100 million to this problem? Only last month New York’s mayor announced they were spending $6 billion over the next 4 years to help house the homeless (see Homeless Problem Vexes NY City Hall-Wall St Journal). That’s 60 times 100 million: New York only claims to have twice the number of homeless as LA (which is usually undercounted.)

For much less than $100 million, LA could address one issue, that of homeless peoples’ right to exist in public without being arrested and sent to costly jails. Every year the jails are filled at taxpayer expense with homeless people, many of them mentally ill, whose tickets for jaywalking and other non violent offenses went to warrant.* In fact, decriminalizing homelessness will save vast sums that could double the $100 million which could be spent on true solutions such as permanent housing.

A de-criminalization strategy could also save the city millions in future court battles around violating people’s human rights. The LA Times opines that , “In an Idaho case with potentially broader ramifications, the Department of Justice said banning people from sleeping in the street is unconstitutional. By ignoring federal guidance, the city of LA is undermining its position in court battles and jeopardizing future funding for homeless housing and services, experts said.”

(See US Task Force Warns Cities Against Homeless Crackdowns)

The City of LA should support the Homeless Bill of Rights---the fundamental human rights to eat, sleep and pray in public, especially if homelessness necessitates it. We’ll be happy to give them the link to the online petition.

The $100 million emergency plan is a great start (possibly, if done right) but true solutions will cost more, and the entire process in no way substitutes for the recognition of all people’s constitutional rights, including those of homeless people.

*Related , an Orlando Florida judge is quashing 21,000 arrest orders for people who failed to appear at collections court (Florida Judge Ends Arrest Orders for Indigent)

LA County Approves Urban Ag Incentive Zone Policy

Thanks in no small part to vigorous advocacy by LA’s thriving Urban Ag community, a great opening victory has been won in the quest to open up more vacant land for community gardens in LA County.

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to begin the process of establishing an Urban Agricultural Incentive Zone (UAIZ) program in Los Angeles County. This process was created by Assembly Bill 551, which was signed by the Governor last year.

Much work still remains, such as:

  1. Ensuring the county meets the six month timeline set for establishing parameters for the Urban Ag Incentive Zone:
  2. Getting the City of LA, as well as the County, to adopt AB 551
  3. Sending letters of support for Urban Agricultural Incentive Zones

To get a template for a letter of support please contact Breanna Morrison of the LA Food Policy Council [email protected].

Below is an account of yesterday’s events at the Board of Supervisors:

From Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ press release: “By turning vacant lots into community gardens, (Urban Ag Incentive Zones) (UAIZ) would reduce urban blight while increasing the supply of fresh produce grown in urban areas. The program is authorized by the California Urban Agriculture Incentives Zone Act or AB 551, and requires the owner of the vacant lot to enter into a contract with the County to dedicate the property for agricultural uses. In exchange, the owner would get a property tax discount.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said the benefits of the program would outweigh any revenue losses to the County.

“I see this as one tool in the toolkit to address the significant food desert issues prevalent in urban areas throughout the County,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “The fiscal cost of establishing a UAIZ program are likely to pale in comparison to the anticipated public health, environmental, quality of life and economic benefits for the participants and the surrounding communities.”

His motion drew support from several advocates of urban gardening, including Matthew Van Diepen, founder of Homegrown Gardens. He declared at Tuesday’s Board meeting: “We are ready to turn blighted areas of our city into hubs of life that will foster nature, community and the economy through community gardens and production farms.”

Francesca de la Rosa, policy director for Women Organizing Resources Knowledge & Services WORKS, said the program would help address one of the biggest obstacles to community food growing efforts – access to land.

“This program will be a win for gardeners, property owners and, most importantly, neighborhoods across this County that stand to benefit from an increase in access to healthy fruits and vegetables; the creation of new green, open spaces; and renewed neighborhood pride generated from beautiful community garden projects," she said.

Luke Ippoliti, with the nonprofit Meet Each Need with Dignity, said the program would address the county’s high rates of poverty, food insecurity, diabetes and obesity. Meanwhile, Breanna Hawkins, a policy and research fellow at the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, estimated that every $1 invested in community gardens yields about $6 worth of vegetables.

“We recognize the many economic, social, health and environmental benefits that urban agriculture can bring to the county, as well as the tax benefit it can bring to property owners,” she said.

According to County Assessor, almost 57,000 parcels of land may be eligible for the program throughout Los Angeles County, including almost 8,000 in unincorporated areas governed by the Board. Those living in incorporated areas cannot participate until their respective cities adopt a resolution.”

USDA Commits To Food Waste Reduction Goals

From US Department of Agriculture: “Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg announced the United States' first-ever national food waste reduction goal, calling for a 50-percent reduction by 2030. As part of the effort, the federal government will lead a new partnership with charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, the private sector and local, state and tribal governments to reduce food loss and waste in order to improve overall food security and conserve our nation's natural resources. The announcement occurs just one week before world leaders gather at the United Nations General Assembly in New York to address sustainable development practices, including sustainable production and consumption. As the global population continues to grow, so does the need for food waste reduction.”

Bulletin from USDA Office of Communications

An experiment in Philly: Philadelphia researchers, along with federal officials and local organizations, have been gathering food that would otherwise be wasted from a local supermarket chain, Brown’s Super Stores, to put it to good use. 35,000 pounds of produce was gathered from 11 area Brown’s Super Stores; 22,000 pounds was good to eat.
Drexel University and University of Pennsylvania researchers estimated one-third of that load could go directly to food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters.

Some of the remaining 15,000 pounds that couldn’t be used at local pantries was given to Drexel University Food Lab students, who quickly made it into recipes that could be used locally.

Take bananas as an example, said Jonathan Deutsch, professor and director of culinary arts and food science at Drexel University who helped lead the repurposing would-be wasted food aspect of the project.Browning, bruised bananas don’t get eaten—even when the people are hungry. But puree and freeze overripe bananas and you have banana ice cream, Deutsch said. “Now you offer people in West Philadelphia in the summer banana ice cream, they’re thrilled.”

They also found it’s a win-win. According to April’s numbers, the bounty could yield about $8,700 a month for the supermarkets—25 cents per pound—from giving the culled produce away.

Feeding People and Creating Jobs With Would-Be Waste in Philly

Bread for the World: Pope Francis’ Visit an Occasion To Tell Congress, Don’t Cut Vital Food Programs

An alert from Bread for the World regarding the federal budget:
Pope Francis has come to the U.S. at a critical time to shine a light on the issue of hunger and poverty. "Now is the time for a change in mindset and to stop pretending that our actions do not affect those who suffer from hunger," he proclaims.

Take action now to help people who are in need!
Unless you act now, the U.S. Congress will severely cut programs that effectively reduce poverty and hunger. From the humanitarian crisis in Syria to the ongoing desperation of a mother with an infant she cannot feed in Philadelphia, the cutbacks could be devastating. Your voice will make a difference and can help stop extreme cutbacks.

Tell Congress: Cutting effective assistance programs won't end hunger or solve our deficits. Protect programs that millions of people cannot afford to go without.

Whatever budget our lawmakers negotiate this year will likely remain in place through 2017, as the upcoming elections will make it difficult for Congress to pass major legislation. Automatic budget cuts adopted in 2011 will hurt families that can least afford it. It will also make it impossible to restore past cuts or make new investments in critical anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs.

Instead of more cuts to already struggling programs that effectively reduce poverty and hunger in the U.S. and around the world, Congress needs a responsible budget that reflects and shapes our country's priorities.

Tell Congress Not to Cut Domestic and International Food Aid

Hunger Action LA Mourns Loss of John King-Smith

Hunger Action LA mourns the loss of John Michael King-Smith, 31, a longtime fighter for social justice whose boundless passion fueled his work as a musician John D.O.E. and co founder of Blacksmith Records, a nonprofit recording agency that also fought homelessness and child abuse, and was rooted in the experiences of homelessness of John and his late mother Gretta King-Smith. Blacksmith Records performed at Hunger Action LA functions including the 2008 Hunger Action Day in Sacramento, and offered a start to musicians making socially conscious music of all types.

On September 15th John was found murdered in a Glendale apartment building..The details of John's case are still unclear but three suspects have been arrested and charged with his murder.

A memorial fund has been set up to assist the family: Please contribute here:
Memorial Fund for John King-Smith

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