Building a Sustainable Food System in California
Roots of Change Network and Ag Innovations Network have convened over 360 consensus-building meetings in the state of California. They are bringing together diverse stakeholders around the common goal of a sustainable food system in California.
Facilitating Truthful Conversations
Consensus-building gatherings are marked by 3 elements:
• A shared purpose
• Inclusion of people from every sector (entrepreneurs, farmers and ranchers, funders, nonprofits, public agencies, and individuals)
• A set of principles to guide the discussions and resulting actions
The results are compelling, as the magic of diverse points of view combined with a common goal has led to practical actions in many regions of California.
As Michael Dimock, ROC’s president puts it:
“Systemic thinking means considering the whole and the interactions of the parts of that whole. Facilitated dialogues with stakeholders from diverse perspectives leads to new and shared understanding of the root problems in a system. Once you have that shared view, powerful solutions backed by broad alignment of forces become possible. You can change the world that way.”
Powerful Outcomes Across the State
• Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego Focus on Locally-grown Food: Facilitated meetings between city and agricultural leaders in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego are resulting in new city policies that focus on purchasing sustainable locally-gown food, the expansion of urban food production and increased access to healthy food for low-income people.
• Innovative Programs Give Low-income People Access to Healthy Food: Working with other NGO partners, Roots of Change has implemented an innovative program that allows recipients of Food Stamps and WIC vouchers to use them at farmer’s markets to buy fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables and to receive matching money that increases their purchasing power. As a result, the low-income families are eating more good food and the small farmers selling in the markets have a larger and more diverse customer base. The program has spread to 13 states and has been incorporated by first lady, Michelle Obama, in her Let’s Move campaign to combat childhood obesity.
• Millions More Acres to Be More Sustainably Farmed: The California Roundtable on Agriculture and the Environment (CRAE), managed by Ag Innovations and funded by ROC, spawned a project called the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops. That effort motivated 14 crop associations in California to begin developing industrywide production protocols for measuring and tracking sustainability of their farming systems. These protocols mean millions of acres in California will be more sustainably farmed, contributing to the physical and economic health and well-being of future generations.
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