Sustainable Food

by Jeanne

Sustainabilecityrank_2 Without sounding like a cliche I love my city.  I’ve lived in and loved other cities, also. However, San Francisco reflects who I am and what I value today.  While there are certainly things that irk me and sometimes think I live in a large theme adult theme park. But I dig where I live–great ethnic diversity, a green city and a socially progressive agenda.  It’s a smart, savvy city.

Recently, the Bay Area green group SustainLane, ranked 25 U.S. cities based on sustainability practices.  San Francisco, Portland, Berkeley and Seattle took the top four spots (in that listed order). Each burg was examined and evaluated on 12 criteria, including air quality, transportation, green building, and land use. 

While the entire report is fascinating (if you are into the big overall picture of sustainability) I was naturally drawn to the food-related aspects of the report: 

"Another exciting trend is the national explosion of farmers markets, which according to the US Dept. of Agriculture grew at a clip of 106% from 1994 through 2004. Farmers markets generate $888 million in yearly revenue across the United States (USDA 2005 estimate), and work to bring the consumer in direct contact with those that grow their food. This trend quickens the movement to understanding the complex connections between our daily lifestyles and consumptive habits (the food we prepare and eat every day). As communities become more knowledgeable about sustainability issues, daily individual practices change, and this citizen engagement in turn helps cities move closer to becoming cleaner and more productive environments."

And then in the San Francisco recap: 

San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace has become a major attraction for tourists and locals. At the Marketplace’s Ferry Plaza, about 100 local and regional food producers operate year round. It’s one of the nation’s most influential urban food markets, showcasing a $100 million dollar privately financed urban redevelopment project on the Bay waterfront (the city ranks a #11 in overall local food). Community gardens do flourish in San Francisco, and it ranks #5 in this per capita measure.

So, what does this all mean?  Frankly, I was surprised that overall SF is only #11 in overall local food.  Heck, my home town of Boston did better and they have a brutal winter.  Berkeley ranks #3. And #1 came as a big surprise to me–Pittsburg.  There are seven farmers’ markets, or about 2 for every 100,000 people, and all of them accept food stamps. An incredible 188 community gardens means that there is one for every 3,097 people.

The report also shows intent and possibility. Imagine the impact of collective power if we all asked where our food came from, how that meal in the restaurant was sourced.  While eating organic is good for health reasons, you can do one better by eating local organics.  It’s better for the local economy, better for the environment and it tastes better.

Asking and seeking out local and organic is important put preserving our environment is actually the answer to "why."  Yeah, it’s hard–I like imported artisan chocolate hazelnut spread from Italy and French butter, too.  It’s not a wholesale change–it’s a consideration to decrease your overall footprint on the bigger problem.  Small steps, taken by many, will not go unanswered.

By the way, I’ve also got to taste that Mt. Hood water–as it’s ranked as tops in tap water.

SustainLane Full Report