Bay Area Food Futures Project Awarded New Funding

Kaiser Permanente Northern California Community Benefit Programs recently awarded SAGE a generous grant for our Bay Area Food Futures project, which aims to make the future of Bay Area food more vital, sustainable and resilient.

Our food system interacts with key regional issues – land use, transportation, jobs, and public health – and is an integral part of our region’s economic prosperity, environmental sustainability and vibrant cultural life. As our region envisions and plans for disparate futures, through processes such as Plan Bay Area 2050, it is essential that we carefully consider the future of our food. Although food is a basic necessity, to date the food sector has been significantly under-represented in regional resilience planning. What kind of food system is needed and feasible, given the threats and uncertainties of climate change, natural disasters, growing inequality and other potential political, technological and economic upheavals? How can public policies, investment strategies and new partnerships, help ensure a regional food system, interactive with a global food system that is resilient, sustainable and equitable in the face of these uncertainties?

Over the coming six to nine months, the Bay Area Food Futures project will conduct analysis and catalyze the dialogue, decision-making and investments needed to support a vital food system as a regional priority. The project is being led by Sibella Kraus, SAGE, and Serena Unger, until recently with American Farmland Trust, who were the co-authors of the 2017 Bay Area Food Economy study on which the Bay Area Food Futures project builds. The project has two elements: production of a Bay Area Food Futures white paper and launching of a pilot Bay Area Agriculture and Food Economic Development Program (BAAFED).

The Bay Area Food Futures white paper will identify how our region’s food system needs to prepare for the challenges, uncertainties and opportunities of disparate potential futures. Guided by a Working Group of food and ag business and advocacy stakeholders, the BAAFED pilot program will conceptualize a roadmap for acting on the recommendations presented in the white paper. This roadmap for longer-term actions will outline a plan for establishing a BAAFED program that could: 1) develop knowledge sharing and collaboration across jurisdictions and food sectors; 2) attract new public investment for agriculture and food sector infrastructure, land conservation, healthy food programs, and public education; 3) facilitate connectivity between the agriculture and food business cluster and other leading business clusters; and 4) represent food sector needs in regional workforce, transportation, housing, workspace, and infrastructure initiatives.

The overall outcome of the Bay Area Food Futures project will be a multi-sector coalition with the commitment and resources to work towards a healthy, equitable, sustainable food system as an integral foundation for regional resilience. SAGE is hiring a part-time research associates to work with us on the project. (To inquire, please email: info@sagecenter.org.)

More detailed description of the Bay Area Food Futures white paper
Section 1, Existing Conditions, will have subsections on production (i.e. where does the food consumed in the Bay Area come from, what is produced locally), distribution (i.e. what are the major distribution centers and channels for food coming into, going out of and being circulated within the Bay Area), and consumption (i.e. what are we eating). Drawing from existing studies, each subsection will include analysis of economic impacts (with a specific focus on the workforce), environmental impacts (if feasible including analysis of GHG emissions), and social equity impacts, as well as a timeline and description of major trends.

Section 2, Divergent Futures, will describe the potential challenges and opportunities for the production, distribution and consumption of food, given existing conditions and potential future scenarios. It will include perspectives on: impacts of climate change on agricultural production; interaction of agriculture with provision of eco-systems services; shifts in exports and imports; shifts in food distribution modes; changes in human resource inputs; changes in consumption patterns; trends in addressing food waste, economic trends such as food prices; and throughout, the impacts of social equity. This section will also draw from a review of literature about the future of food in general.

Section 3, Strategies and Recommendations, will identify the policies and other actions needed to prepare for and respond to the challenges and opportunities outlined in section two. This section will be informed by research into existing food-related policies and by input from key food and agriculture business and advocacy stakeholders, as facilitated by a BAAFED Advisory Council and convening (described below). Strategies will be prioritized, organized by supply chain sector, will incorporate guiding principles, and will include a timeframe for implementation. The urgency of some strategies, such as protection of prime farmland, addressing food security, and preparation of the food sector for natural disasters, are already well-documented and will require attention in the shorter term.