On May 24, a coalition of Santa Barbara organizations announced the release of the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan. The plan represents a milestone for both Santa Barbara County in reflecting community consensus on how to build a more resilient food system and for the food change efforts more generally in its focus on a postive agenda that stands outside of traditional political divides.

The Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan (the Plan) is a partnership of the Santa Barbara Foundation’s LEAF Initiative (Landscape, Ecosystems, Agricutlure, Food Systems)the Orfalea Foundation, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and Community Environmental Council. Ag Innovations’ president, Joseph McIntyre, served as the process designer and facilitator of the public engagement elements of the plan and as co-author of the plan itself.

The Plan is perhaps described best on its website:

“The goal of the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan is to ‘future proof’ how food travels from farm to table. Future proofing is the process of insulating ourselves, as much as possible, from the vagaries of an uncertain future—in essence, to be more resilient. In the food and farming sector, these uncertainties are huge.

When planning for our future, we must ask:

  • Will the past continue to be a good indicator for how much rainfall we see each year?
  • Will global markets remain stable and growing, or will our attitudes and policies about trade change?
  • Will the trend towards increased income disparity overwhelm our safety net of programs and services?
  • Will attitudes about immigration and diversity make finding workers for the food sector possible?

In creating this action plan, we believe we can increase prosperity and health across the community and insulate ourselves from future uncertainties by making strategic investments in the food system. This would have a positive, cyclical effect that looks something like this:

  • Providing more access to good food and better information creates healthier people who make positive choices for themselves and their families.
  • This in turn creates well-nourished workers who are better able to support a vibrant food system, bringing more resources to the community.
  • And this in turn allows people to become better stewards of the natural resources that support our health.”

The Plan is the result of an 18-month multi-layered community engagement process that included interviews with key stakeholders, multiple public forums, 5 working groups, and a robust advisory board. Throughout the development of the Plan, the goal was to identify strategies that would increase the resiliance of the county’s food system, were already proven and ready to go to scale, and that had broad support from across the political and stakeholder spectrum.

The planning and process for this plan are important tools applicable to any community wishing to forcast and strategize for a more secure food future. Please contact Joseph McIntyre for more information.

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