Participants at the SHWT meeting discussed local food issues

GARBERVILLE >> Southern Humboldt Working Together (SHWT) met at the Civic Club in Garberville on Wednesday, Oct. 1. SHWT’s mission is to promote and sustain the wellbeing of the people, the communities, the environment, and the economy of Southern Humboldt, Northern Mendocino, and Western Trinity.

A report from Amie McClellan on the Food Policy Council was the program for the meeting.

The people in attendance at the meeting were Karl Verick of the public health department; Christina Huff of the Family Resource Center; Catreena Yampolsky, the new AmeriCorps member of the Family Resource Center; Babette Bach, cook of the Mateel Community Center lunch program; Kathy Epling, board member of the Redwoods Rural Health Center; and Amie McClellan, board member of the women’s shelter who wears lots of other hats as well.

McClellan handed out copies of the California Center for Rural Policy’s Community Food Assessment (published in 2009) and gave a brief history of the Humboldt County Food Policy Council.

McClellan explained that Connie Stewart, who had worked for assemblymember Patty Berg and been the mayor of Arcata, had gone to work for the California Center for Rural Policy. Stewart got a grant for examining food insecurity on the North Coast and got 50 or 60 people together that were all involved in the food system chain “from farm to table” as the food assessment calls it, but McClellan said it was really from farm to toilet (or compost). The group mapped out food insecurities to determine where there was the most need. Cal Fresh took over funding for the next year, McClellan said, and that was encouraging and exciting to the council. McClellan said the third year the council was mired in crafting processes, creating charters and policies, and finding what was required to work with the California Food Policy Council.

Now the Humboldt County Food Policy Council is a pretty tight-knit group of about 20 people focusing on structure and trying to get to a point they can actually do something, McClellan said.

Topics the Food Policy Council is working on include healthy food access and education, planning and land use, agricultural production, food processing, farm to institution, food insecurity, distribution and food waste.

McClellan said the Food Policy Council is planning a larger food policy forum for sometime in 2016 and they want Southern Humboldt to come prepared with what is needed locally.

McClellan said she has been the Southern Humboldt representative, and the council would like to see strong participation behind her, and “our own little council” set up locally. Along with McClellan, several people are now considering how to strengthen local participation in food policy. Since people who are involved in these issues are very busy, the SHWT group liked the idea of using SHWT meetings, that usually occur once a month, to create a group of local people involved in aspects relevant to the Food Policy Council. The group thought that the last half hour of each SHWT meeting could be devoted to local food policy discussions and actions, and prepare for the 2016 Food Policy Council forum.

Epling said she would like to see a food policy task force with connections and pragmatic ways of getting food to people in need.

Difficulties in getting fresh, healthy food to schools was discussed. The problems of transportation were cited as part of the high expense of school food programs in Southern Humboldt. Huff reported that there is a federal grant for an after school food program for anyone under the age of 18, but staffing has not been worked out yet and this kind of program works best when paired with other after school programs, so it has not yet been fully implemented.

Local food insecurity, food quality and food distribution problems were discussed by the group. Distribution was particularly focused on, since there are local farmers and producers of food that might provide surplus to those in need if there was a program or network for distribution.

The public is encouraged to become involved and can call Kathy Epling, SHWT board secretary, at 707-923-4488 for more information.

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