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L.A. Mayoral Candidates Talk Food Policy

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Today is election day for Angelenos, where we'll be determining -- among other things -- the mayor who'll be running this fair city. The L.A. Food Policy Council sent City Councilmember Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel questionnaires to see where they stand on food issues that are falling on Angelenos.

These issues are increasingly important as Los Angeles was called “the epicenter of hunger” by the USDA Deputy Administrator of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program because of our high level of food insecure residents and its rates of enrollment in CalFresh. Some of the candidates' responses were interesting.

Garcetti and Greuel both clearly think that these are pressing issues in our city, as their response to the Food Policy Council's questionnaire shows. Garcetti, who has gotten the support of many local chefs, answered each question from the Council in detail, and Greuel took a holistic approach and responded using the questionnaire as a guide.

Garcetti says he plans on expanding on the Family Source Center system that he helped to create, as well as mobilizing our city’s libraries, schools, parks and community centers to deliver information and enrollment services to constituents who can benefit from CalFresh. He also plans on continuing the CalFresh/EBT program, which allows residents in food deserts like South L.A. to use EBT at farmers markets.

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Here's what he told the Food Policy Council:

"To incentivize more farmers markets in disadvantaged neighborhoods, I will support low-income neighborhoods, to educate residents on how to start or attract a farmer’s market. I will explore entitlement incentives to attract more healthy food choices in underserved areas," he continued. "I will also continue to support the community’s effort to break the stronghold of fast food chains and increase access to fresh, healthy food and sit-down restaurants. I am proud to have supported Councilmember Perry’s plan to ban new fast food restaurants in areas like South LA where there is an over concentration of fast-food businesses in low-income areas."

He's also a supporter of LAUSD'S Breakfast in the Classroom program and urban agriculture.

Greul takes the issues personally, she says, because she's a mother. "The food choices that many of our residents have available to them are neither healthy nor nutritious, and those choices worsen as the economic vitality of an area decreases. This affects our children in school, the ability to learn and to become productive residents, and keeps us from being the world-class city that we must strive to be," she tells the Council.

She also believes in incentivizing the development of healthy food options and streamlining the red-tape to eliminate food deserts in underserved communities.

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"Whether it is through Freshworks Fund, the future City’s Economic Development Department or private sector investment, we need to provide an invitation for these businesses to those areas of our City that need it most. We need only look at the success of the South Park/Downtown Ralph’s to see that if you invest and give people an option for fresh, healthy choices they will come. We need to replicate that throughout our City where we lack healthy food retailers."

Childhood obesity, and the obesity epidemic as a whole, are also of concern. Gruel says she will continue advocating at the Federal level and the U.S. Conference of Mayors for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) to help ensure that Angelenos’ nutritional needs are met.

She also factors physical activity into the mix, stating the need for safe, active neighborhoods and pedestrian- and bike-friendly communities. She sees eye to eye with Garcetti in his stance on providing open, accessible space for people to recreate, and increase opportunities for urban farming, community gardens, and the ability to grow food locally.

"Though we in Los Angeles are at disadvantage for growing our own food because much of our land has been developed and is no longer agricultural, we can use the City’s purchasing power and work collaboratively with our surrounding jurisdictions to provide a market for locally produced goods from Southern California," she said.

All in all, it seems like both candidates find food issues to be important, though Garcetti does have more tangible ideas as to how to address them.