Our Columbia: Tackling Food Insecurity

Let’s be clear: food insecurity is a public health issue and must be treated as such. For too long lack of access to food in Columbia has created massive food disparities and an overall decline in health outcomes for those living in food insecure areas. That is why I believe access to food should be treated as a right, not a privilege. As your mayor, I won’t hesitate to tackle food insecurity and eliminate food deserts in our city so that no resident will ever have to wonder where their next meal will come from.

Incentivize locally-owned food businesses in disadvantaged communities to contract with local and minority farmers

By creating an incentive for food businesses to contract with local and minority farmers, we will create a community-based food system that not only provides economic benefits but uplifts urban farmers and encourages healthy food entrepreneurship.

Eliminate food deserts by building affordable grocery stores in all food insecure areas

It’s no secret that food deserts are a problem in Columbia, especially for those who live with limited or no access to healthy foods. By prioritizing grocery stores through our economic development plan, we can create lasting food infrastructure in the city. We have to provide fresh, healthy, and affordable options to our communities of need.

Enact a Staple Foods Ordinance

By enacting a Staple Foods Ordinance, there will be will be a baseline number of nutritious food items in grocery stores that will in turn increase health outcomes and expand accessibility.

Utilize Chief Health Officer to organize nutrition education programming

Expanding nutrition education into our schools, community centers, and neighborhoods is essential to better our community’s health outcomes. The Chief Health Officer will collaborate with local partners to increase nutrition education and build healthy and sustainable communities.

Collaborate with local partners to track and research food disparities throughout Columbia

Lack of healthy food access has been shown to lead to an array of adverse health outcomes, including hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. To counter this, we must use the Chief Health Officer to educate our community on the root causes of food inequities, and research how they tie into the challenges we face today.

Utilize the City’s park infrastructure as food delivery system

With parks conveniently located throughout the city and in the heart of our neighborhoods, our parks allow for a unique opportunity for food delivery.

Extend Comet hours and partner with ride-share companies to allow for transportation to and from food distribution centers

Lack of transportation is one of the leading barriers to food access in our city, that is why I will extend the Comet transportation hours and partner with local ride-share companies to ensure this is no longer an issue facing those struggling with food insecurity.

Expand community gardens throughout Columbia

Adding more community gardens in the city will help fill gaps in food insecurity as all community members, no matter their status, would have free access to the food they provide. In addition, as a part of the Youth Beautification Program, these gardens will allow an array of unique opportunities for our city’s youth. First, it will provide them to learn about the importance of sustainable agriculture and healthy eating. Second, it presents an opportunity for education on food disparities and provide skills training to ensure our youth can take what they have learned back into their communities. Lastly, it will allow them the opportunity to give back to the community, as a percentage of all produce will go to local food kitchens, and community fridges.

Create a food hotline to connect people in need of food to resources available in the community

Just as we call 911 when there is an emergency, people struggling with food insecurity should have someone to call when their needs are not being met. By creating a 24/7 food hotline, residents in need of food will be connected to a food security taskforce that will provide the resources to meet their immediate, and longstanding needs.

Expand and build upon backpack program to meet the needs of children facing food insecurity

How can we expect Columbia’s youngest and brightest to perform at their best if they do not have the fuel to do so? By expanding and building upon the existing backpack program, children will gain more consistent access to food and greater agency to reach their God-given potential.

Implement solar powered community fridges across the city

Community fridges are solidarity-driven initiatives that center health, access, and sustainability in their placements. These solar-powered fridges will be strategically placed around the city to provide free food and supplies to communities in need and promote equitable food access while reducing food waste and insecurity.

Administer weekly produce stands and pop-up markets in low income areas

Using land owned by the city in low income communities to implement produce stands and pop up markets on a weekly basis will not only stimulate the local economy but ensure nearby access to affordable and nutritious foods for residents in all zip codes.

Integrate agricultural jobs training into Columbia Career Academy

By providing ample employment, training, and mentorship opportunities for members of the community, the Columbia Career Academy will allow students to gain real-life skills and knowledge of sustainable agriculture in a hands-on setting.

Provide sustainable farming incentive

To ensure local-grown food is sourced ethically and sustainably, the city will offer training, technology, and financial assistance to farmers who practice green farming methods.

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