"Creating a Circular Food Economy in Alameda County"
The East Bay Times reported last year that 12.2% of Alameda County’s population—about 200,000 people—don’t have enough food. Those numbers are skyrocketing during the COVID-19 pandemic as more and more breadwinners lose their jobs and families scramble to make ends meet. We are in the midst of a full-scale hunger crisis.
At DSAL, we’re working to address the immediate crisis by working with our partners at ALL IN Alameda County to provide free groceries for pickup at the Dig Deep Farms Food Hub and to deliver healthy, locally produced meals to seniors and others impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, we are working on a comprehensive solution to build a new food system—one that focuses on equity, sustainability, and health.
Our approach is documented in a new report, “Alameda County Circular Economy for Food,” which provides an analysis of our current food system along with a financial model and recommendations to guide the development of a new, regenerative, local food economy.
There is plenty of food available
The most perplexing aspect of the hunger crisis is that there is plenty of food available, but too much of it is unhealthy, expensive, or wasted. Moreover, our current system relies on industrial production methods that prioritize efficiency and speed to market over the health of consumers and the environment.
A circular food economy replaces unhealthy, industrial-grown food with fresh, locally produced food while also eliminating waste, reducing greenhouse gasses, and repairing the soil and the environment. The circular food economy also supports local farms and creates good jobs for our residents.
The circular food economy we envision: redefines growth by focusing on society-wide benefits instead of corporate profits; eliminates waste and pollution and works to regenerate natural systems, like soil, water, and air; and creates good jobs for local residents, while also supporting small farms and local food businesses.
The circular food economy also has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while saving the County millions of dollars.
The good news is that many of the elements of the circular food economy have already been built and are in place, including Dig Deep Farms, ALL IN Alameda County’s Food as Medicine initiative, and the Dig Deep Farms Food Hub. The challenge, however, is that no part of the circular food economy can be understood in isolation. The circular food economy will require systems-level change, but systems-level change is difficult because it requires county agencies to get out of their silos and work together on a shared vision, which is why we prepared a detailed, step-by-step report about how to bring the Circular Food Economy to fruition.