Food Policy Update

July 11, 2008

paula_jonesThis week’s feature was written by Paula Jones, Director of Food Systems for the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

Now that the 2008 Farm Bill has become a law, we’ve closed another chapter in food policy. San Francisco and the Bay Area were a center for Farm Bill activism, and many individuals and groups became engaged in Farm Bill discussions for the first time.  

There is no disputing the importance of the Farm Bill in setting food policy for the country. However, it is by no means the only food policy that affects Bay Area residents. From the types of crops that are grown to the location of grocery stores, decisions made at every level of government determine the health, sustainability and equity of our food system. 

Federal Policy
In 2009 Congress will review the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004. As the title implies, this law determines the amount of federal funding for nutrition programs for children, such as school lunches, summer lunch, nutrition in child care, and the WIC programs (Women, Infants and Children), including the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. These public food programs are critically underfunded, making basic operation difficult and the integration of sustainable food nearly impossible. The USDA will be holding a regional listening session in San Francisco on August 6, 2008 to gather public input on the funding of these federal nutrition assistance programs. They are also accepting public comments through their website.

State Policy
Nutrition- and agriculture-related bills are debated on a state level each year—and some become law. This year, the California Department of Food and Agriculture is gathering public input to develop a vision for California agriculture in 2030. This vision will be used to guide public policy and investment priorities for the next 20 years. You can email your comments through the end of July.  
Learn more about the California Agricultural Vision >

San Francisco Policy
Decisions around food policy are made throughout San Francisco city government. Listed below are some of the innovative food policies adopted by the City in recent years.

Several groups were formed with the intent of giving City and school district officials recommendations on different aspects of food policy.  These include the Food Security Task Force, the Peak Oil Task Force, and the San Francisco Unified School District Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee. These groups meet on a regular basis, and the meetings are open to the public. 

In June of 2005, the City passed resolutions declaring that it would maximize its purchases of organic and fair-trade certified foods.

In January 2007, the City passed an ordinance requiring all farmers’ markets in the city to accept Food Stamp/EBT cards. This may be the only such ordinance in the country.

In 2007-2008, the Mayor and the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families directed $500,000 to the school district for the introduction of salad bars at 25 San Francisco public schools.

In March, the City passed a menu labeling ordinance that will require chain restaurants with more than 20 locations in California to post nutritional information on menu boards, menus, food tags, and also on posters, brochures or booklets. Last week the California Restaurant Association filed a lawsuit challenging the ordinance. Learn more> 

For a list of San Francisco’s existing food policies and other useful local food resources, check out  

Due to a growing awareness of the health, environmental, and justice issues related to food and agriculture, this is an exciting time to be developing policies and securing resources that will shape the future of the food system. Stay tuned for more food policy updates.

E-mail Paula Jones at