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New Study of Region’s Food System – and Prevailing Gaps – to Launch

SACRAMENTO, CA – MAY 19, 2021: The Sacramento Region Community Foundation (Foundation) and Valley Vision announced today a new research study being jointly launched on the region’s food economy and prevailing gaps in the greater Sacramento region’s food system. The research will inform recommendations for investment strategies to strengthen the region’s food system capacity and resiliency.

“The region’s food system is dynamic and complex,” said Linda Cutler, CEO of the Sacramento Region Community Foundation. “While the overall food economy has advanced in recent years through dedicated efforts like new job creation, workforce programs, institutional procurement, and food literacy, disparities persist around food access, security, and system capabilities that have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The study will build upon earlier work highlighted in the Sacramento Region Food System Action Plan (FSAP), a seminal study conducted by the Foundation in partnership with Valley Vision in 2015. The FSAP laid the building blocks for a regional roadmap and identified an actionable role for the Foundation that it has worked to implement since.

Valley Vision conducts public opinion polls in partnership with the Institute for Social Research at Sacramento State and will field this new poll in June to collect data on residents’ experiences, perceptions and needs related to accessing food. The Food System poll, in addition to other engagement and data inputs, will provide the Foundation with invaluable information that will be used to update the 2015 FSAP.

“The ultimate goal of this research is to ensure the viability of the food and ag economy at all scales,” said Valley Vision CEO Evan Schmidt. “This includes increasing the amount of locally grown food distributed within the regional food system, increasing access to fresh, affordable produce, especially in underserved communities, and increasing consumption of healthy foods through access to nutrition education.”

The research findings will support meaningful collaborations among food system partners and improve alignment of system activities and investments. Findings will also help identify compelling short- and longer- term priorities and establish a baseline for future progress.

“This is incredibly important work for our region,” said Kate Stille, Sacramento Region Community Foundation Board Chair and Chief Impact Officer for Nugget Markets, Inc. “We can point to real and tangible results born out of the 2015 FSAP, which has dramatically improved food security in underserved communities by strengthening the emergency food distribution network.” The 2015 FSAP inspired a partnership between the Foundation and Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services to form the Neighborhood Food Access Networks, which today serve hundreds of thousands of people by networking together more than 200 emergency food distributors across Sacramento neighborhoods.

The work to strengthen the food system is all-the-more critical given the COVID-19 pandemic, which greatly impacted health and economic disparities in the local community. High unemployment has increased the level of need for food. Local food banks, schools, restaurants, and many others have created new distribution mechanisms to respond to the crisis. The FSAP is a blueprint for action that will help shape these types of strategic initiatives, as well as to inform local leaders and the community on how to engage in meaningful solutions and catalyze investments in our vital food system.

“A systems approach centered on equity is needed,” said Schmidt. “Understanding food access and security issues is paramount to ensuring a health-promoting and accessible food system that can serve the needs of those who live in the region as well as those who benefit from our rich agricultural valley nationally and globally.”

The public opinion poll will go into the field in June and findings are expected to be published in September.

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About the Sacramento Region Food System Action Plan (FSAP): FSAP was a seminal study conducted by the Foundation in partnership with Valley Vision in 2015 and provided a common framework along with integrated goals, strategic priorities, and recommended actions to strengthen the food system for the region. Intended to serve as a roadmap for food system development, function, and investment, the FSAP identified several disconnects in the food system, including the gaps between great food abundance and a vibrant economic sector, high levels of food insecurity, poor food-related health outcomes, and missed opportunities for local food sourcing and markets.

About the Sacramento Region Community Foundation: For over 35 years, the Sacramento Region Community Foundation has been the capital area’s trusted steward of charitable assets and champion for impactful philanthropy. The Foundation’s mission is to transform the capital area through focused leadership and advocacy that inspire partnerships and expand giving.

About Valley Vision: For more than 25 years Valley Vision has used research to help governments, businesses, foundations and community groups better understand the issues facing our region. We believe that knowing and understanding the facts is the best way to establish a common working foundation for collaborative problem-solving. That’s why Valley Vision conducts, produces and interprets research including scientific public opinion polls, focus groups, community needs assessments, best practice studies and other research tools to bring to light the information local leaders need to improve our communities.

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