A Federal Advocacy Agenda
Right now is a critical time to be engaged with the Federal government. There are once-in-a-generation resources available for the “big play” investments that our region needs to grow and thrive. Valley Vision has a long history of participating in our region’s annual Cap-to-Cap trip hosted by the Sacramento Metro Chamber.
This year we had leadership, or Co-Chair roles, on four teams (Air Quality, Economic Development, Food & Ag, and Workforce), and Trish Kelly, our Managing Director, served as Honorary Chair of the trip in recognition of her role in the region as a policy expert as well as her many years of Cap-to-Cap leadership. Our five Valley Vision staff who attended advanced our region’s sophisticated advocacy agendas; read about their experiences below.
Each year, the Sacramento Metro Chamber puts together an excellent and well-regarded “Capitol-to-Capitol” Federal advocacy program – the biggest of any Chamber-led effort in the country. Attending the program is an enormous honor and privilege, with 407 participants this year, including 100+ freshmen and 100+ elected officials, and a whole lot of others with important leadership roles in our region. This year was no exception – the Chamber absolutely nailed the look and feel of the 2023 program.
The meat of the program is fast-paced advocacy meetings with our legislative delegation as well as committee and agency staff. The Cleaner Air Partnership, which Valley Vision staffs, leads one of twelve policy-focused “teams” dedicated to air quality. This year, our team elevated specific investments in Future Mobility projects like the ZEV Deployment Strategy and CA Mobility Center, and technical but extremely important policy fixes like letting air districts “write off” smoke from preventative prescribed fire instead of getting dinged by U.S. EPA. We are following up this week and next on these important “Asks” and look forward to continued engagement throughout the year as we continue to work toward cleaner air for all.
Grace Kaufman & Trish Kelly
Each year, Valley Vision’s participation in the Capitol to Capitol provides us an opportunity to advocate for the needs of the Sacramento Region on a national level. This year, the Food and Agriculture team was particularly impactful in highlighting the importance of the food system and the agricultural industry to the region’s economy and overall well-being. The team focused on the importance of supporting local food farms. ranches, food producers, nonprofits, food banks, restaurants, local governments, schools, hospitals, and businesses across the supply chain to ensure access to healthy, locally-sourced food for all. We advocated for improvements in the 2023 Farm Bill that would ensure access to critical programs that address food insecurity – a major challenge in our region – such as CalFresh. The discussions with our congressional delegation and agencies such as USDA and EDA provided the opportunity to highlight several of the region’s food and ag projects, focus on food as medicine, learn about new resources, and elevate our region as a place where all things food and ag are coming together through innovative and collaborative partnerships.
Over the course of five days, the program was an invaluable opportunity to engage with policymakers and advocate for programs that would benefit the region’s agricultural industry and ensure that everyone has access to healthy, nutritious, and local food. Meeting with congressional and administration leaders who are advancing the National Strategy on Hunger Nutrition and Health led to commitments to continue working together this coming year.
To read more about food and ag in the Sacramento region, check out our website at wearefarmtofork.org.
Trish and I also had the opportunity to tour the West Wing of the White House. It was my first time visiting Washington DC and seeing the historic building that has housed the world’s most powerful leaders was truly awe-inspiring.
During the tour, we were shown the various rooms and corridors of the West Wing, including the Oval Office, the Cabinet Room, and the Situation Room (and in case you’re wondering-yes, the vacuum lines are perfect in the Oval Office). The press room, a room that offers a glimpse into the inner workings of the media and the way news is reported from the White House, was a huge highlight of the tour for me.
Participating in the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s Cap to Cap program provides a well-orchestrated vehicle for regional leaders to advocate in unison on important policy issues. In the area of workforce development, major federal legislation is currently in the reauthorization process. This includes the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which provides the most significant federal investment in workforce education and training programs. Additionally, the National Apprenticeship Act, which has not been reauthorized since 1937, is being shaped and expanded. Participating in meetings with congressional leaders and committees that design these and other legislation brings an opportunity to express what works well, and what is in need of adjustment from the folks doing the work on the ground.
I have found the folks in Washington to be very interested in our efforts in California, in the region, and particularly appreciate specific examples of how the components of legislation either benefit or constrain local efforts. This year also provided an opportunity to shine a light on collaborative efforts in workforce and education unique to California and the Greater Sacramento area.
Cap-to-Cap not only enables our region to connect with federal representatives and agencies, but it also creates a concentrated space to connect with each other. Through team meetings, receptions, mixers, and plenty of informal gatherings our region goes to Washington to get things done in the Sacramento region. Key on my mind during the trip was inclusive economic development. Through the Economic Development team, we advocated for our key priorities from the Prosperity Strategy, timely investments in broadband infrastructure, support to build out our innovative ecosystem of entrepreneurs, and a continued emphasis on international trade that connects our businesses to the global marketplace.
With Valley Vision leading the regional Community Economic Resilience Fund effort, we are well-positioned to hone in on the ways that federal partners can help us leverage this state investment to amplify the impact. Our region is also exploring the ways that new legislation might help support regional economic goals. One example is the CHIPS and Science Act – a recent federal investment in high-tech manufacturing designed to strengthen manufacturing, supply chains, and national security. We found our federal partners to be responsive to our goals and we found many opportunities and alignments with them and among each other as we work to support thriving, equitable, and sustainable communities here at home.
Introducing Erica Taylor, Valley Vision’s New Board Chair
Erica Taylor, Golden 1 Credit Union’s Vice President of Communications & Community Relations and the newly-appointed Valley Vision Board Chair, introduces herself and talks about her hopes for the organization in this exclusive Q&A.
Q: Can you briefly describe who you are, your background, and what led you to where you are now?
A: I serve as the Vice President of Communications and Community Relations at Golden 1 Credit Union. I’m going on my eighth year here, and I’ve lived in Sacramento for about 20 years. I’ve done similar work my entire time here as far as community relations, communications, and marketing-type roles, and I love it.
I grew up in Redding. I lived here very briefly as a child, so at least I was familiar with my I-99 and my I-5 versus my I-80 and my I-50. I was ahead of the game when we moved here, and it has absolutely become home. Both of my daughters were born here. My husband’s from Los Angeles and he likes it here. It’s not as sleepy as Redding, but not as busy as L.A., so Sacramento is just the best for us.
Q: What inspired you to want to come on to the board & what made you want to come onto leadership?
A: I’ve been on Valley Vision’s Board of Directors for five years now. With COVID, it feels like a lifetime ago. I would say I was inspired to join the Valley Vision board because of the organization itself. In my role, I was familiar with Valley Vision through the different kinds of work they’ve done in the community.
I always thought that they presented thoughtful ideas without an agenda. I always appreciated the independent thought that came from Valley Vision.
Q: What is a critical takeaway you learned from serving on Valley Vision’s board?
A: A critical takeaway I learned from serving on the board is that there are very thoughtful and bright people who are dedicated to making this region the very best it can be. The past couple of years have been really, really rough on all of us. The pandemic, the economy, the political kind of world we live in now—it’s different, and not the great type of different at times.
But I will tell you, each and every board meeting is filled with thoughtful conversations, filled with people who truly care. And it convinces me that we can do this. We can make things better. So, I’m always inspired. I always learn something new and it’s just a pleasure to work with everyone connected to Valley Vision, from the board to the staff.
Q: Bonus question! Do you have any recommendations for your favorite food and/or activities around Sacramento?
A: Favorite food or activity around Sacramento? Well, as a representative of Golden 1 Credit Union, I would be remiss if I did not mention the gem of a venue that we have downtown. I know it means something different to someone who works there, but it’s just very exciting to support all of the sporting events, concerts, and other fun things that pop up.
Beyond that, this is the best place on the planet to live for various other reasons. Growing up in Redding, I could be at a national park in 90 minutes. I could be at our little local ski hill in 50 minutes. I could be at a lake swimming or house-boating or skiing in half an hour. It was so great, and Sacramento is very much like that. It really has all the amenities of a bigger city, but recreation is just a heartbeat away. We are so fortunate for that.
As far as food—I can’t even narrow it down! There is such great food here, and I can’t pick one favorite.
Q: As Board Chair, what are your hopes for Valley Vision?
The future’s uncertain, but I still think it’s bright. And I still think this is the very best place on the planet to live. It’s the very best place to raise my family, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Maybe the best is yet to come.
Get Connected! California: A Call to Action
New Campaign Helps to Close the Digital Divide by Providing Affordable, High-Speed Internet to Low-Income Families
The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare throughout our region and nationally the existing and pervasive disparities in access to affordable, reliable high-speed Internet. These disparities accelerated through the rapid shift to remote work and learning, online access to vital services, e-commerce, and social connectivity. This Digital Divide hinders the upward mobility of unserved and underserved communities, resulting in inequities across all aspects of life, with profound economic and social impacts on communities.
One important solution to bridging the Digital Divide is the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program helping families and households get connected to affordable broadband and devices through a monthly subsidy. The program helps to ensure that eligible households can access affordable high-speed internet for school, work and healthcare, among many other needs.
However, enrollment levels for this important program are very low. More than 385,000 households are eligible for this program in our region, but only 89,675 households have enrolled – just 23% overall. There are still more than 295,000 eligible households which are unenrolled, a gap of 76% must be filled in order to bridge the Digital Divide. Enrollment rates vary by county – see table below. We are leaving behind subsidies for our families worth millions of dollars in monthly Internet subscription fees behind.
Call to Action: CETF Get Connected! CA Statewide Mobilization
A similar gap statewide is why California leaders are mobilizing to greatly expand ACP enrollment. In March 2022, the California Broadband Council (CBC) issued a “Call to Action” to get 90% of all eligible low-income households online by 2024 with high-speed internet service, and 95% by 2027.
In response, the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), along with the California Department of Technology (CDT), California Department of Education (CDE), California State Library, and California State Association of Counties (CSAC), are coordinating a statewide mobilization campaign to promote the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) known as GetConnected! California.
Through this campaign, partners will distribute ACP information to all eligible recipients, and are working together with a statewide network of community-based organizations (CBOs) who are the “trusted messengers” to organize in-person sign-up locations to assist residents in ACP enrollment.
The direct communications and mobilization campaign is focused on August 2022 as the first Get Connected! California month, when students are returning to school and in coordination with back- to-school activities. The mobilization efforts will distribute information about the ACP benefit, eligibility requirements, and where to get enrollment help to reach every family with a child on the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), all participants on Medi-Cal and CalFresh, Pell grant students, and library patrons in priority neighborhoods throughout the state.
Get Connected! California mobilization is happening now! Given that 90% of the ACP-Eligible Households are on Medi-Cal, CalFresh, and National School Lunch Program, the first phase of organizing has been to ensure that all Counties and Schools (with support of State Agencies) are preparing to reach all the households on these public assistance programs.
In our region we are working with partners on strategies to enroll eligible households for the ACP. Some of the activities include:
- Promoting Get Connected! California through local contacts
- Distributing information to eligible households
- Hosting an enrollment assistance site on Get Connected! California Day – August 27, 2022
- Coordinating Get Connected! California activities for your county
- Supporting future Get Connected California! events and activities, including back to school activities
- PSA placement
With all our combined efforts, unserved and underserved households who are eligible will have access to affordable high-speed internet and we will be one step closer to bridging the Digital Divide. Let’s all mobilize together to bring broadband access to the most disadvantaged communities!
Thank you to all our partners, and a huge thank you to the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) in leading this “Call to Action” and for supporting Valley Vision in this effort!
See below for more information on the ACP program.
The FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP): Who is Eligible?
Program Benefits for Eligible Households:
- A discount of up to $30/month for internet service
- A discount of up to $75/month towards internet service for households on qualifying Tribal lands
- A one-time discount of up to $100 towards purchase of laptops, computers, or tablets from participating providers
Affordable Connectivity Program Eligibility:
Per the FCC program guidelines, a household is eligible if the household income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or if a member of the household meets at least one of the criteria below:
- Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
- Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income internet program;
- Participates in one of these assistance programs:
- The National School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision;
- Federal Public Housing Assistance
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Veterans Pension or Survivor Benefits
- or Lifeline;
- Participates in one of these assistance programs and lives on Qualifying Tribal lands:
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Tribal TANF
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
- Tribal Head Start (income based)
Visit California Department of Technology’s webpage for Broadband For All to track enrollment in your county and region, where up to date information and enrollment progress is made available by CETF in partnership with the Geographical Information Center at Chico State Enterprises (CSE).
To continue staying up to date with all of the region’s broadband efforts, subscribe to Valley Vision’s e-Connect email newsletter!
Kathy Saechou is a Valley Vision Project Associate supporting its Clean Economy and broadband initiatives.
Trish Kelly is Valley Vision’s Managing Director, leading its food, agriculture, and broadband initiatives.
A Dose of (Climate) Reality
A blast of 109-degree air hit me as I exited the absurdly air conditioned Planet Hollywood casino on the Las Vegas Strip. It was June 10th, 2022, and Southern Nevada was having its hottest day of the year (thus far).
Ironically, I was there to learn, collaborate, and connect as part of the 2022 cohort of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps. So much for glitz, glamour, and excess – things were getting very real in the Nevada desert.
The Climate Reality Project is the organization founded by former Vice President Al Gore using proceeds from the unexpected success of 2006’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ film and accompanying book. Today, the organization is an international nonprofit on the leading edge of education and advocacy related to climate change, and the Leadership Corps program is intended to build the capacity of climate leaders and their networks for action.
Mr. Gore continues to anchor the organization in many ways, but over the course of two-and-a-half days we were able to get to know Climate Reality’s talented and diverse staff, as well as activists, scientists, and skilled communicators from across the Americas, including dozens of Indigenous leaders on the frontlines of climate action in their communities (with an emphasis on the American Southwest). I was particularly excited to connect with William J. Barber III, Climate Reality’s Director of Climate and Environmental Justice and the son of William Barber II, a well-known preacher and co-chair of the national Poor People’s Campaign, as well as Dr. Elena Krieger, Director of Research with PSE Energy (Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Healthy Energy) and a partner in community air protection projects in California.
There is strong connectivity with the work that Valley Vision has been doing for years to advocate for clean air policies, advance neighborhood-based air monitoring and emissions reduction efforts, and to support innovative projects like the California Mobility Center.
That being said, I was participating primarily as a member of the Global Shapers – Sacramento Hub, a local group affiliated with the World Economic Forum’s international network of over 14,000 young leaders across 448 city-based Hubs in 146 countries. The Sacramento Shapers have been working with Climate Reality locally on a water conservation project, conducting door-to-door outreach, distributing resources, and providing micro-grants to artists working on water conservation-related projects.
Leadership Corps participants were treated to a full-length, up-to-date version of the famous ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ PowerPoint presentation on the first day of the training, as well as a shortened 10-minute version, both delivered by Mr. Gore. We also learned how best to communicate about climate change, and reflected on our own personal brand of climate activism taking into account our unique skills and backgrounds. We developed and practiced hands-on skills, and were presented with powerful information about the latest climate science, best practices, and technological advancements needed to support a global transition away from greenhouse gas use.
The training made very clear the linkage between the global climate crisis and the environmental racism faced by the communities of color most impacted by climate change. People of color in the US are exposed to up to 63% more pollution than they produce – while white people are exposed to 17% less. Fossil fuel air pollution contributed to nearly one in five premature deaths in 2018. Sometimes the climate crisis can feel nebulous to those who don’t reside in frontline communities, and this relationship is incredibly important to make evident when doing this work.
Across the world-class speakers and hands-on trainings, there were several direct quotes that really resonated with me:
- Shabd Singh: “How do you build people power? The answer is simple – one conversation at a time.”
- Van Jones (not present): “The green economy should not just be about reclaiming throw-away stuff. It should be about reclaiming thrown-away communities.”
- Alexa Aispuro Loaiza: “White allies can support communities of concern in the following way – lead by following.”
- Tim Guinee: “Action is the antidote to despair about the climate crisis.”
All that being said – hope is critical if there is to be progress. Despair is just another form of denial. And if we truly care about our planet and its people, we will build the relationships, educate our communities, and advocate for solutions that benefit those most impacted. I’ll end this blog the same way that Mr. Gore closed the two-and-a-half-day training: “Political will is a sustainable resource.” Let’s do this!
Note: Masks were required at all times except during meals and while taking photos, as a COVID-19 precaution. Photos used as part of this blog do not reflect the in-person experience.
To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!
Adrian Rehn is a Valley Vision Project Leader overseeing the Cleaner Air Partnership, Sacramento Neighborhoods Activating on Air Quality, and Valley Vision’s flagship ‘Vantage Point’ email newsletter.
Cap-to-Cap Returns to D.C. – A First-Timer’s Experience
After over two years of a mostly virtual work environment, I didn’t quite know what to expect from the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s annual week-long Cap-to-Cap program. Not only would it be my first Cap-to-Cap experience, it would also be one of the first few times since March 2020 that I would be interacting with folks face-to-face, instead of Zoom square-to-Zoom square. In conversations with “veterans” (those who’ve attended prior Cap-to-Cap trips), I gathered that it was going to be a whirlwind week of events, meetings, and huddles — with few chances to catch a breath, and many opportunities to connect with regional and federal leaders.
To be sure, our region’s annual delegation to D.C. is a force – The Chamber’s Cap-to-Cap program has been happening nearly every year since 1970, representing the largest and longest-standing delegation of its kind. In that time, Cap-to-Cap has driven steady and consistent advocacy, ushering significant advances for business and community development, an inclusive economy, and a vibrant, healthy and connected region.
This year, Valley Vision staff played an active leadership role in Cap-to-Cap’s policy advancement. We Co-Chaired or served as Issue Experts on the Air Quality, Economic Development, and Food and Agriculture teams, and participated in the Workforce and Education team. On each team, we shaped policy papers and communicated critical regional issues to federal agencies and our elected officials, as well as continued building a network of relationships with federal legislative and agency representatives that continues throughout the year and brings added benefit to the region.
It was an honor to be able to champion our region side by side with local elected officials and jurisdictions, foundations and nonprofits, utilities, healthcare providers, industry representatives, among many others. And the running joke — that of course we all had to fly clear across the country to meet people from our own region — certainly has some truth to it. Because being in our nation’s capital, against the backdrop of Capitol Hill and the national monuments, with the common goal of elevating the needs and priorities of our region, brings us all together in an exceptionally meaningful way and gives us the opportunity to connect with folks who we don’t regularly cross paths with back home.
I’m especially grateful to have participated in the Cap-to-Cap program at such an important time for our region. New, unprecedented investments in regional economic recovery — financial commitments to infrastructure, economic, environmental, and community resilience through both state and federal government channels — present our region with the opportunity to rebuild and grow sustainably, with a commitment to community and equity at the center of it. These include the Community Economic Resilience Fund (“CERF”), a one-time use of State general funds that will distribute $600 million to regions across California to support inclusive and low carbon economic development; a $6 billion investment in California’s broadband infrastructure and enhancing internet access for unserved and underserved communities; and billions in American Rescue Plan Act funds distributed through the Economic Development Administration for advancing high-growth sector and workforce priorities, just to name a few. We’ve certainly got our work cut out for us, to ensure that our region makes the most of this once-in-a-generation opportunity.
Championing our region to elevate its challenges and successes, breaking bread with regional change-makers, making my way around Capitol Hill — my first Cap-to-Cap experience was one for the books, and I’m already looking forward to the next one!
To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!
Isa Avanceña is Valley Vision’s Manager of Research and Policy.
Our Core Values in Action
With our mission of creating livable communities by advancing social equity, environmental sustainability, and economic prosperity for the region, Valley Vision has been a constant and steady presence in the area for 28 years.
Our work has always been values-centered, although we haven’t always clearly expressed those values for ourselves or others. Over the past several months, our staff and Board took an exercised approach to tease out the fundamental ideals that drive our work and articulate who we are. We are proud to share:
- STEWARDSHIP: We exist to serve our communities to advance social equity, environmental sustainability, and economic prosperity.
- COLLABORATION: We value building genuine connections that honor our communities and partners.
- COURAGE: We are willing to do hard things.
- PASSION: We are energized by our work and our communities.
Values are only words on paper without commitments and practices that support them. The following depicts our intentions to live out these values.
The values that we hold provide a foundation for the work we do and the way we do it. When we are supporting healthy food systems, developing equitable workforce pathways, or launching a new regional initiative for equitable and low carbon economic growth – these values should shine through. Our goal is to ensure that our values are apparent to all who work with us in the ways we engage and activate our work. We welcome your dialogue and feedback.
What are the values that anchor and guide you? Let’s support each other in activating values-driven leadership to foster equitable, sustainable, and prosperous communities.
To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!
Evan Schmidt is Valley Vision’s Chief Executive Officer.
Our Bright Future in 2022: Best Case Scenarios for the Sacramento Region
Valley Vision has a longstanding making “bold predictions for the new year.” This is my second new year as CEO in which I’ve held this responsibility and, I have to say, these years have not been at all predictable! 2021 did not go as anyone predicted, and 2022 has already gone sideways. So, what do I think we can expect for 2022? The unexpected – what else? Instead of dwelling on the uncertainties that we are all living with everyday, I’d like to envision our brightest future and best case scenarios for the Sacramento region in 2022. What can we achieve, even in the face of uncertain times?
Major Economic Recovery Dollars Invested in the Capital Region
State and federal government recovery and infrastructure programs are paving the way for historic investments in economic recovery, workforce, broadband, transportation, climate resilience, and more. With so many competitive grant processes, our region has the opportunity to advance major big picture initiatives and win the dollars to fund them. Our best case scenario: we rise to the challenge as a region and bring in transformative change ushering in equitable recovery for our region. Learn more about and get involved in Valley Vision’s effort to secure Community Economic Resilience Funds for our region as a start.
The Capital Region is a National Leader in Low Carbon Economy and Climate Resilience
Our region has some of the most ambitious emission reduction goals in the nation and the ingredients to make meaningful progress to foster clean innovation in advanced mobility, clean energy, electrification, and climate smart agriculture and overall climate adaptation. In our best case scenario, we advance ambitious and cohesive regional plans and initiatives that make our region more climate resilient and grow our innovative and vibrant clean economy. Check out economic goals identified in the Prosperity Strategy, SMUD’s ambitious 2030 Plan, the California Mobility Center, and SACOG’s Green Means Go initiative for a few examples of our regional commitment to a clean economy.
Sacramento Community Rallies to Address Homelessness
Our unhoused population has increased throughout the pandemic and divisions of how to address housing and homelessness have overtaken our ability to advance reasonable solutions. In our best case scenario: Public agencies, elected officials, civic organizations, service providers, advocates, and residents work together to implement new programming, effectively site new facilities, and meaningfully reduce the number of people who are living unhoused and on the streets. Learn more about the City of Sacramento’s Response Plan.
The Sacramento Region Closes the Digital Divide
There are significant dollars available this year to support the expansion of broadband infrastructure and digital inclusion, resulting in increased access to the Internet and opportunities to improve digital equity in communities throughout the region. In our best case scenario: we are able to capture those dollars; build our broadband infrastructure and address technology access; and create digital literacy and skills training for all who need it (in our best case scenario we win funding to support digital skills training through the Good Jobs Challenge). Learn more about the Infrastructure and Jobs Act and Valley Vision’s work on broadband access and managing the Sacramento Coalition to close the digital divide.
The Comeback of Downtown Sacramento
In 2019, downtown Sacramento was building on the momentum of the Golden 1 Center, breaking ground with Railyards development and the new SAFE Credit Union Convention Center, and more. Then – the pandemic hit. In our best case scenario: downtown picks up where it left off and then some – building on existing assets and embodying a vibrant and equitable pandemic recovery as the economic hub of our region. We envision workers returning to offices, enhanced public transit, a vibrant arts and culture scene, robust tourism and events, and safe, clean, and humane conditions for all. Check out the work of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership.
Are these headlines just pipe dreams? They are optimistic but I believe these scenarios are well within our grasp. We CAN usher in major investments this year and we DO have the ability to advance ambitious, innovative, equitable, and collaborative solutions. There are tremendous and historical investment opportunities, many expressed through the American Rescue Plan, the California 2022-2023 Budget proposal, the Jobs and Infrastructure Bill, and more. In addition to these programs, we have seen how communities have worked together to address the issues that most impact our communities throughout the pandemic, creating lightning-fast emergency response and adapting quickly to meet community needs. We can envision and enact a more equitable, sustainable, and prosperous future for our region. What will be required? A healthy civic culture and dialogue, the creation of shared agendas, a commitment to collaboration, and a willingness to learn and try new things.
Let 2022 be the year that – despite unpredictable conditions and continued challenges – our region finds ways to achieve our best case scenarios and create systems that are stronger, more adaptive, and more equitable, sustainable, and vibrant than ever before.
Evan Schmidt is Valley Vision’s Chief Executive Officer.
What Are You Grateful for in 2021?
As each year comes to a close, Valley Vision staff reflect on what we have been grateful for over the past year. It’s an annual tradition, and we are excited to share our reflections with you. Thank you for continuing to support and collaborate with us!
Isa Avanceña: “I’m grateful for all the meals shared with family and friends, and time spent outdoors! I’m especially grateful for finally being reunited with my parents after more than two years of not being together! They arrive on Saturday from the Philippines.”
Renee John: “I am grateful for an amazing team dedicated to improving the lives of our region’s residents and for the collaborative efforts of a whole ecosystem of partners striving for a better future for all.”
Alan Lange: “I was grateful to read that charitable giving throughout the nation reached record levels in 2020. I am hopeful that the trend continued through this year. It is heartening to see individuals, businesses, and foundations step up when so many are in need. (And yes, I’m also grateful that the stock market helped buoy the charitable spirit!).”
Brittnii Johnson: “I’m grateful for all the simple things in life that I don’t take the time to appreciate. For example, family, friends that became family, the ability to care for myself, and having a place to live. I’m grateful to experience love in action.”
Grace Kaufman: “I’m grateful for experiences that provide me with a deeper appreciation of life and free me from distractions.”
Angelina Olweny: “I am grateful for good health and the opportunity to be part of a team and organization that is committed to making a positive difference in communities in the Sacramento region.”
Trish Kelly: “I’m very grateful that loved ones have made it safely through the year, that we are able to do work at Valley Vision that contributes to the community, and that the people we work with enrich our lives through rich and caring partnerships.”
Danielle Susa: “I am grateful for the people in my life who remind me why life is precious. I am also grateful for the simpler moments that remind me why life is beautiful.”
Evan Schmidt: “I’m grateful for the health and wellbeing of loved ones over the course of the year, the ability to do work that improves lives and communities, and moments of fun and levity with family and friends.”
Caitlin Blockus: “I am grateful to have adopted my sweet rescue dog in 2021, who has taught me many lessons in patience and understanding, and brought me so much joy and love. I am also grateful for COVID-19 vaccines and the ability to reconnect with my family.”
Natalie Garcia: “I’m grateful to have the opportunity to explore California’s diverse landscapes through van camping. And also grateful to have met some new awesome and authentic friends.”
Adrian Rehn: “I am grateful that myself and my loved ones have their health, and for being able to safely explore much of our country this past Summer.”
Our Federal Policy “Asks” for a Resilient Food System
The small but mighty 2021 Food and Ag Cap-to-Cap Team is back prepping for the Metro Chamber’s annual regional advocacy program, which will be held virtually during the last week of October. As America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital, the Team strives to elevate the importance of the $12 billion+ food and agriculture economic cluster, highlighting innovations and initiatives across our food system, and leveraging federal policies, programs and investments.
After the Spring 2020 Cap-to-Cap visit was postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team continued to work with regional, state and federal partners on issues that have even more urgency than before – strengthening the resiliency of the regional food system, and ensuring a strong workforce. Our third big issue – broadband connectivity, access and adoption, which focused on supporting our rural economies and driving adoption of agri-food technologies – has broadened to a high overall regional priority, given all the impacts from the pandemic. We’re grateful to the Cap-to-Cap Economic Development Team for taking on this issue, linking to it as one of the region’s key infrastructure strategies.
To strengthen the region’s resilience, one Cap-to-Cap priority is to target institutional procurement policy changes that will expand local purchasing and supply chains and support local growers, food processors, distributors, and more. We are seeking increased flexibility in the USDA National School Lunch Program’s procurement regulations so local school districts can receive Cash in Lieu of Commodities – meaning school districts can use funds to purchase local goods instead of having to obtain food products from outside the state. This is a true Farm-to-School approach. As we have for many years, we continue to support the development of food system infrastructure such as food hubs, central kitchens at schools, and other facilities and equipment to increase opportunities for farm-to-institution procurement, including for hospitals. We have excellent examples of local procurement initiatives such as with Sacramento City Unified School District’s Nutrition Services and UC Davis Health system that have greatly expanded local purchasing, supporting the local economy and also delivering more than 65,000 fresh and healthy meals daily prepared by our local chefs. We also have a goal to address SNAP eligibility requirements for food insecure college students across the region.
Our other Cap-to-Cap priority is supporting the food and ag cluster’s workforce. Pre-COVID, there was already a skills gap and a pipeline gap across the economic cluster. With the average farmer being 57.5 years of years of age and the average skilled manufacturing (food processing) worker being 55 years of age, we now face a new challenge of worker retention, along with increased demand for digital and agri-tech skills across the entire industry. And of course, we want to ensure that our farmworkers and other front-line workers who kept the regional food system and supply chain going – through health crises and climate challenges, to ensure safe and healthy food for all of us – have safe working conditions and opportunities for income mobility. The Team supports increased federal investments in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, including for training, industry partnerships, and apprenticeships among others, to reskill, upskill, retain, recruit and grow the next generation of farmers, food entrepreneurs and food system workers. We also support legislation to provides certified agricultural workers with a path to help achieve earned legal status.
The Cap to Cap team is led by Honey Agency, Sacramento City Unified School District Nutrition Services, Valley Vision and Wilson Vineyards. Valley Vision is excited that this year’s program also will benefit from the update of the Food System Action Plan from 2015, prepared in partnership with the Sacramento Region Community Foundation, and the new Food System Resilience Poll, conducted in partnership with Sacramento State Institute for Social Research. These linked reports will be released in early October, giving us new insights for our food system. It will help drive the success of our Greater Sacramento Region Prosperity Strategy, in which food and agriculture is one of our three competitive advantage clusters. We’re also excited that Cap-to-Cap will provide the opportunity to work with our supportive Congressional delegation and new leaders at USDA and other agencies who hail from the region. Please join us to lend your voice and expertise to our food and ag mission!
To continue staying up to date with efforts to strengthen our regional food system, subscribe to Valley Vision’s Food for Thought email newsletter!
Trish Kelly is Valley Vision’s Managing Director, leading its food, agriculture, workforce, and broadband initiatives.
2021: A Time for Courageous Action
January is often when we make predictions for what is to come in the new year. But, if 2020 taught us anything, it is that we are living in an unpredictable world. And given the tumultuous start to 2021, it is likely we won’t be sailing through smooth waters.
With upcoming transfers of leadership, still-record-breaking COVID-19 infection rates, an aggressive national vaccine roll out needed, and with economic recovery and the need for climate resilience at the forefront, we know the 2021 waters will be choppy. Throughout 2020 we talked about the need to reimagine systems that are resilient and equitable. Without courage to take on hard things and focus on tackling complex problems together, we will come out the other side of the pandemic only to recreate inequitable systems that don’t meet the needs of all and can’t adapt to rapid changes that occur in our modern world. Here are some foundational questions and bold ideas from outside our region to inspire us in 2021.
Almost a year into the pandemic, our nation has lost tens of millions of jobs and while there will likely be additional support for small businesses with a new administration, economists have braced us for a slow recovery. Further, with rapidly accelerating changes to our economy and workplaces, many of the lost jobs may be gone permanently. We must push forward innovative and equitable solutions to help people re-enter the labor market. How do we address the dual challenge of the pandemic’s impacts on the economy and the rapidly changing and digitizing workforce? The Aspen Institute has launched a partnership with Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth to modernize the structure of worker benefits. The program, Benefits21, reimagines a 21st century worker benefits system that provides financial security to all, with a focus on inclusive, portable, people-centric, and interoperable benefits, including unemployment insurance, paid leave, training, and retirement. Additionally, mayors from around the nation are exploring how Universal Basic Income could be a part of a solution to pandemic response and economic insecurity in their communities. Finally, close to home, the Stanislaus Cradle to Career Partnership drives a highly collaborative and robust campaign approach to align institutions to ensure that every child has a path, plan, and a purpose.
2020 laid bare long term racial inequities and generated an increased sense of urgency to act. How do we move forward with racial equity as a central and driving force in community initiatives? The California Strategic Growth Council is working in collaboration with the Public Health Institute to support the Capitol Collaborative on Race & Equity (CCORE) – a racial equity capacity-building program for California State employees. The program offers cohorts for participants to receive training to learn about, plan for, and implement activities that embed racial equity approaches into institutional culture, policies, and practices. McKinsey offered a data report looking at the role of coalitions in advancing racial equity and W.K. Kellogg Foundation in partnership with Lever for Change is seeking proposals to close the racial equity gap so all children, families and communities can be more confident, healthier and secure in their trust of the systems and institutions that serve them. Registration is due January 28th.
2020 also made clear the necessity of digital access for all. Over 20 million people across the U.S. lack broadband access- yet connectivity is required for education, jobs, and basic services. How do we rapidly transition infrastructure and services to reflect an economy that requires full digital access? The City of San José, in partnership with the City of San José Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation, has engaged the California Emerging Technology Fund to establish the Digital Inclusion Partnership, a $24 million cross-sector fund that will be distributed in grant awards over a ten-year period. It is the city’s largest philanthropic effort in recent history and aims to provide universal connectivity and appropriate digital skills to 50,000 households. This robust effort is a public private partnership and in its first round of rounding will disperse $1M to organizations in San José who are closing the Digital Divide through expanding device access and digital literacy skills.
Housing and Homelessness
Homelessness continues to rise, with a new report from L.A. projecting homelessness doubling by 2023. Additionally, housing affordability challenges have only worsened in 2020 as income loss has occurred and while evictions were avoided, the weight of accumulated rent payments will hit many in 2021. What are the solutions that will help us launch and scale efforts to address housing affordability and homelessness? In Portland, Oregon, Mercy Corps created the Community Investment Trust (CIT) creating a fund that builds the possibility to strengthen communities and create empowered lives. The CIT offers a long-term path to collective, communal ownership of real-estate for investors starting from $10-$100 per month. In Vancouver, the charity Foundations for Social Change (FSC), in partnership with the University of British Columbia gave individuals experiencing homelessness $5,800 with no strings attached and saw very positive outcomes including the attainment of stable, long term housing and food security.
Another aspect of 2020 has been the opportunity to decrease commuting and spend more time in nature for many. Further, COVID-19 response has showed us that we can have the will to move quickly to enact policies and practices for the good of public health. How will we take the lessons of pandemic response and translate them into gains in climate response and resilience? Many cities are taking rapid approaches to increase active transportation, addressing climate change and responding to increased demand for safe walking and biking infrastructure. Paris has demonstrated that cities can go green fast and enact changes that go beyond the pandemic, and Stay Healthy Streets Seattle shows ways that bike lanes are being utilized in ways that improve health and environment.
Addressing these foundational questions for 2021 and learning about initiatives from outside our region inspires us to think differently, take action in new ways, build new types of partnerships, and advance bold solution sets about complex community problems.
Valley Vision supports livable communities in the Capital region by advancing economic prosperity, social equity, and environmental sustainability. We use actionable research, policy education and advocacy, collaboration, and program activation to advance our work. Some key priorities in 2021 will be: enacting a regional agenda for digital inclusion, supporting inclusive economic recovery and growth through Our Path Forward: The Prosperity Strategy, advancing climate resilience, and supporting decision-making with actionable research. Our next Vantage Point will include a focus on inspiring action being taken within our region – there have been a significant amount of that too!
What inspires you for 2021? Let us act courageously together to advance equity, prosperity, and sustainability in our region and in our communities.
Evan Schmidt is Valley Vision’s Chief Executive Officer.
An Integrated Approach to Innovation
On January 22, 2020, The City of Woodland, along with partners representing Food and Ag innovation, including Valley Vision, University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR), Greater Sacramento Economic Council (GSEC) and UC Davis, presented its second Ag Innovation Forum – Ag, Food & Health: An Integrated Approach to Innovation. This event highlighted Woodland, and the Greater Sacramento Region’s, critical role in integrating food and Ag entrepreneurship, industry, academia, and policy for a healthy and sustainable future.
The discussion focused on the Region’s opportunity to align and mobilize its world-class assets to build a state-of-the-art Research & Technology Park. The planned site will become an epicenter for research, as well as a Global Ag, Food & Health Center – a proposed public-private partnership integrating science and technology innovation for agriculture, food, and health, similar to proven models in Texas, New York, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Situated close to the University of California Davis and complementary to the planned Aggie Square development in Sacramento, Woodland is recognized for its agricultural innovation, food and plant science, food processing, as well as its investments in startup ecosystems. Its unique geographical location has made Woodland the perfect candidate for this endeavor. Secretary Karen Ross spoke to the importance of Woodland and its agricultural assets and contributions to the state’s economy. With the effects of climate change becoming more prevalent, especially in agriculture, innovation for our regional food and farming industries is critical.
The Secretary, and Lenny Mendonca, Chief Economic and Business Advisor at the State of California, both agreed that adaptation and investing in resiliency across agricultural production to adjust these major disruptors (i.e. floods, droughts, fires), is imperative. They also affirmed that research and development in new technologies that enable farmers can address these changes must be a top state priority. Furthermore, aligning the Region’s industry goals will allow the right capital and the right people the chance to work together to lead us on the path to “durable, equitable, profitable solutions.”
A moderated panel discussion led by Lon Hatamiya, The Hatamiya Group, continued the discussion with leaders supporting initiatives for our food and agricultural industries. Santana Diaz, Executive Chef, UC Davis Health, Trish Kelly, Managing Director, Valley Vision, Gabriel Youtsey, University of California Ag and Natural Resources, and Adam Englehardt, Englehardt Agricultural Services, and Tim Schaedler, Panattoni Development, all echoed the importance of expanding region’s innovation ecosystem through investments like the Woodland Research Technology Park, institutional procurement, and comprehensive financing programs, to uplift our regional food and ag economy.
Extending the Table
On February 24th, WomenUp Network, Uptown Studios, and Slow Food Sacramento hosted “Extending the Table” a discussion with local women leaders in the farm-to-fork movement. These inspiring women spoke on the exciting developments in the local food scene, their careers, challenges they had faced and shared advice on what it is like to lead a woman in this industry. Jodie Chavious, Slow Food Board Member, Charmaine Magale, Legado Spirits, Gerine Williams, Neighborworks/Oak Park Farmers Market, and Rachel Wallace, Echo and Rig, all participated in the wildly exciting and informative discussion. Tina Reynolds, from Uptown Studios, moderated the discussion.
The evening kicked off at Uptown Studios, with a wonderful spread of local foods prepared by Brenda Ruiz and Jodie Chavious, Chefs and Slow Food board members. Citrus shrimp ceviche, braised meatballs, fresh rye bread from Faria Bakery, cheese, and charcuterie, KC Kombucha, and other cocktails from Drinks by Dru were all on the menu. Truly delicious.
The panel discussion, lead by Renyolds, focused on the highlights and challenges these women faced as they journeyed through their careers. Each speaker addressing how she had chosen to balance or blow past the barriers placed in front of them.
In September 2018, Charmaine Mageale and her partners founded Legado Sprits, a “ bold new American whiskey crafted to deliver incredible flavor, developed by the female palate.” Magale revealed that many times she found her passion, knowledge, and business partners being questioned simply for not being “white, a man, and old.” But she refused to be deterred from the nay-sayers and skeptics, setting aside society’s expectations of a whiskey connoisseur, and instead became obsessed with creating a phenomenal product.
Touching on her life-long experiences as a chef, Jodie Charious came up the ranks, rather unscathed by many of the stories we see across headlines today, but very aware of the existence of unfair and sexist practices. Charious noted, “I was very fortunate” but her career did not come without struggle, admitting “Today, I don’t have any shame in asking for help, reaching for something on the top shelf, cutting through a bone of animal I’m breaking down.” The need for thick skin in this industry is imperative; being emotionally tough is a basic requirement, but with the leadership from chefs like Chef Charious, culinary communities are stepping into a new era.
Gerine Williams, spoke to the trends of Sacramento’s food and culinary community and the importance of supporting new, small, and entrepreneurial business. She emphasized that smaller producers need to be empowered to get their businesses off the ground. For too long, “the same people seem to get the same shot, over and over.” The result, the same business owners, the same style of foods, and the same price points, continue to pop up. This means communities lose out on having a diverse range of options. Williams followed up asking “How many places in Sacramento can you get a Fried Chicken Sandwich? Let’s get real”. Putting her words into action, Williams tries her best to provide opportunities through the Oak Park farmers market and in her personal life – going as far as purchasing food from smaller homemakers off Facebook Marketplace as a way to support entrepreneurs in her community.
After being pushed into a pastry position early in her career, like many women in the culinary space, Rachel Wallace dedicated herself to breaking through that traditional position where women often find themselves. “It’s typical to place women in Pastry, which isn’t a bad thing. There are some badass women pastry chefs out there” but it’s not where she saw herself staying. Wallace was determined to break out of that space and prove her skills as a chef. Today Wallace is the Chef de Cuisine at Echo and Rig, working alongside a team that promotes and advocates for a healthy workspace for everyone. “Be confident, own your space, and don’t let people say you don’t belong” were some of the characteristics she believes are imperative for women if they are going to enter the culinary workforce.
This event was supported by Slow Food Sacramento, WomenUp Network, Uptown Studios, SMUD, Tri-Counties Bank, Rani Pettis, Charles Vincent McDonald Photography, Crooked Lane Brewery, Drinks By Dru, Faria bakery, GoldLineBrands, Haarmeyer Estates, KC Kombucha, Legado spirits, Macy’s, Real Pie Company, Revolutions Wine, and Sacramento Natural Food Co-Op.
Valley Vision continues to support Farm to Fork efforts, and work being done to uplift the Sacramento Region’s namesake as America’s Farm to Fork Capital. We are excited to see events like “Extending the Table” taking place and being well-attended and supported by local businesses.
Subscribe to Valley Vision’s Food For Thought Newsletter to learn more about Food and Ag events and stay up to date about other work happening in our region!