Inequities throughout the food system have negatively impacted communities of color disproportionately. The recent events of COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter protests have highlighted the pressing need to do things differently – with food equity helping to provide a more just future. We seek to address systemic injustices by prioritizing shifts in policy and practice that benefit those most directly impacted by inequity. Systemic issues must be addressed by looking to upstream solutions that address the root cause. By doing so, we seek to establish an equitable food system that is rooted in synergistic community-driven solutions. Solutions which promote overall health and wellbeing through the stewardship of sustainable land-use practices, culturally relevant community education, skills and leadership development, financial access and increased ownership in all parts of the food system.
Inequity in Marin County
The abundance of locally grown organic foods and healthy lifestyle practices has meant that Marin County is regularly named as one of the healthiest places to live. Yet, healthy lifestyles are not equally achievable, as Marin has also been labeled as one of the most inequitable counties in California.1 Certain communities have access to some of the highest quality foods in the world, while others have difficulties securing food and shelter. Throughout the County we see a disproportionate harmful impact on the health and wellbeing in Black and Latinx communties. Demographic data shows inequities are clearly drawn across the color line in Marin County with issues being most prevalent within communities of color in Marin City, Canal, Novato, and West Marin. These inequities have been reinforced and perpetuated by public policies and practices which upheld systemic racism.
In the Bay Area these practices began with the removal of the Ohlone (Coast Miwok in Marin) people from their lands. Historical and current local decisions around policy making, land-use practices, housing affordability, and other public policies have deepened the inequitable divide between health, wealth, and security. The high cost of living paired with limited housing supply has furthered these disparities and the ability for all communities to thrive. Covert discriminatory practices such as racial covenants placed by Homeowner Associations have also played a role in limited housing opportunities and thus access to essential services and amenities. A 2020 report found over 40 impediments to Fair Housing Choice in these same communities of color. Structural limitations such as these have limited opportunities for communities of color to build wealth and own land, thus also impacting food access. As our current conditions have been human created, we hold the opportunity to do things differently by addressing structural inequities at their root and creating an equitable Marin County.
Draft Guiding Principles
The Marin County HEAL Collaborative is committed to the goal of an equitable food system on native Coast Miwok lands. We understand that the global industrial food system has caused harm to our bodies, communities, and the Earth through extracting valuable resources and inserting detrimental toxins. The impacts of this burden are not felt equally throughout our communities, as some have access to boutique food outlets and artisanal food producers with high nutritional value, while others must rely on emergency food security programs often of poor nutritional value. The colonization of food systems have replaced and commodified traditional/ancestral food ways, particularly in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, with highly processed foods that have limited nutritional value and are high in sugar, salt, and artificial ingredients. Despite the belief that inequities are caused by individual behaviors, these inequities are a result of structural violence and systemic racism that include policies, practices, and resource allocations that create grossly unequal conditions in which people live. The cumulative impact of living under these oppressive systems, and the consistent trauma that is experienced as a result, leads to not only poor physical health but also poor mental health, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, substance abuse and addiction.
It is imperative to address poverty and social exclusion as a root cause of health inequities while also working to address social determinants of health, including reducing barriers to housing, healthy food and beverages, education, safe neighborhoods and environments, employment, healthcare, among others. In addition, it is necessary to address disparities from holistic approaches such as bio psycho-social models and mind, body, spirit models that take into account the whole person and the communities in which they live.
As such, we commit to upholding the following principles to guide us in our collective effort towards greater equity in Marin County:
- Collaborations: Center work on intersecting and aligning strategic partnerships to leverage existing community resources and wisdom.
- Community Driven: Create meaningful opportunities for community engagement and leadership to inform and drive solutions from the ground up in historically excluded communities.
- Systems Change: Prioritize efforts that lead towards greater systems shifts and upstream solutions that address root causes and will promote greater equity within the food system.
- Capacity Building: Program implementation provides skill building and workforce development opportunities for impacted community members.
- Outcomes Driven: Work towards impactful outcomes that capture meaningful results on a community level for long lasting change.
- Sustainability: Align food systems work with mitigating climate change, stewardship of the Earth, and the wellbeing of food workers.
- Healthy Foods: Remove financial and accessibility barriers for communities to have healthy bodies through the access of nutrient dense and culturally relevant foods.
- Lasting Change: Promote long-term policy, systems, and environmental change towards a more equitable food system.
- Affordable: Prioritize providing opportunities that are of no or little cost to impacted community members.
- Marin County. “Report: Marin is Healthiest County in State”. News Release, March 19, 2019. Last visited 7/1/2020.
- Marin County. “Equity in Marin County”. Livestories Data Set. Last visited 7/1/2020
- Federated Indians of Granton Rancheria. “Historical Background and Timeline”. Last visited 7/8/2020
- Marin County Community Development Agency. ”County of Marin Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice.” January 2020 Report. Last visited 7/1/2020.
- Jones, Allison. “Territory Acknowledgement.” Last visited 7/8/2020
- Kuang, Sarah. “Farming While Black: Dismantling Racism in the Food System” CUESA web article February 7, 2020. Last visited 7/1/2020.
- San Francisco Sugary Drinks Distributor Tax Advisory Committee. “Budget Recommendations and Principles”. March 2020 Report. Last visited 7/1/2020