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In ‘Farm to Fork Capital,’ many lack affordable and nutritious food, Sac State survey finds

Despite being home to events such as Farm to Fork Bites on the Bridge (above), the Sacramento region outpaces the national average in food insecurity, according to a study led by Sacramento State's Institute for Social Research. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

In a region that prides itself on its claim of being the nation’s “Farm to Fork Capital,” 16% of residents lack reliable access to affordable, nutritious food, a new survey led by Sacramento State’s Institute for Social Research shows.

The Food System Resilience Poll results, released recently by Valley Vision and Capital Public Radio, reveal troubling gaps in the region’s food system, researchers say.

The region’s farmers and ranchers produce billions of dollars in crops annually. The area hosts farmers markets, celebrates chefs, and is home to educational institutions that support agricultural research and innovation. Yet many residents have trouble affording and obtaining healthy food.

“Our data shows that we fall significantly short in some of the most fundamental ways,” said Valley Vision CEO Evan Schmidt. “Food security for all and access to healthy foods must be the backbone of our farm-to-fork promise.”

The poll is the latest collaboration between Sac State and Valley Vision, a nonprofit civic and research organization that identifies the region’s challenges and seeks solutions. CapRadio, which is licensed to Sacramento State, is highlighting the data in a series of reports this week.

For the Food Resilience Poll, researchers surveyed residents in Sacramento and surrounding counties this summer about their perceptions of the region’s food system, and impacts on their families and communities.

Among their key findings:

  • 16% of respondents said they have “very low” or “low” food security, about 6% higher than the nation overall.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic worsened food insecurity, but federal stimulus checks helped mitigate its impact.
  • 12% of respondents reported using food banks or pantries. Families with children and people of color were most likely to use these resources.
  • 82% agreed the region’s “America’s Farm to Fork Capital” identity is a point of pride.
  • 57% said they were “very concerned” about the impacts of climate change – including extreme heat, drought, flooding, and poor air quality – on the ability to grow food in the region.
  • Younger people were most likely to be concerned about the effects of climate change.

Shannon Williams, executive director of the Institute for Social Research, pointed out that residents of the region express generally positive opinions about the area’s agricultural identity.

However, poll findings also highlight “that the agricultural bounty and farm-to-fork opportunities of our region are not equally available to everyone,” Williams said.

The Food Resilience report offers suggestions for improving food equity, including increasing access to community gardens and reducing food waste.

Researchers hope the findings will help inform community leaders, elected officials, and policymakers.

“Our poll findings provide a clearer picture of the experiences and attitudes of people in their daily lives,” said Schmidt. “It affords unique information that can be used to improve lives in communities across our region.”

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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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