With a 300-year tradition of vineyards, orchards and livestock ranching, and centuries of Native American agriculture before that, the production and preparation of food has long been an important part of life in Tucson.
Commission on Food Security, Heritage and Economy
Recently, local residents, including Community Food Bank staff and City of Tucson employees, recommended the formation of a food commission to work on regional food issues. On May 5, at my request, the Tucson City Council unanimously voted to create the Commission on Food Security, Heritage and Economy.
Food security means physical and economic access to food that meets people’s dietary needs and preferences. The commission will work on increasing access to healthy food, improving local food distribution and increasing demand for locally produced food.
Food heritage refers to the idea that people have the right to grow, buy and eat culturally appropriate foods. A great platform for food heritage is Tucson Meet Yourself, where more than 60 different cultural groups, ethnicities and nationalities are represented through the sharing of traditional foods.
Food heritage also involves conservation of locally produced foods that are tied to our region’s history and cultural identity. Land in the Tucson basin has been farmed for more than 4,000 years, and native food crops continue to grow here. These include wild chilies, tepary beans, mesquite seed pods and cactus fruit. It’s important to preserve these heritage foods.
And last, food economy is what it sounds like, the economics of food—its production, processing, distribution and consumption. The commission will work on expanding job opportunities in the food industry and support for food entrepreneurs.
One of the goals of the commission is to bring together like-minded organizations and members of the community. Together, we will work to strengthen our local food system—both access and production.
Summer Food Service Program
Access to sufficient, healthy food is especially important for growing children. Childhood hunger affects communities throughout the nation. That’s why the National School Lunch Program operates in more than 100,000 public and private schools and child care institutions. In 2012, it provided low-cost or free lunches to more than 31 million children.
When schools close for the summer, the Summer Food Service Program steps in to fill the gap. Free meals that meet federal nutrition guidelines are offered to children 18 years and younger.
Unfortunately, too many families don’t know about the Summer Food Service Program—Arizona is ranked 38 out of 50 states for participation—so my office is helping to get the word out.
Coordinated by the Arizona Department of Education, the Summer Food Service Program doesn’t require applications. Children can simply show up to receive a free meal. The only requirement is that children must consume the food on site. Tucson has nearly 50 participating locations. Most offer breakfast and lunch, but each site varies.
To find out where free meals are served, call (866) 3 Hungry, or visit www.azsummerfood.gov for more information.