Arugula, whole grains, and heirloom apples may be going the way of paved roads and clean water. Last week, the California Healthy Food Initiative dropped like a sack of sweet potatoes on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. One sweeping John Hancock away from becoming law, this statewide bill claims that public access to "healthy food items is a basic human right," not, as some see it, a privilege enjoyed by citizens living within striking distance of farmers markets. If the governor signs the bill -- and we sort of see it happening -- more grocery stores and farmers markets may be winging their way towards so-called "food deserts" around the state.
California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) was inspired to introduce the bill ( a.k.a. AB 581) by the community he called home. Here's a quote from a September 30 Bay Citizen article in which he breaks down his reasoning:
I worked for nearly a decade to site a full-service grocery store in the downtown Los Angeles neighborhood I now represent... Bringing that grocery store to the community benefited both the public health and local job creation -- something AB 581 stands to duplicate throughout the state.
On the heels of the the California FreshWorks Fund -- launched in July as part of President Obama's National Healthy Food Financing Initiative -- the proposed legislation would call for the creation of several councils and committees responsible for rounding up the ducats to finance vendors, providing guidelines for their applications for aid, and seeking out entities that may be helpful participants: community activists, tenders of community gardens, agricultural bigwigs, and so forth.
Representatives from the California Health and Human Services, Food and Agriculture, and Labor departments will be involved, along with the California State Treasury. There'll be no shortage of red tape for folks to slice through -- much, come to think of it, as more customers may soon be doing to release bunches of carrots and frilly kale stalks from twist tie bondage.