California usually gets to claim innovator status for all things foodie — which makes it doubly satisfying that the West Coasters were taking notes when Baltimore representatives spoke at the recent Community Food Security Coalition in Oakland. “[City programs] show how an active, involved city government and willingness to try new ideas can change the urban food landscape for the better,” writes Vanessa Barrington in Grist, the popular environmental news site.
The programs in question are part of the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative, a collaboration between several city departments. One program rents 20 publicly owned vacant lots to farmers for $100, and also provides start-up capital. Another program — Virtual Supermarket — targets “food deserts,” or neighborhoods with no access to fresh food. (According to Johns Hopkins’s Center for a Livable Future, as much as 18 percent of the city qualifies.) The Virtual Supermarket allows users to place orders on library computers, then get food delivered to the library as well.
Baltimore is even one of the first cities in the country to employ a full-time Food Policy Director. Here’s hoping she keeps the innovative ideas coming!