Imagine if local food were recognized as one of the drivers of economic development to revitalize a downtown area.
That’s what Redding community members have begun to envision—and enact. Their planning came as result of a federal grant Healthy Shasta was awarded in spring of 2020. The grant, through a federal program called Local Foods, Local Places (LFLP), provides access to experts from the USDA, the EPA, HUD, and state agencies, who work with local stakeholders to plan how local food systems can contribute to creating walkable, healthy, economically vital neighborhoods.
Now, Redding has a plan. Even the year of Covid could not deter its development.
In the planning process’s first step, federal and state experts worked with a Redding project Steering Committee to develop the project’s goals. The Steering Committee included representatives from City of Redding, Public Health, The McConnell Foundation, Women’s Business Center at JEDI, Shasta County Health & Human Services Agency, Viva Downtown Redding, and Healthy Shasta, and they arrived at three goals:
- Improve coordination and cooperation within and across local food and downtown redevelopment efforts;
- Ensure access to affordable, fresh and healthy food for people who live or work downtown;
- Evaluate and enhance the local food system and economy as a driver of downtown revitalization.
Next came planning and executing the centerpiece of LFLP assistance: a workshop held over three days, in which over fifty people, a broad representation of the Redding community, participated. Federal and state officials helped this group clarify the project’s vision and values, consider examples of successful LFLP projects from across the country, and then identify assets the Redding community already possesses and challenges it may face in pursuit of project goals.
The year of Covid actually enlivened the planning project, according to Mary Messier, Shasta County Public Health Nutritionist working with Healthy Shasta and also the project’s primary local contact. Because the federal and state agency officials were unable to tour downtown Redding, two young representatives of Viva Downtown Redding star in a lively on-scooter video virtual tour shown during the workshop. (View the tour at youtu.be/Dze_d1E-E2k.) When Photos here and below come from the title page of the December 2020 report: Community Action Plan for Redding, California. The Plan sets out how local food systems can contribute to creating a healthy, economically vital downtown Redding.
Covid necessitated holding the ten hours of workshops over three days via Zoom, Messier noted that the virtual scheduling allowed attendance by more people, people who may not have been able to travel to Redding for in person workshops.
At the completion of the interactive workshops, the project had identified some sixteen actions towards achieving its three goals. Messier reports that work is underway on a number of actions. For one, over 150 Redding residents have completed surveys downtown, at farmers’ markets, and online, reporting their food experiences downtown and the challenges and opportunities they see for food to shape the downtown Redding future.
This May, another invitation to participate was issued. If you’d like to help create ways for local food systems to shape a vibrant Redding downtown, email Mary Messier, and she’ll plug you in to the efforts: firstname.lastname@example.org.