Bob Wise, Associate Principal of Cogan Owens Cogan, LLC spoke at the October 12 Coalition for a Livable Future on the released Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program. SARE funded a comprehensive regional food systems study (http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/pdx-foodshed) and report for the Portland region and other related work on the relationship of food to health.
The Sustainable Portland Metropolitan Foodshed report examines the regional food system through the lens of Civic Ecology – an integrated web of energy, resources, goods, services, capital, and information resource flows – and sustainability principles. The report identifies challenges and opportunities created by global and national agriculture trends and environmental conditions. It also recommends strategies to strengthen the local food economy.
Bob addressed the relationships of food equity and access to the overall regional food economy and suggested specific steps that could be taken by the agricultural industry, planners, policy makers and citizens to create conditions where local healthy food can be substituted for imported unhealthy food.
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Portland native Molly Cooney-Mesker has returned home from Boston this summer and is interning with COC. She is working with Associate Principal Bob Wise to expand upon COC’s previous regional food system planning work. Her research is aimed at defining the potential and opportunity for a statewide healthy food strategy for Oregon. She is investigating the state of public health in Oregon, identifying the state’s approach to innovative “Oregon Story” strategic plans and gleaning information from successful healthy food initiatives in Oregon, the U.S. and possibly internationally. Molly is working with Bob and other potential partners to develop ideas for Oregon’s next steps forward.
Molly comes to COC after finishing her first year at the Masters of Urban and Environmental Planning program at Tufts University. There she is focused on planning and designing for ecological democracy with an emphasis on landscape infrastructure and public space. With the food system at the intersection of our natural and built landscapes, Molly is excited about the potential for food reform to create more healthy, sustainable and resilient places. She graduated from the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communications. Before going to graduate school, Molly worked at Maxwell PR, a Portland agency specializing in food and tourism public relations.
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We currently import at least 90 percent our food from outside the Portland region, about $4.7 billion a year with related inputs included. We could increase our regional wealth by between $470 million and $940 million annually if we shifted between 10 and 20 percent of our purchases from imported to local foods.
Through his compelling article, Economically, we are what we eat, Bob Wise addresses those facts and examines the challenges of providing local foods in Oregon. He asks, if we are sitting in the midst of one of the world’s most food-abundant places, why is it so difficult to buy food grown here? The answer is that we import most of the food we eat. Bob considers ways to reverse this significant “leakage” dynamic. He proposes strategic solutions to findings from several recent research projects conducted by COC and regional partners that attempt to answer these questions: how we can support expanded agriculture to accommodate import substitution, what it would take to increase demand and supply of local food, how to help farmers keep a greater share of the food dollar and stay in business, and how we can increase our human and social capital to support the food economy.
The blog is the second in a series of six articles on import substitution on the Sustainable Business Oregon website.
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Bob Wise recently hosted leaders in the regional food movement to a night of sharing progress on all fronts to advance the vision of a Metropolitan Foodshed for the Portland Region. He shared work on localizing food spending that is summarized in a recent article in Sustainable Business Oregon. See for the full story: http://www.sustainablebusinessoregon.com/columns/2012/04/economically-we-are-what-we-eat.html. We were joined by Stanford University researcher Therese Costello who discussed the importance of organizations that make small farmers more efficient and provide market access. Ellen Wyoming also presented on the award-winning Mercado project work she is doing with the Hacienda CDC to create a Latino-themed public market in Portland. The strong Food Night attendance and positive energy demonstrated that there we are in the midst of the birth of a local healthy food movement. A summary of the meeting is here.