For Immediate Release
Wednesday, September 3, 2003

California Soda to Salad Battle Heats Up
New Coalition Targets Childhood Obesity, Touting Farm Fresh Food in Schools; Urges Congress to Act on Federal Bill

SACRAMENTO- As children stream back to school cafeterias across the state this week, elected officials in Sacramento and Washington, DC are stepping up the fight against childhood obesity.

Encouraging schools to provide healthy food choices for children, the California Food & Justice Coalition points to the growing number of successful programs in which schools partner with local farmers to provide lunch options that fight both the causes of childhood obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes.

“California is uniquely situated as the nation’s largest food producer to really make farm to school programs work, and we’re seeing successes all over the state- from Los Angeles to Ventura to Berkeley, San Diego and beyond,” said Anupama Joshi from the California Food & Justice Coalition. “With additional start-up funds from Congress, we can duplicate these successes in many more school districts than we’re in now, and it’s a win-win for everyone,” she said.

Federal Farm-to-Cafeteria Legislation Slated for Debate This Fall
The Coalition’s members are urging the state’s Congressional delegation to co-sponsor legislation providing grant funds of up to $100,000 per school district to establish “farm-to-cafeteria” programs. The “Healthy Kids: America’s Farmers Feed America’s Children” legislation is part of two bills, H.R. 2626, the “Farm to Cafeteria Projects” Act, and S. 995, the “Child Nutrition Initiatives” Act, both of which are slated for debate as part of the mandatory five-year reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act this fall.

“California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced Thursday that he is offering school districts a chance to compete for up to $2,000 if they provide healthy foods in their cafeterias. The federal legislation goes even farther by providing schools with funds to research regional farms and crop availability and to purchase cold storage facilities and salad bars,” said Karrie Stevens Thomas, from the California Food & Justice Coalition.

Meanwhile, Sacramento lawmakers passed the strictest statewide soda ban legislation in the nation last week, which Governor Gray Davis is expected to sign into law this month. Many local school districts including San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, and Los Angeles Unified School Districts have already instituted similar bans in their fight to improve child nutrition.

Communities of Color Hardest Hit by Health Crisis
Schools are just one venue where junk foods have contributed to the health crisis facing California youth. Low-income communities of color are hardest hit in this epidemic because of their lack of access to grocery stores stocked with healthy foods. Instead, these communities show an overabundance of convenience stores and disproportionately heavy marketing of fast and processed foods. Obesity rates among African American, Native American and Latino communities are higher than any other group, and they increased the most between 1991 and 2000, according to recent studies.
Despite the grim statistics, there are a number of innovative programs springing up across the state to correct these troubling trends, and many are featured in a recent 21-page report Weaving the Food Web: Community Food Security in California. The report, which was produced by the Community Food Security Coalition in Venice, CA, features eight innovative community-based food projects that have succeeded in improving access to healthy foods in communities of color. The coalition has also developed a State Policy Platform with 11 policy recommendations in four areas that will be launched at the start of the next legislative session in Sacramento.

About the California Food & Justice Coalition
The California Food and Justice Coalition (CFJC) is a statewide membership coalition committed to the basic human right to healthy food while advancing social, agricultural, and environmental justice. The Coalition has scheduled a series of regional strategy sessions for increasing community food security in California in Sacramento (September 16), Los Angeles (September 23) and Fresno (September 30). The meetings are open to the public.

To arrange interviews with Californians working to bridge the healthy foods gap, please go to for an online Press Room that includes contact information and detailed info about the following success stories:

Bay Area Success Stories
Gateway Foods in West Oakland
Farm Fresh Choice in Berkeley
Berkeley & Oakland Farmers Markets
Central Valley Success Stories
Stockton Certified Farmers Market
Fresno Access
Los Angeles Success Stories
Los Angeles Unified School District
Ventura Unified School District
Healthy School Food Coalition
Los Angeles Food Bank Urban Garden
Santa Monica Farmers Market Salad Bar
Sacramento Success Story
Neighborhood Ride
Other California Success Stories
Potawot Health Village