Mayor’s dream of locally grown food may flower

Fruit falling from the branch into the hands of the hungry, chefs informing each patron where the restaurant’s eggs were hatched and children eating greens from a schoolyard garden.

It may sound utopian, but if Mayor Gavin Newsom has his way, San Francisco will have a wide-ranging food policy, unveiled within the month, that does just that.

Ideas include planting fruit trees in the middle of the street, requiring restaurants to post where their ingredients come from and removing plastic packaging from school lunches.

The policy has been discussed for more than a year, according to the Department of the Environment, and the Victory Garden outside City Hall — which was just extended through November — appears to be just the beginning.

The food policy will “raise the bar” and “continue to create controversy” as far as the way residents connect with their food, Newsom said. He said 15 new victory gardens would be planted throughout each of San Francisco’s 11 districts.

Though the Mayor’s Office has yet to unveil the plan, one of the ideas that may generate controversy is a requirement that restaurants tell their customers if ingredients are locally grown.

More than 20 million tons of produce comes from the Bay Area each year and city residents eat onlyone-20th of that, said Jared Blumenfeld, director of the Department of the Environment. If labeling became a requirement, restaurateurs may pay more attention to serving local food, which reduces the ill effects of shipping, he said.

“Vendors already know where their food comes from, but they don’t always tell us unless we ask,” Blumenfeld said.

But with The City already requiring restaurants to print nutrition labels on their menus, some are wondering how much will be required of The City’s restaurant industry.

“The problem is whether there needs to be a regulatory environment requiring them to publish the origin of each individual ingredient,” said Kevin Westlye, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. “Are you going to put where the flour, eggs, cheeses and mushrooms come from? How far would you go?”

As it stands, The City’s menu-labeling law could be trumped by pending state legislation that would expand labels statewide, but be less comprehensive and prohibit individual cities from making their own labeling rules.

Blumenfeld told The Examiner on Tuesday that the Mayor’s Office is looking to plant more than 400 acres of street medians with bushes and trees that bear fruit such as apples and kiwis.

Planting trees in San Francisco may not be the problem, however. Tree maintenance costs three to five times as much as simply planting a tree, bringing up the question of who would pick the fruit. Currently, the Department of Public Works is underfunded when it comes to gardeners and arborists, according to city officials.

There is also a logistical problem as to who would maintain the proposed fruit trees. Street trees are maintained by the Department of Public Works or private property owners; the remaining 550,000 or so trees are overseen by one of six public agencies.

The Mayor’s Office declined to release additional details about the plan, but said it would change the health of all residents. 

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

Cooking up a policy

Ideas being pitched for Mayor Gavin Newsom’s overarching food policy:

  • Planting fruit trees in more than 400 acres of city street medians
  • Requiring restaurants to post the origin of their ingredients
  • Providing organic produce for food stamps
  • Requiring recyclable food packaging in schools
  • Expanding urban farms throughout The City

Source: S.F. Department of the Environment

My story

“Restaurants already have rules and regulations on what they serve and where they get the products, so this just goes a little too far.”

Anthony Bufano, 61 San Francisco

“Who’s going to read [the information], anyway?”

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