Roots of Change is a think and do tank, which means we take thoughtful and strategic action to change the food system. We believe government has a necessary and significant role to catalyze food and farming policies that put people and communities first. This page provides ways for interested people to lend a hand in our work, specifically through civic action.
ROC’s top priority remains passage of a statewide tax on sugary beverages. We do this because the effort to make healthy, local and sustainable food and agriculture the norm requires a revenue stream. Surprisingly, California under invests in its food and farms. Only about 15% of the Department of Food and Agriculture’s budget comes from state coffers. Those investments that are made from California’s General Fund are not always on the changes we’d prioritize. Therefore the tax, which would raise hundreds of millions annually for food system investment, is imperative. ROC co-leads a large coalition of public health, food justice and sustainable agriculture organizations fighting for the passage of a tax measure. Such measures are hard to win because legislators naturally fear raising taxes that might anger constituents.
This year, the Legislature is not considering our previous bill, AB 2782 The Healthy California Fund, because the leadership in the Assembly did not believe it could pass out of the Health Committee. Consequently, using a parliamentary procedure, the author of AB 2782, Assemblymember Richard Bloom (Santa Monica), placed a very generally written piece of similar legislation, AB 1003, in a hearing process. Over the late summer and fall, Bloom’s Select Committee on Prevention of Diabetes and Heart Disease will hold hearings on the bill and the tax concept in Sacramento, Fresno, Los Angeles and San Diego. To help build participation in these hearings and to place pressure on legislators in the Health Committee, ROC is organizing with many partners community listening sessions in ten regions of the state. These hearings and our work this summer on updated and refined language, will prepare our coalition to resubmit a bill into the legislative process in 2018. If you’d like to learn more or to participate in a session near you, please email us email@example.com.
ROC is advocating for many bills in the legislative process. Visit the California Legislation page to see the bills we are tracking.
ROC successfully led the large coalition of food policy councils and allied nonprofits to convince the Legislature and Governor to fund the CA Nutrition Incentives Act (AB 1321, Phil Ting, San Francisco), which we sponsored and passed in 2015. Our action makes California the largest partner in the nation with USDA working to ensure that low income families receiving SNAP benefits (food stamps) can afford to buy healthy, fresh organic produce at farmers markets, farm stands and through CSA programs that deliver weekly boxes of farm fresh fruits and vegetables. This Act and funding improves nutrition for families most in need and it helps small organic farmers who work hard to deliver the best produce in the nation.
The campaign prompted no less than 127 organizations or high profile leaders to write the Legislature’s leadership and Governor in support of our call for funding. It generated over 1 million Twitter impressions to the Governor and Legislature and a Sacramento Bee Opinion Editorial in support. We won because the food movement spoke up!
ROC also actively supported two successful bills: the passage of Senate Bill 3 (Mark Leno, San Francisco), the minimum wage increase to help close the income gap and help lift food chain workers out of poverty, and Assembly Bill 1826 (Mark Stone, Santa Cruz), an update to the organic certification act lowering the burdens and fees on organic farmers.
We also worked with the California Climate and Agriculture Network and Community Alliance with Family Farmers to improve Senate Bill 1350 (Lois Wolk, Davis) to assist farmers and ranchers to improve our soils in order to better conserve water and recapture climate-harming carbon in the soil. The bill did not actually pass, but its intent was inserted into the 2016-17 budget bill and the California Department of Agriculture will implement the program proposed by Senator Wolk, providing $7.5 million for pilot projects. We believe this will lead to substantial funding for carbon capture and other sustainable farming practices in the future.
In addition to working with a coalition of organizations pursuing soil-building advocacy, Roots of Change is co-sponsoring:
AB 1321 (Ting) — Nutrition Incentive Matching Grant Program
ROC is co-sponsoring AB 1321 with Ecology Center and Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, with Assemblymember Phil Ting (San Francisco) as lead author. Here is a synopsis for the policy we are pursuing, which would scale up a successful pilot that doubles the value of nutrition assistance benefits at farmers’ markets and small business retailers when used to purchase California grown fruits, nuts and vegetables. This bill is a win-win for California’s small- and mid-sized farmers, low-income Californians, and our state economy. It is a local economic development, anti-poverty and anti-hunger policy all rolled up into one bill — and it’s evidence-based. We also advocated for a line item in the state budget this year which made it into the Legislature’s budget but was deleted in the final budget agreement between Governor Brown and the legislative leadership.
Our coalition can use your support — click here to support the bill in its final step with Governor Brown! Here are a few resources in support of AB 1321 and the associated budget proposal:
- Fact sheet (updated 5/22/15)
- Sacramento Bee Joint Op-Ed by Michael Dimock & Shawn Harrison
- Copies of budget support letters sent to CDFA Secretary Karen Ross and Assemblymember Shirley Weber
- Frequently Asked Questions fact sheet
- Nutrition incentive stories from Humboldt, LA, Oakland & San Diego
- AB 1321 on LegInfo
On December 18, 2014, we had a one hour meeting with officials from the state Department of Food & Agriculture, Department of Social Services and Department of Public Health to discuss this statewide nutrition incentives program. We are working with our state agencies to find common ground for this program and have had multiple meetings since then. Listen to or download the meeting recording, along with the handouts:
AB 359 (Gonzalez) — Protecting Middle Class Grocery Jobs Through Worker Retention
Signed into law by Governor Brown on 8/17; read his signing statement!
ROC signed on to co-sponsor AB 359 with United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) and Community Food & Justice Coalition (CFJC), with Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez as lead author. In cases where a big grocery store (15,000 square feet or larger) undergoes a change of ownership, this bill provides extensive protections to eligible employees that have worked for the former grocery store owner for a minimum of six months. It is modeled after similar ordinances that have been enacted at the local level across the state.
Job security and stability among grocery store workers is an important priority given that almost a quarter of Californians are still under the poverty level and without a 90 day retention period, poverty rates would be further exacerbated. Also, here are some AB 359 resources:
- Fact Sheet (Updated 3/9/15)
- AB 359 on LegInfo
- Joint co-sponsor letter with Community Food & Justice Coalition
AB 1357 (Bloom) – Children and Family Health Promotion Program
ROC also signed on to co-sponsor this bill with the American Heart Association, Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment Advocacy & Leadership, CA Primary Care Association, CA Rural Indian Health Board, Council of Black Nurses LA, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, Public Health Institute, Urban League and the 100 Black Men.
This bill would create the Children and Family Health Promotion Program, which will require a 2 cents per ounce fee on sugar drinks, with a portion of these funds going to the Department of Education for Farm-to-School and also to CDFA for supporting specialty crop sales and nutrition incentive programs. Unfortunately, the bill was killed in Assembly Health Committee with 10 No votes, 6 Ayes and the rest abstaining. It may be the
Here are some AB 1357 resources:
- AB1357 on LegInfo and put simply
- AB 1357 Rethink Your Drink infographic
- The evidence base for AB 1357
- Choose Health California fact sheets on obesity, diabetes and sugary drinks
- Potential job impacts?
- The Bigger Picture project
AB 2385 (Ting) — Market Match Nutrition Incentive Program
In 2014, Assemblymember Phil Ting (San Francisco) authored AB 2385, sponsored by Roots of Change. This bill would have created the Market Match Nutrition Incentive Program within the California Department of Food and Agriculture. This program would have provided grants for farmers’ markets and potentially other direct producer-to-consumer venues (CSA, farm stands or corner stores) that help low-income Californians afford healthy fruits, nuts, and vegetables. AB 2385 would have maximized California’s ability to take advantage of $100 million in federal matching monies made available through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program in the 2014 Farm Bill. Unfortunately, AB 2385 was held in Assembly Appropriations, despite the support from over 60 organizations.
AB 2385 Resources and Press
- ROC AB 2385 Page
- ROC AB 2385 Update
- AB 2385 on LegInfo
- Fact Sheet
- Editorial: Pound-foolish Democrats deny healthy food to poor people (Sacramento Bee, 6.15.2014)