The History of Roots of Change: Evolution & Milestones
The mission of Roots of Change is to be a collaborative catalyst for food system transformation. We work with food movement leaders to knit trusting relationships, align strategic goals and priorities, conceive transformative actions, and aggregate the resources needed to effectively plan, organize, and execute campaigns and projects. The timeline below highlights our accomplishments, the synergies for change that we have generated, and traces ROC’s evolution over the past two decades.
The Funders Agriculture Working Group publishes the report Roots of Change that documents the food and agriculture challenges facing California.
The Columbia Foundation, the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation and the WK Kellogg Foundation create the ROC Fund to pool resources for strategic investments. A total of 15 foundations participated in the ROC Fund. The ROC Council is formed and meets over the course of 18 months to develop a change strategy.
The ROC Council of Advisors is formed to choose grant recipients. The Ag Innovations Network, Ecotrust and NRDC receive the first three grants to create a vision for the food system and begin building a network of leaders to make that vision a reality.
The California Roundtable on Ag and the Environment (CRAE) and three new Ag Futures Alliances (Merced, San Benito, and Yolo) are launched.
ROC publishes California’s first ever vision for a sustainable food system, the Vivid Picture Report: A Sustainable Food Agenda for California.
ROC releases the Farmworker Health & Safety white paper describing how common ground between farmers and workers can be found.
ROC hires Michael Dimock as executive director who works with the staff and ROC Council to develop a detailed plan for growing its network and impact.
ROC launches a 5-year plan with a campaign to recruit its first class of ROC Fellows and begins formation of a leadership network. The inaugural class of ROC Fellows gathers for their first retreat.
ROC contracts with Ag Innovations Network to act as the backbone to the California Roundtable on Ag and the Environment (CRAE) and continues launching Ag Futures and Food System Alliances across the state.
ROC uses the Vivid Picture Report to move the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to launch the California Ag Vision process which is a 12-point strategy for establishing a healthy and sustainable food system in California. This strategy has been the guiding document for CDFA since that time.
ROC co-sponsors Slow Food Nation and organizes Changemakers Day involving 450 food movement leaders from across the nation and releases the Declaration for Healthy Food and Agriculture, which garnered 35,000 signatures and commenced ROC’s online presence.
As a direct outcome of Slow Food Nation, Mayor Gavin Newsom agrees to participate in the first Urban-Rural Roundtable and develops a sustainable food policy for San Francisco, the first of its kind in the nation.
In collaboration with 12 consortium partners, ROC creates the California Market Match Consortium and the MarketMatch® brand, to provide nutrition incentives that help low-income families increase the purchase and consumption of fruits, nuts, and vegetables and increase sales for small and mid-size farms, many of which are organic.
ROC receives first of four large grants from the CDFA Specialty Crop Block Grant program to launch the California Market Match Consortium.
Mayor Newsom unveils his food policy platform at the City Slicker Farms site in Oakland during ROC’s Sustainable Foodshed Summit involving USDA officials and 150 leaders from the burgeoning ROC network. Paula Daniels, a political appointee of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in Los Angeles, attends the summit and requests that ROC launch a second Urban-Rural Roundtable to assist Paula’s work with the Los Angeles Food Policy Task Force, leading to creation of the LA Food Policy Council, the largest and most nationally impactful food policy council in the nation.
With 35 stakeholders, ROC begins developing a systems dynamic map to understand how the food system actually works and to identify the most strategic intervention points in that system.
ROC Council members Larry Yee and Jim Cochran engage their colleagues in development of the concept of the Food Commons. ROC sponsors and hosts a Food Commons brainstorming event at the Presidio in San Francisco and funds development of the founding concept paper, which is distributed throughout the nation.
ROC invites 250 food movement leaders to Los Angeles for a second summit meeting to unveil the systems dynamic map, spark dialogue, and sponsor a gala event where Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa launched the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, considered by many to be the moment that galvanized the Los Angeles food movement.
ROC received funding from the USDA Risk Management Agency’s Community Outreach and Assistance Partnership Program to partner with projects throughout California to address both the risk and opportunities that exist for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, partners include ALBA and Slow Food Russian River.
ROC initiates an Urban-Rural Roundtable in San Diego.
With the Movement Strategies Center, ROC undertakes an internal review and survey of stakeholders. After California’s Health in All Policies Task Force recommends formation of a statewide food policy council, ROC begins transition to become its backbone support.
ROC organizes a meeting at CDFA hosted by Governor Brown’s cabinet secretaries Karen Ross and Diana Dooley with 50 stakeholders, and proposes formation of the California Food Policy Council. Those assembled endorse the idea. Soon after, at the Community Food Security Coalition conference, ROC invites stakeholders to engage in the formation process for the California Food Policy Council and offers to become the backbone organization and provide three years of funding. Those attending accept the proposal.
The People’s Institute for Survival & Beyond leads a retreat in Fresno with staff, ROC Council, and ROC Fellows to expand ROC’s capacity to build trust and collaboration with communities of color.
ROC offers three recommendations to the Senate Ag Committee for the 2012 Farm Bill that support funding for innovative options to increase SNAP purchases of fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts at farmers’ markets, which helps fuel the emerging consensus that a nutrition incentive program should be included in the next Farm Bill.
ROC launches the California Food Policy Council (CAFPC), the nation’s first statewide council formed from the grass roots up.
ROC begins the Fierce Allies project with People’s Grocery to further deepen the team’s ability to cross the boundaries of race and privilege in order to build trust with communities of color.
ROC collaborates with photographer and author Lisa Hamilton to create Real Rural, a photo exhibition showing the diversity of California’s rural communities to BART riders in the Bay Area.
In her book, Everyday Heroes: 50 Americans Changing the World One Nonprofit at a Time, author Katrina Fried features ROC’s Executive Director Michael Dimock.
ROC becomes a project of the Public Health Institute to enhance alignment with a large network of public health stakeholders sharing similar goals.
ROC passes leadership of the California Market Match Consortium to Ecology Center in order to focus fully on supporting the California Food Policy Council, which has 18 ratified members.
Through a collaborative research and evaluation project with Wholesome Wave, Fair Food Network, and Market Umbrella, ROC develops a report and model policy language that helps shape what will become a Farm Bill nutrition incentive program.
The California Food Policy Council and ROC releases the 2013 Report on California Legislation Related to Food and Farming that garners statewide and national attention. A coalition from the CAFPC works with ROC to develop a policy concept paper that leads to creation of Assembly Bill 2385, California Nutrition Incentive Bill, authored by San Francisco Assemblymember Phil Ting. ROC becomes the bill’s sponsor and primary champion. The bill does not advance.
The Federal Farm Bill is passed with inclusion of the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program, providing $100 million in match funds for projects like the California Market Match Consortium. The program, now known as the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP), has provided $350 million in matching dollars to SNAP families purchasing fresh produce from small local farmers, many of them organic.
The California Food Policy Council publishes its 2014 Report on Legislation Related to Food and Farming.
ROC joins the effort to pass Senate Bill 27, which governs use of antimicrobial drugs in livestock operations in order to reduce use of antibiotics, setting the bar for the nation.
Authored again by Phil Ting (San Francisco), the Legislature passes Assembly Bill 1321 the CA Nutrition Incentives Act (CNIP) to provide nutrition incentives match funds to low income families, allowing California to maximize its draw down from the federal GusNIP program, but no funds are appropriated.
ROC successfully advocates with Assemblymember Phil Ting for $5 million from the California General Fund through the budget process to support the CA Nutrition Incentives Act.
ROC supports two successful bills: (i) 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 (ii) Assembly Bill 1826 (Mark Stone, Santa Cruz), an update to the organic certification act lowering the burdens and fees on organic farmers.
ROC partners with the California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN) and Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) to improve Senate Bill 1350 (Lois Wolk, Davis) to assist farmers and ranchers to improve their soils in order to better conserve water and recapture climate-harming carbon in the soil. The bill did not pass, but its intent was inserted into the 2016-17 budget bill and CDFA provides $7.5 million for healthy soils pilot projects.
ROC coleads the Californians for Less Soda coalition seeking a statewide tax on sugary beverages in order to generate hundreds of millions annually for nutrition incentives and community food projects.
ROC joins California Food and Farming Network (CFFN), composed of dozens of nonprofits working in Sacramento to instigate change by sharing information on policy. CFFN joins ROC and CAFPC to develop and publish the movement’s first Legislator Scorecard for California’s good food movement.
With the arrival of CFFN and the commitment of allied PHI programs to policy change, ROC shifts gears to fully embrace coalition participation as the most effective means to drive policy change. Working in collaboration with others, ROC focuses on supporting multiple bills each legislative session.
ROC initiates budget requests that lead to another $10 million for CNIP and become a prime proponent of Assemblymember Ting’s proposal to create the Healthy Stores Refrigeration Grant Program, which allocates $5 million of initial funding. This new program sets up stores in low income communities to offer fresh produce and become participants in nutrition incentive programs.
ROC joins CalCAN and a coalition focused on healthy soils, which moves Governor Newsom to sign the groundbreaking Healthy Soils Program, which receives $15 million for grants to farmers capturing carbon through climate smart farming practices.
ROC’s Flipping the Table podcast launches featuring honest conversations on food, farming and the future.
The Latino Coalition for a Healthy California joins ROC in supporting Assemblymember Ting’s request for making an additional $4.5 million available through the Healthy Stores Refrigeration Grant Program.
ROC again joins CalCAN and healthy soils coalition partners to successfully request an additional $50 million for the Healthy Soils Program.
With three other PHI program partners, ROC receives a 5-year Cigna grant for the Achieving Resilient Communities (ARC) project. ARC aims to model community-led resilience planning. Three local CBOs: Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) , Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP) and Lideres Campesinas, become ARC’s lead partners in Ventura, defining the actions to be taken. The PHI program partners bring scientists and public health specialists into a multisector approach to protecting farmworkers from heat stress and illness in several California counties, beginning with Ventura.
The Healthy Soils Program receives an additional $28 million in funding.
During height of pandemic, ROC co-leads with Center for Wellness and Nutrition (CWN) a large and diverse team, including retail grocers, to design and implement the #LetsFeedLACounty COVID emergency food voucher program funded with CARES Act money directed by the Los Angeles County Food Security Branch. In only ten weeks, together with 18 local CBOs, we delivered over $21 million in nutrition benefits to 100,000 low income individuals unable to access CalFresh.
During 2020-21, ROC joins 13 partners to co lead the campaign for Assembly Bill 125, sponsored by Assembly Ag Committee Chair Robert Rivas, the Food and Farm Resilience Bond, which sought over $3 billion for regenerative agriculture, healthy food, local food processing infrastructure, and farmworker housing. The campaign for the bond pivots to become a set of successful requests within the budget process, delivering $1.3 billion for a regenerative and just food system.
ROC authors an impactful white paper in collaboration with the UC Davis Food Systems Lab that analyzes the challenges and opportunities faced by small and mid-scale meat producers in California, with emphasis on COVID’s supply chain disruptions, climate change, and state and local policies that favor factory farming and industrial meat processing. This leads to a three-year USDA AMS Regional Food System Partnership grant to create two high value meat supply chains for the Sacramento and Bay Area metro markets.
ROC joins Ecology Center and LCHC in a campaign supporting Assembly Budget Chair Phil Ting’s budget request for $20 million dollars each for two programs: CA Nutrition Incentive program and Healthy Stores Refrigeration Grant Program. It will bear fruit in 2022.
ROC forms and facilitates the ARC project’s Ag Brain Trust, composed of leaders from the ag community, including Ventura County’s Farm Bureau and UC Cooperative Extension researchers, Reiter Brothers Affiliated Companies, Good Farms, Brokaw Ranches and CAUSE to develop a multipronged strategy to engage farming companies in heat protection activities. Based on farmworker recommendations in 2020, two primary objectives are determined. The first is to develop protocols to lower risk from high temperatures in poly-tunnel structures used for berries and flowers. The second is to develop new technology for keeping drinking water at 56 F (the legal requirement) for harvest crews in the field.
Resulting from impactful collaborations since 2020, ROC becomes an affiliate program of PHI’s Center for Wellness and Nutrition. This strategic relationship will leverage the strength of our joint expertise to expand services, advocacy, and program implementation. The link between nutrition security and climate change will be a central focus and support our collective work in the international program space.
ROC successfully advocates with its Food and Farm Resilience Coalition partners for over $700 million in the 2022-23 California Budget. This includes another $15 million each for CNIP and the Healthy Refrigeration Grant Program. ROC placed additional emphasis on the successful budget campaign to unleash $15 million from the California budget for weatherization of farmworker homes.
The Achieving Resilient Communities (ARC) project, in collaboration with the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District, MICOP, Líderes Campesinas, and CAUSE launches new audio alert system in Mixteco and Zapoteco to protect farmworkers from wildfires.
The ARC project’s Ag Brain Trust begins a study of best management practices for protecting poly-tunnel workers and successfully recruits two teams of 4th year engineering students from CalPoly San Luis Obispo to develop two new technologies for keeping harvest crew drinking water cool in the fields.
ROC joins Other Half Processing, American Grassfed Association, and the American Sustainable Business Institute in a core group that developed a successful proposal for USDA’s Climate Smart Commodities Partnerships program, titled Growing GRASS. ROC and the seven additional project partners will receive $35 million over five years to develop a system for providing buyers around the world with transparent confirmation of regenerative practices used by beef and bison producers across the nation.
ROC and CWN receive a contract from the LA County Department of Public Health to implement #LetsFeedLACounty2 using $10 million from LA County’s American Rescue Plan Act money.
ROC facilitates a planning process by a dozen PHI program leaders to develop a new and robust approach modeled on the ARC project to address climate change impacts on vulnerable communities using multi-sector teams partnered with community based organizations.