Buffington, A. and Braxton, M. 2020, Summary Report Southern Nevada Food Council Visioning Session for the 2050 City of Las Vegas Master Plan, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno

Visioning Session

The City of Las Vegas hosted Southern Nevada Food Council (SNFC) members in a visioning session for the 2050 Master Plan at their Development Services Center on Thursday, April 25, 2019, 1 – 4 p.m. Council members and other invited stakeholders represent various sectors of the food system in southern Nevada. The purpose of the half-day workshop was to develop a list of possible solutions from issues that SNFC members see as food system priorities, in order to provide the City of Las Vegas with a set of food system-related recommendations to consider for the 2050 Master Plan.
The visioning session started with a welcome from Marco Velotta, AICP, a member of the City of Las Vegas Office of Sustainability. It was followed by an icebreaker activity led by Namita Koppa, also a member of the Office of Sustainability. The session continued with a presentation defining community food security, initiatives and policies that help create a food system that aligns with the values and mission of the Southern Nevada Food Council, given by Aurora Buffington. Subsequently, in a breakout activity, SNFC members addressed the following food systems topics by identifying the issues, the ideal solutions, and the policy and programs that they deemed priorities to help strengthen the local food system:

  • Marketing
  • Markets and purchasing
  • Preparation and Consumption
  • Diversion
  • Distribution and transportation
  • Production
  • Resilience
  • Processing

The session concluded with a recap of the process used in creating a master plan by Namita Koppa, Sustainability Management Analyst, City of Las Vegas. Twenty-five Council members and other stakeholders attended. (See Appendix A for a list of participants.) The authors transcribed the list of suggestions created through the visioning process, and additional related resources were added to the list to make this report. Council members received the draft report for review, provided their feedback, and approved the final report, which was presented to the City of Las Vegas for consideration.

About the Council

The Southern Nevada Food Council (SNFC) meets regularly to advance its mission centered on food policy, access and security. In developing recommendations, members are guided by values that "…support socially, economically and ecologically sustainable food systems that promote health – the current and future health of individuals, communities and the natural environment." Therefore, a healthy and sustainable food system is:

  • Health-promoting
  • Sustainable
  • Resilient
  • Diverse in size and scale, geography, culture and choice
  • Fair
  • Economically balanced
  • Transparent

“A healthy, sustainable food system emphasizes, strengthens, and makes visible the interdependence and inseparable relationships among individual sectors (from production to waste disposal) and characteristics of the system."1

A picture food system elements

The following are potential solutions to help remedy issues brought up during the visioning session for each of the eight food system topics, including marketing, markets and purchasing, preparation and consumption, diversion, distribution and transportation, production, resilience, and processing. Appendices B-I include the eight topic charts of notes compiled from the visioning session exercise.

Marketing

(See Appendix B for participant notes.)

The American Marketing Association defines marketing as "the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners and society at large. "However, "marketing can be used as a tool to either promote or harm the public's health."3 It may also include price setting. Visioning session participants identified five issues related to marketing they deemed relevant enough to be addressed in the Master Plan.4

The first issue was that of the promotion and definition of local foods. There is no program to promote locally produced food in Las Vegas, although there is at the state level, and there is no commonly agreed-upon definition for local food. Food production in southern Nevada is limited, but not nonexistent. According to the 2017 Census of producers in Clark County, generating a market value of products sold at $12,651,000. Food production included fruits, tree nuts, berries, vegetables, melons, potatoes, sweet potatoes, grains, oilseeds, dry beans, dry peas, livestock, poultry, and other animal products. The development of a slogan and marketing campaign to promote "Buy Local" in collaboration with civic organizations may help consumers place a higher value on locally produced foods. Alignment of such a program should be done with existing programs currently administered under the Governor's Office for Economic Development and the Nevada Department of Agriculture, such as the Buy Nevada and Nevada Grown programs, designed to promote food and agriculture businesses in Nevada.

Agriculture County Profile for Clark County5 (USDA), there were 179 farms and 309 Grant funding exists to help promote local foods. For example, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) invites project applications through the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) with a 25% match to support the development and expansion of local grant, in 2015, one implementation and two planning projects were funded to improve retailers' and consumer access to fresh local foods in neighborhoods through the creation of an agricultural alliance, a virtual food pantry and a mobile market and regional food business enterprises.6 The last time Nevada was awarded an LFPP .

The two LFPP planning projects were successful and included the design and recent expansion of the DigiMart™ Food Pantry,8 the nation's first virtual food pantry, operated by Lutheran Social Services of Nevada, and the creation and ongoing seasonal operation of the Veggie Buck Truck. This mobile produce truck accepts federal nutrition benefits for payment by Together We Can. The implementation project focused on building an agricultural alliance that was unable to create a food hub or create a substantial supplier network. However, the grant awardee did share in their final report a recommendation to "…organize a research project that updates information about the needs of our local/regional producers to provide training in marketing, grading, sorting, logistics and branding that could help the producers create a producer-operated food hub for the region." To foster a successful regional branding campaign, it may first be necessary to build the infrastructure to coordinate aggregation, transportation and sales between producers and buyers, as the experience of one of our local 2015 LFPP awardees suggested.9

Finally, to better define local food, the state and local food policy councils should create as "a food product that was raised, produced, aggregated, stored, processed and distributed in the locality or region in which the final product is marketed." Some USDA programs state that local food comes from the state in which it was produced or from a mutually agreed-upon definition for local food.10 The USDA broadly defines local food 400-mile radius, but there is no official designation for the term of local food.11 A search for a definition of local food in Nevada did not yield a formally accepted term. An alternative could be to seek food items bearing the Nevada Grown or Buy Nevada logos, which guarantee that the food item originated from within the state of Nevada. However, items grown in northern Nevada could easily have originated from a distance greater than 400 miles when brought to Las Vegas, meaning produce brought in from neighboring states like California and Arizona may actually be considered more "local" when comparing distance traveled. Because local food policy councils are concerned with their local food system, it seems reasonable to ask the local food council to develop a definition of local food.

The second issue brought up by session participants was that food product dates are misleading and increase food waste. The Food and Drug Administration recognizes consumer confusion with food product dating. It supports food industry efforts to standardize the use of the term "Best if Used By" when dating is associated with quality and not safety as part of a White House initiative called Winning on Reducing Food Waste.12 Locally, Three Square Food Bank has an established and robust food recovery program; thus, a collaboration between the City of Las Vegas and Three Square would logically support a local food recovery program using gleaning or emergency food systems.

Prepared by: 
Aurora Buffington Ph.D., Public Health Nutrition Specialist, and Southern Nevada Food Council Chair 
Millicent Braxton, Healthy Food Systems Program Officer 

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