But the lack of cash to create a fully sustainable area food system also reveals a less-than-full commitment by city leaders to turn promising policies into everyday realities.
"Every city should have a food czar," argues Dimock, to "take the contradictions out of city policies," and develop new policies and leverage state and federal help to increase food security.
Ultimately the city could use a model food bill a local, progressive version of the Farm Bill to bring energy and money and policy coherence to the great work being done on the ground. In such a bill, new laws taxing fast food or high-end dining could create revenue to ensure all city agencies and its schools, hospitals, and jails abide by local and organic-first purchasing policies.
Healthy food zone rules could ensure food-deprived poor neighborhoods get targeted grants to promote businesses that feature local foods. And policies could support new urban agriculture ventures using city land to grow food and train and employ residents in need improving nutrition and the economy.
In the long term, Dimock says, we need to restore our "cultural understanding of how agriculture and food is where humans have our most intimate contact with the natural world." The struggle to recover this is "a symbol of our divorce from the natural world, of leaving the garden. We need a new mythology we need to return to the garden." *
Christopher D. Cook is the author of Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis, and a former Guardian city editor. He is communications director and food policy advisor for District 9 Supervisor candidate Eric Quezada. His Web site is www.christopherdcook.com