Key Organizations and Activities
The City of Portland has a Sustainable Food Program website listing farmers’ markets and CSA farms. The City completed an Urban Food Zoning Code Update in 2012. A Portland/Multnomah County Food Policy Council was active from 2002 to 2012, which published a number of reports and recommendations, and advised development of both the Portland Plan and the Multnomah Food Action Plan published in 2010. The Portland Plan includes a background report on food systems and a set of food systems maps. The Multnomah Food Action Plan website also includes a background report, reports from four “Food Summits” held from 2010 to 2013, and a list of related assessments and resources. Portland State University and partners also published a “Growing a Sustainable Portland Metropolitan Foodshed” report in 2012.
Multnomah County is also home to a large number of organizations focused on different aspects of food work. These include organizations focused on food access and farm/garden education, such as Growing Gardens, Grow Portland, Friends of Zenger Farm, Outgrowing Hunger, and Village Gardens. MercyCorps Northwest offers access to land and training for refugee farmers through Refuge Gardens. The East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District operates a 60-acre farm incubator. Kitchen Commons supports a network of community kitchens. Hacienda CDC offers a Micro Mercantes program with access to commissary kitchens and training for Latino food entrepreneurs, and operates the Portland Mercado which hosts 40 primarily food-based businesses. Ecotrust, a statewide organization based in Portland, links farmers and commercial food buyers through its Food Hub website. Recently completed an Oregon Food Infrastructure Gap Analysis, and is redeveloping two city blocks into a regional food business center. An effort is also underway to develop the James Beard Public Market in downtown Portland, which is intended to house more than 90 local food and beverage vendors.
Community Goals and Recommendations
The background report on food systems for the Portland Plan noted, “The City of Portland currently lacks a Comprehensive Plan goal or policies regarding food systems and food access.” The Portland Plan did ultimately set a goal to “Expand access to healthy, affordable food by supporting the viability of grocery stores, local markets and community gardens in neighborhood centers,” and references healthy eating and improving health outcomes.
The Multnomah Food Action Plan contains 16 goals and 65 proposed actions nested in four subject areas, including:
- Local Food: Increase viable local options in our food system
- Healthy Eating: Make the healthy choice an easier choice for all
- Social Equity: Build systemic justice, health, and food security
- Economic Vitality: Promote a thriving local economy
However, in the more than five years since the two plans were published, neither the city nor the county has offered a comprehensive update on progress in food systems development efforts. With the dissolution of the Portland/Multnomah Food Policy Council in 2012, there is also not a clear voice calling for public attention, a comprehensive approach and on-going investment in food systems. A collaborative education and advocacy effort by the many farm and food organizations in Multnomah County could help maintain food systems as a public priority.