Assessing Demand of Culturally Appropriate Local Foods

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Assessing Demand of Culturally Appropriate Local Foods for King County in Washington State amongst East African residents- primarily Somali residents. Published in Runta News:

Text of Assessing Demand of Culturally Appropriate Local Foods





    Carolyn Foster, Dani Gilmour, Matt Wildey, Schell Liu

    Community, Environment and Planning, Autumn 2014

    Professors Jill Sterrett and Branden Born

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    Table of Contents

    Executive Summary | 1

    Introduction | 2

    Purpose and Scope | 4

    Client and Audience | 5

    Methodology and Results | 6

    Additional Information | 13

    Conclusions | 15

    Next Steps and Recommendations | 17

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    Thank you to the following individuals for their guidance, support, and collaboration without which this

    project would not have been possible.

    Abdi Aden

    Fresh and Green Produce

    Andrew Stout

    Full Circle

    Branden Born & Jill Sterrett

    University of Washington

    Devon Love

    Center for Multicultural Health

    Erick Haakenson

    Jubilee Farm

    Kate Selting

    Columbia City Farmers Market

    Micah Anderson

    Seattle Tilth Farm Works

    Mohamud Yussuf


    Nicole Capizzi

    Washington State Department of Agriculture

    Nimco Bulale

    East African Community Services

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    This project is designed to determine the extent to which demand exists for culturally

    appropriate foods in King County that local farmers can produce and provide. This is a study to

    support the Local Food Initiative in examining how King County can expand its local food economy

    to develop a sustainable and resilient local food system, as well as increase access to healthy

    affordable foods. We worked to identify the demand of fresh fruits and vegetables for people of

    East African descent in South King County, and the feasibility of meeting that demand with locally

    grown King County produce- with special focus on Farmers Markets as a retail outlet.

    We surveyed a selection of the East African population to determine fruit and vegetable

    demand then interviewed community contacts and farmers. As a result, we were able to compile a

    list of the top 10 demanded vegetables and fruits. We then related key information from farmers

    about supply capabilities. We conclude that the current demand is likely being met for fruits and

    vegetables within this subset of the population. Integrating local produce through import

    substitution is a possibility to further explore, but meeting demand for local produce through

    farmers markets might not be the most effective method. This research is the first step in

    developing a model of future study on the topic of culturally appropriate food availability within

    specific cultural groups. This research could be conducted further to aid the Local Food Initiative in

    understanding demands of the diverse diets of King County.

    Executive Summary

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    King County wants to know the extent to which demand exists for culturally appropriate

    foods (CAFs) among its residents that its farmers can produce and provide. An increase in culturally

    diverse populations is forecasted for King County, and these aspects of food consumption and

    production had not been researched before this study. This project is looking to identify the

    demand of culturally appropriatehealthyfoods1, and determine the feasibility of meeting this

    demand with locally produced products. Farmers markets are identified as a specific pathway to

    consider when looking to bridge this supply and demand. Our team addressed these goals in

    designing and carrying out our project: Assessing Demand of Culturally Appropriate Local Foods for

    East Africans in King County. We worked to identify the demanded CAFs for East Africans in King

    County, and explored the strategy of import substitution based on the viability of growing these

    products for farmers in King County. The purpose of pursuing these answers is based on a recent

    initiative to increase access to local healthy food by boosting the local agricultural economy in King


    Every year, King County spends $6 billion purchasing food. Unfortunately, less than 2% of

    this purchased food is grown in King County. King County Executive Dow Constantine recognized

    this issue and addressed it in June of 2014 with his Local Food Economy Initiative2. This initiative is

    working towards bridging the gap between the productive and valuable farmland in our region and

    the plates of King County residents. The initiative is framed to address the current discrepancy by

    expanding our local food economy and improving healthy food access. An increase of locally

    produced food will greatly bolster King Countys economy. With increased focus on affordable

    access, this increase could also benefit lower-income communities of King County.

    An advisory group of local stakeholders was created to address these goals and construct

    the plan of action for this initiative. This group is called the Kitchen Cabinet and consists of

    leaders in King Countys: agricultural community, grocery retail, restaurant sector, produce

    distribution, farmland preservation, human service non-governmental organizations, academia,

    local and state partner organizations, and community. This group began meeting in June 2014 and

    concluded in November 2014. Their targets, strategies and action items are now published online in

    draft form3. Overarching tactics to expand the local food economy include: increasing procurement

    1 fruits, vegetables, meat/poultry, and dairy products 2 Local Food Initiative, Last Modified October 30, 2014, 3 DRAFT Targets, Strategies, and Action Items for the Food Economy Goal, DRAFT Targets, Strategies, and Action Items

    for the Food Access Goal


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    of local foods based on burgeoning interest from residents, tourists and food-related businesses,

    reducing barriers for farmers to sell products locally, and preserving farmland from development as

    the region grows. To increase access to healthy foods, the initiative seeks to increase local food

    procurement via institutions such as schools, hospitals and jails; strengthen connections between

    producers and food retailers; and partner with community organizations to promote health and


    Our project bridges both of these initiatives by investigating current demand and potential

    increase in supply of locally grown healthy CAFs. Our project is also a baseline for future research for

    East Africans in King County and other King County residents with identifiable CAFs.

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    Given the context of the Local Food Initiative, our group was specifically tasked with

    focusing on expansion of the production and sales of CAFs that are demanded by the diverse

    residents of King County. To make this task more manageable, we focused on one area of South

    Seattle, one ethnic group, and two types of local healthy CAFs.

    Since farmers markets are a selling space for locally produced foods, we wanted to focus on

    an area of King County that had a farmers market nearby. This way, we could potentially meet the

    demand with locally grown produce. We chose Columbia City because it is home to the furthest

    south farmers market in Seattle, and is an area with well-known ethnic and racial diversity. Using

    2010 Census Data (Appendix A) it was determined that percent Foreign Born Black or African

    American was the highest ethnic percentage of nonwhite individuals in Columbia City. From there,

    our client suggested that we further narrow our ethnic group to East Africans. We decided to

    specifically look at CAFs that were fruits and vegetables because those items are most frequently

    sold at farmers markets.

    With this scope, our main objective was to determine the top 10 CAFs, specifically fruits and

    vegetables, for residents of East African descent living in Columbia City. We later changed this to

    include residents of East African descent living in South Seattle, as our connections led us beyond

    Columbia City, and it became apparent that it was not significant for the study if individuals lived

    specifically in Columbia City.

    In addition to identifying the top ten culturally appropriate fruits and vegetables, we also

    wanted to know if and where these residents purchase the determined fruits and vegetables. We

    also sought to understand the feasibility of King County farmers to grow these fruits and

    vegetables, and the feasibility of expanding the production if already being grown.

    Purpose and Scope

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    Our client is Lilly Simmering, manager of the King County Department of Natural Resources

    and Parks, which launched the Local Food Economy Initiative program. This program aims to

    expand our local food economy, and improve healthy food access in low-income communities. We

    were in regular contact with Lilly to keep her updated on our progress. We received detailed

    information from Lilly during our first meeting, in ad