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3rd Annual Let's Go Local! Produce Showcase

White canopies draped with burlap cloth, dozens of farmers standing by proud displays of produce, and people in sunhats smiling wide and admiring brightly colored fruits and vegetables: welcome to the third annual Let's Go Local! Produce Showcase!

This year's Showcase, held on October 23, 2015 at the Leichtag Foundation Ranch in Encinitas, was a huge success! Over 200 attendees had the opportunity to meet nearly 50 exhibitors, including 37 local farms and food producers, 3 produce distributors, and 8 educational partners. This year's Showcase was held in conjunction with Food Day (October 24th), a nationwide day of action promoting a vision of food that is healthy, affordable, and produced with care.

The Let's Go Local! Produce Showcase is the cornerstone event in CHIP's work to grow the local food economy by helping large institutional buyers connect with growers of fresh, healthy, local produce and other sustainable food producers. Fostering the market in which these buyers and sellers interact sets the stage for profitable and sustainable business relationships that help grow a healthy community, economy, and food system. Let's go Local! is a unique opportunity for these buyers and sellers to meet face-to-face to explore potential business relationships and community partnerships.

During the Showcase's brief comments, Kevin Gorham, Aquaponic Specialist at Solutions for Change shared these eloquent words:

"Currently the Vista Unified School District (VUSD) is our largest buyer.  Our relationship with VUSD started at Farm to School Taskforce meetings, with casual conversations between interested parties.  We've got a saying at Solutions, "Connect, Trust, Act" If you don't connect with someone you can't trust them and if you don't trust someone you're not going to act on anything with them, and you definitely aren't going to buy your food from them."

Liz Gary, with San Diego Soy Dairy said, "Due to the Let's Go Local program we are well on our way to introducing our product into a number of new venues."  Janis Garcia with Daily Harvest Market told us, "We loved, loved, loved the Let's Go Local event!!! We connected with lots of new growers which is really helpful and made some great connections.  Thank you for including us and we can't wait till next year!"

Thanks immensely to those who attended and exhibited at the 2015 Let's Go Local! Produce Showcase. An impressive array of dynamic organizations, businesses, and individuals continue to advance the shared goal of a creating a food system that contributes to a healthy community, economy, and environment. We are in this together. Now, onward!

Stephanie Gioia-Beckman

Most COI partners know Stephanie Gioia-Beckman as Supervisor Ron Roberts' Senior Policy Advisor and a longtime supporter of the COI, but you may be surprised to learn that Stephanie never really had her sights on politics or government work. Child welfare had always been her passion, so Stephanie attended UC Santa Barbara, where she received a bachelor's degree in psychology, and planned to one day become a psychiatrist.

For four years, she worked as a counselor then supervisor at a residential treatment center for severely emotionally distrurbed foster youth. "I wanted to become a psychiatrist, but after learning about the child welfare system that abused children face, I realized one-on-one therapy wouldn't make enough impact; we need larger scale change," Stephanie remembers. She applied to graduate school at San Diego State University's School of Social Work and while waiting to hear back, she came across an employment opportunity working with former state Senator Dede Alpert, a known juvenile justice, child welfare, and health advocate.

"Senator Alpert was very well respected and the first female senator to chair the appropriations committee," recalls Stephanie. Despite Stephanie's lack of government experience, her commitment to child welfare aligned with Senator Alpert's and she was hired as a community representative. Over nearly five years, she gained experience serving on committees and working with the community on legislation.

Stephanie recalls the time when a young resident contacted Senator Alpert's office to discuss the challenges CalWORKS recipients face to save money for a college education: "If a CalWORKS recipient saved money for post-secondary education, their savings would disqualify them from obtaining benefits." While working with Stephanie to draft legislation to address this issue, the youth was tragically killed in a car accident. To continue the legacy of the young community advocate, Stephanie worked diligently with the family members to pass legislation that would prevent educational saving accounts from impacting CalWORKS income eligibility. This experience reaffirmed Stephanie's commitment to public service and the impact policies have on individuals.

In 2004, with Senator Alpert's term limit approaching, Stephanie was hired by County Supervisor Ron Roberts because of their mutual commitments to children and health. Over the past 11 years, Stephanie has worked for Supervisor Roberts and says the favorite part of her job is, "sitting at the table with community and other parts of government to solve big, societal issues collaboratively." Connecting with community members is integral because "feedback helps frame the issues for decision makers."

Stephanie's involvement in childhood obesity prevention actually preceded the development of the Call to Action: San Diego County Childhood Obesity Action Plan (Action Plan) and creation of the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative. In 2004, she served on the steering committee that developed the first Action Plan. Stephanie has been involved with the COI since its inception and continues to serve on the Leadership Council and as a co-chair of the Government Domain. When asked what keeps her engaged in the COI she responded, "it's a great resource to learn about community health issues, organize, and implement community change."

While reflecting on her career, Stephanie admits, "I've always been sad that I haven't pursued my master's degree, but the experience from my career would not have been captured in any degree program." In her free time, Stephanie enjoys spending time with her family and said one of her proudest accomplishments is being a mom to her two sons. "It's the most important job, creating an individual and raising him to be a productive contributor to society."

Fulfilling Her Passion: Helping Families Live Healthier Lives

Kim McDougal is a third generation Alaska native and admits that when her family first moved to San Diego when she was 15 years old, it "was a hard adjustment." As a child, Kim enjoyed exploring the outdoors, camping, and fishing on the weekends, so when her family relocated to Encinitas for her father's work, the change of scenery and cultural norms were quite a shock.

Kim attended college at UC Davis and studied International Relations and Spanish. It was her work with the Boston Health Department Lead Poisoning Prevention program that really sparked her interest in children's health. Kim decided to move back to California to earn a Masters of Public Health and a Masters of Child and Family Development at San Diego State University. One of her fondest memories while attending school was an assignment working with a small community that made leaded ceramics in Oaxaca, Mexico. The project aimed to understand the Oaxaca community's perception of lead and then determine an appropriate intervention. The class determined a nutrition intervention would be most fitting and modified local recipes as a means to minimize the impacts of lead exposure through healthy nutrition. The students then held a huge celebration and shared the food and recipes with the community members.

Upon completing her coursework, Kim's commitment to children's health led her to the YMCA Childcare Resource Service, where she now serves as executive manager. Kim is a co-chair of the COI's Early Childhood Domain. She is extremely passionate about her work and loves "visiting preschools, seeing the kids, and working with families and childcare providers who are doing the hardest work out there."

Kim was quick to mention that her favorite part of the job is "working with passionate, talented, and fun people within the YMCA as well as with community partners on collaborative grants and committees." On second thought, she admitted, her "favorite part of the job is the actual work that we do supporting children, low income families, and the community. That's really at the core, and then secondary is the amazing people that I work with."

During her free-time Kim enjoys cooking, camping, hiking (with her dog), and running (she has completed four half marathons). Kim feels a deep connection to the Mexican culture and has been volunteering for nine years as a "Big" through Big Brother Big Sisters with her "Little," who is from Oaxaca, Mexico. In retrospect, Kim admits that although the move to California was an adjustment, it has led her to many great opportunities, experiences, and to her passion: helping children and families lead healthier lives!

 

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