Cut the red tape & pass the veggies

Do something about it! Take action! Contact City Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy and urge her to take the Uptown Farmer’s Market matter to the City Council. Call (916) 264-7002 or
Buying decent fresh fruits and vegetables shouldn’t be a big ordeal and for most of us it’s not. Get to the neighborhood grocery store and pick out what you want, hassle free. Right?

Wrong. As it turns out, plenty of people in our community, especially those who live in Del Paso Heights and North Sacramento, struggle enormously just to put decent fresh produce on the table. A Sacramento City Hunger Commission report in 2000 found that a large number of residents from this area, especially those without cars, can barely get fresh produce into their homes. That’s because there are no major supermarkets in the area and, according to the commission, the handful of smaller independent grocers located there tend to stock up on fresh stuff only at the beginning of the month when social security checks are issued.

A few weeks ago, SN&R contributor Liv O’Keeffe put a human face on the commission’s findings by following one woman through the ordeal of buying a simple bag of groceries. The North Sacramento mother climbed on and off buses and light rail, juggling toddler, diaper bag and stroller … all in pursuit of fresh produce for her family. The woman didn’t have to be told that poor eating habits will have lasting health repercussions, especially for her children. There is no lack of research pointing to a strong association between hunger, cognitive development, attentiveness in class and performance on standardized tests.

But then the story went on to detail a creative solution that two nonprofit organizations had come up with to solve the problem. The groups—Uptown Community Development Corporation and From the Garden to the Table—decided to organize an organic farmer’s market in the heart of the community, in the parking lot of the centrally located and massively popular Calvary Christian Center. Permits were acquired, permission from the church was obtained and 25 eager growers were lined up to sell their goods. The bountiful market was set to open in April.

The city of Sacramento met the Uptown Farmer’s Market with nothing but red tape and zoning restrictions, instead of with open arms. A few weeks ago, the city’s Neighborhood Services Department told market organizers they would have to rezone for commercial use, at a cost of $10,000. Incredibly, city officials have upped that ante and now say it would take six to eight months and cost more like $25,000 in various fees and costs to re-zone the property and open the market.

$25,000! What’s wrong with Sacramento city government?

Community organizers spent a year going step-by-step to organize a creative neighborhood fix to a serious problem. They should be first applauded and then helped by the city, not buried in red tape.

It’s time for some leadership, please. We urge Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy, who represents North Sacramento, to rise above politics and take up the cause of the Uptown Farmer’s Market. For starters, Sheedy could take the matter before the entire council, order staff to back off on the bureaucracy and find solutions, and let the market happen as planned. After all, the politicians are supposed to run the bureaucracy … not the other way around.