Arizona agriculture employees more than 77,000 people in Arizona and has a $17.1 billion impact on Arizona’s economy. With the millions of pounds of vitamin rich produce, meat, eggs and dairy products produced in the state, Arizonans should not be hungry. Published reports state Arizona has 1 million people who are hungry at some point every year.
As part of Governor Doug Ducey’s initiative to reduce the obesity and related health issues, the Department of Agriculture started a campaign to increase access to healthy food in Arizona. The Department hosted Summits, along with the Department of Health Services, to bring together people from Arizona programs working to connect people with food grown and distributed in Arizona.
The Food Desert Summit in 2016 identified some of the gaps in the food system, the need for a statewide network and another Summit.
In 2017, a Food Summit brought together twice as many people to address more groups from throughout the state. In breakout sessions, participants addressed three major issues: the Emergency Food System, Food System Equity and Economic Development. Goals from the 2017 Summit were provided to the Food & Agriculture Policy Advisory Council. The Department also created an interactive database, a place for volunteer, non-profit, government, or an organization to post information about its work and contact information. This can be seen here.
The Council consists of representatives from various sections of food production, storage, distribution and sales. It advises the director on ways to improve access to Arizona grown and raised food, as well as other high nutrition foods.