CIRS Blog about Rural California

Edith Jessup

Edith Jessup

Edie grew up in Porterville, California. Edie has worked eclectically over her career, primarily in advocacy and direct service work with neighbors who happen to be poor, and thereby hungry, homeless, and without health access. Her focus is on creating an arena where people can, in their own voice, advocate for themselves. Through her experiences in listening to people she is convinced that there is a story about basic needs and rights and how systems impact the poor, and, people want to hear about this. If people can hear, they will want to change themselves and the system. Edie is committed to restoring the food system and food justice and is a longtime food and nutrition advocate. She worked as the Hunger and Nutrition Coordinator for Fresno Metro Ministry for the past nine years. In March of 2006, Edie became Director of the Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program for Fresno County, in partnership with the Fresno County Department of Public Health, and California State University, Fresno; and began formation of a Fresno County food and built environment policy council (Get Fit Fresno County), as well as providing technical assistance to five other counties on community involvement in environmental change. In the fall of 2009, Edie was hired at the Regional CCROPP office as the Program Development Specialist, currently focusing on regional food access and safe places to be active. Edie presented “Food Security, Poverty, Race and Nutrition Related Disease” on aspects of community change and chronic disease at the October 2003 American Heart Association’s Minority Health Summit and Health Disparities Conference in Atlanta, and at the American Planning Association Meeting in 2005. She is the recipient of the NAACP Image Award 2003; Way of Peace Award, and Fresno Center for Nonviolence 2006 Award. She has been a keynote speaker at the California National Social Workers Meeting (2007), and presented a lecture for the Fresno State Ethics Lecture Series on ‘Politics and Food Scarcity’ (2008), and presented at state and national conferences on food security. Edie participates actively on a number of state and regional committees, including: California Department of Health/Cancer Prevention & Nutrition Section- Network for a Healthy California Joint Steering Committee and Executive Committee; California Hunger Action Coalition; Roots of Change, Stewardship Council, Co-Chair; California Farm to School Task Force, Interfaith Alliance of Central California; Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Committee.

The poverty of the Central Valley of California and the abundance of the region’s agriculture is a conundrum. Even though there has been a decrease in community-based access to healthy food, and a rise in chronic disease in the heartland of the state of California, and the nation, we are beginning to see people and agriculture coming together for the good of both.

The exciting change arising in the Central Valley, honoring our agricultural roots and reinventing our regional economy, has been led by the smart growth investments of Smart Valley Places, with support from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation. These buds of change are blossoming into a new triple-bottom-line Central Valley economy that honors the environment, equity and economics. Environmentalists, supporters of the organic movement, and advocates for social justice, are not the only ones talking the regional food system talk anymore. The Fresno Business Council, the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley and regional cities are choosing smart growth and healthy communities and realizing that the Central Valley, a place with the capacity to feed the nation, can also feed our region. Institutions (such as schools, hospitals and city and county governments) are looking at their ability to access healthier, affordable local food, and the ability for local purchasing to drive their economies home.

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Edie Jessup

           Program Development Specialist at CCROPP & Co-Chair at Roots of Change

 


California’s Central Valley is where much of the nation’s produce is grown and where the greatest diversity of farmers live and work, but it is also a region where some of the most concentrated and entrenched poverty exists (Brookings Institute Report).  Some of these rural communities have over 40% unemployment and the current economy is driving the fact that here in the Central Valley, the poorest congressional districts in the nation are suffering greatly from a lack of steady work.  The Central Valley’s primary asset is the agriculture industry that feeds the nation and world; however, the Valley has 40% food insecurity and 67% of adults are obese, while children suffer from chronic disease, hunger and poverty.

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