Mayor Puts San Francisco on Organic Diet

Somewhere in these 47 square miles, there must be some farmland, right?

From cutting the cupcakes out of city meetings to a proposal to dish up health food in jail, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is making a sweeping gesture in one of America's premiere gustatory paradises.

The whippet-thin Newsom, a former restaurateur, has issued an executive directive to city departments to start looking for suitable farmland on public property around town.

It's part of an announcement intended to get even better food on plates around town.

Vendors and vending machines that do business with the city will have to offer healthy options, and the Health Department will be responsible for issuing guidelines on what, and how much, is served at city functions.

Newsom took umbrage when asked how, exactly, the city planned to pay for all this.

"We have plenty of resources, this is not a budget buster," he told reporters gathered at City Slicker Farms in Oakland yesterday.

He does have a point: A recent study commissioned by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy estimates the cost of obesity and sedentary lifestyles in San Francisco to be $1.1 billion a year in health spending and lost productivity.

But another potential problem is in determining exactly what "healthy," "local" and "sustainable" mean, with a spokesman for the mayor assuring everyone they're merely "guidelines."

The federal definition of "organic," for instance, is hotly contested by small scale farmers and industrial agricultural operations alike -- and certification of a farm is a costly and time-consuming process.

As America's leading producer of organic-labeled foods, it's a hot-button issue in rural California where Newsom will have to make inroads if he expects to be elected governor. 

Photo by Flickr user Biskuit.

Jackson West wonders why the mayor won't make an effort to get people out of their cars, but will tell them what to eat.

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