LOS ANGELES, CA – According to the Department of Public Health (DPH), more than half a million households in Los Angeles County earning less than 300% of the federal poverty level are food insecure and face interrelated barriers purchasing fresh and quality foods, including low-income and limited access to local stores that offer fresh and high-quality food choices. In response to growing community concerns about the low quality of food that are offered in local grocery stores, today the Board of Supervisors approved a motion authored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis that directs the Department of Public Health to move forward with multi-faceted strategies to improve access to high quality fresh foods in underserved communities throughout LA County.

“Many families shopping in lower-income communities have spoken out about food quality in supermarkets, where some stores sell spoiled, moldy, and expired foods,” said Supervisor Solis. “When families do not have access to high quality food, they are at risk for serious health problems like obesity and diabetes. Food quality is both a health issue and a justice issue, and by giving the County Department of Public Health’s grocery store inspection program a broader mandate we can address these issues and improve the quality of life for all.”

Today’s action directs DPH to assess current grocery store inspection practices that are within the purview of DPH’s Environmental Health Division and set by the California Retail Food Code, and provide recommendations on how to address food quality and food safety issues. DPH will also work with County Counsel and other County departments to identify innovative strategies that are related to food quality but fall outside the purview of DPH’s Environmental Health Division, such as expiration dates, and will partner with other agencies and organizations to improve access to high-quality fresh food. DPH will report back to the Board in 60 days.

Supervisor Solis has been a leader on improving food safety and eliminating healthy food deserts. In December 2017, Supervisor Solis authored a motion to improve screening in health clinics for food insecurity, so that better data collection could inform the allocation of resources. In December 2018, Supervisor Solis passed a motion to support increased food security for transition aged youth (TAY) who far too often face periods of food insecurity. These two motions created systems and processes to refer some of the County’s most vulnerable residents to CalFresh, WIC, and nutrition education programs. Most recently, in April 2019, Supervisor Solis led a successful effort at the Board of Supervisors to reduce food insecurity for seniors and people with disabilities through reversal of the SSI/SSP Cash-Out policy.