With a contentious mayoral race and six city council seats competing in the run-off election on June 10, the FPCSA board decided it was a good time to jump into the conversation and ask the candidates about their platform on food and building a sustainable local food system. Every candidate received an email outlining the policy changes and improvements we are seeking in the coming budget and inquired about their level of support for or against five issues, which include: hiring a food policy coordinator, developing a state of the food system report, incorporating local procurement practices for Pre-K 4 SA and/or after-school challenge program, developing a healthy corner stores initiative and revising the livestock ordinance. The candidates were given two weeks to complete their responses.

President Mitch Hagney wrote a brief op-ed piece in The Rivard Report outlining the overwhelming support from both mayoral candidates, along with the well-informed and equally positive responses received from District 2 candidate William “Cruz” Shaw and District 6 candidate Melissa Cabello Havrda. The remaining ten candidates were contacted on numerous occasions, both by phone, email and using their website’s contact page, regarding their response to our inquiry, but no additional responses were received. However, we are hopeful that we can have meaningful conversations with the winners sometime after June 11. You can read each of the candidate’s full responses below, and, if you haven’t already, please go vote.

Mayor Ivy Taylor’s Food Policy Statement

As Mayor, I want all San Antonians to be connected to opportunity, especially the opportunity to lead healthy lives. In the past I have gladly supported efforts such as the Culinaria Urban Farm and San Antonio Food Bank’s school-based outreach program, which teaches children to grow and prepare healthy food.

Also, the Mayor’s Fitness Council continues to do great work to make our community FitCitySA, including the Por Vida restaurant recognition program, Mobile Mercado and VegOut SA! Our Student Ambassadors are also bringing healthy practices into schools. There’s a lot of good work underway already.

However, the reality is that in San Antonio, more than one-quarter of our children – 27% – live in food-insecure homes. That’s more than 125,000 kids in danger of hunger every day in our city. So we need to do much more to ensure that not only are San Antonians enabled to make healthy choices, but also that everyone in our community has access to food.

Last year, City Council adopted our first comprehensive plan, SA Tomorrow, which includes a Sustainability Plan. Sustainability focal areas include both Food System and Public Health and their target outcomes and strategies. I fully support SA Tomorrow strategies such as developing an urban agriculture pilot program (the community’s top choice) and those changes endorsed by the Food Policy Council of San Antonio, including:

  • Hiring a Food Policy Coordinator;
  • Executing a State of the Food System study to assess current challenges and opportunities;
  • Creating a model local municipal procurement program to support and expand regional food production;
  • Establishing a Healthy Corner Store initiative in targeted neighborhoods; and
  • Reviewing and updating, if needed, livestock provisions of the animal code to ensure that San Antonians who choose to can raise their own food, while protecting animal welfare and avoiding nuisance complaints.

I support these goals because we engaged in an extensive process that included residents, partner organizations and food policy advocates, which not only established desired outcomes that we can all agree on but built partnerships so that we can move forward.

I know this firsthand as Mayor – no one group can make such significant and important changes by acting alone. School districts, volunteers, local businesses, and government and elected officials all play a role in creating a healthier community where no one suffers from hunger or finds their food choices restricted by what zip code or neighborhood they live in.

Ron Nirenberg

What do you intend to do as mayor to increase the city’s access to affordable, healthy food for all citizens and the cultivation of sustainable food in San Antonio?

Ensuring that all communities in San Antonio have access to affordable healthy foods must be a priority for the next City Council if we are to achieve the citizens’ goals outlined within SA Tomorrow. First, we should support the expansion of the Green Spaces Alliance community gardens program throughout the city. In addition, the healthy corner store initiative should facilitate access to healthy foods in neighborhoods where a grocery store is not nearby. More local food sourcing by institutions like the city and the schools will reduce costs and improve nutrition while also supporting small, locally owned business. We should also support the development of urban farms through the streamlining of development code.

The Food Policy Council of San Antonio is seeking five policy changes within the next year, all based on the goals adopted within SA Tomorrow. Those include:

  •  The hiring of a Food Policy Coordinator. That position will connect departmental programs, engage community members, coordinate research, and suggest policy on the San Antonio food system and its resilience, production, and equitable distribution.
  • The execution of a study of the State of the Food System, to assess the current challenges and opportunities.
  • The creation of a local procurement program for either Pre-K 4 SA or the city’s After School Challenge program, to initiate a model of municipal selective sourcing that builds up regional food production.
  • The establishment of a Healthy Corner Store initiative, to bring more nutrition access to the most at-need neighborhoods in the city.
  • Update the livestock provisions of the animal code, in partnership with Animal Control Services, to ensure the ability to raise food at home, protect animal welfare, and avoid nuisance complaints.

If elected, are these goals you would adopt? Why or why not? How might we as a city best achieve the goal of a better food system?

I support the Food Policy Council goals and will work in partnership with its members to develop strategies to accomplish them. The work of citizens during the SA Tomorrow process has shown that the San Antonio Metro Health Department – and associated policy-making by City Council – should be data-driven around community health outcomes in all parts of the city. For this reason, I believe that the goals of the Food Policy Council, including a coordinator within SAMHD (San Antonio Metropolitan Health Division), will help achieve cost efficiencies and improved health outcomes.

William “Cruz” Shaw, District 2

What do you intend to do as councilperson to increase the city’s access to affordable, healthy food for all citizens and the cultivation of sustainable food in San Antonio? 

I believe that for sustainable growth in our communities, it is important to begin at a foundational level. The idea of cultivating sustainable food is similar to cultivating a sustainable line of leadership in our community. It’s a matter that relies on foundational investment and empowering our communities with education on this kind of matter. The idea of affordable and healthy food isn’t possible without local government ensuring that the path to that is an efficient and replicable one. We have to make sure that bureaucracy is encouraging progress, as opposed to hindering progress. I look forward to pushing for regulations at city level to be logical and sensible, and I will encourage fellow officials and city staff to reach out to experts in these fields to assess/develop/implement pathways to make sure we are supporting improvement where we can.

The Food Policy Council of San Antonio is seeking five policy changes within the next year, all based on the goals adopted within SA Tomorrow. Those include: 

  • The hiring of a Food Policy Coordinator. That position will connect departmental programs, engage community members, coordinate research, and suggest policy on the San Antonio food system and its resilience, production, and equitable distribution. 

I am in support of a position to assist with this type of growth. I want to make sure that this position, as well others like them, are providing results in their respective fields. I want to make sure that the hiring of an individual to be focused on an issue as important as this one is dedicated to making real change, as opposed to just being a checkbox to satisfy a request.

  • The execution of a study of the State of the Food System, to assess the current challenges and opportunities.

This is an important matter that chimes in on many different factors (i.e. educational performance, life expectancy, general livelihood, etc…) It’s also a matter that hasn’t been explored in depth enough when it comes to our city and our communities. I would be supportive of finding a way to fund this study for our city, and would be interested in possibly looking for ways to expand the reach to a county-level.

  • The creation of a local procurement program for either Pre-K 4 San Antonio or the city’s After School Challenge program, to initiate a model of municipal selective sourcing that builds up regional food production. 

Working with entities like our school districts and community organizations in District 2 to create these partnerships will be key to creating an ecosystem that encourages sustainability and growth. It also ensures that we are pushing these measures at a foundational level when it comes to our youth and our younger parents. It’s unreasonable to continue to say that we want a healthier city and healthier communities, with thriving economies, without following through on measures like this one that create an interdependency of healthy and affordable regional components.

  • The establishment of a Healthy Corner Store initiative, to bring more nutrition access to the most at-need neighborhoods in the city. 

As I have reached out to community members and walked the streets of our District 2 community, I have noticed that many of our ‘corner stores’ could be contributing more to the success and progress of the communities that they reside within. A healthy corner store initiative is some thing that I would look forward to working with community leaders/members and the Food Policy Council of SA to establish in an effort to bring healthy and affordable food sources to our neighborhoods.

  • Update the livestock provisions of the animal code, in partnership with Animal Control Services, to ensure the ability to raise food at home, protect animal welfare, and avoid nuisance complaints. 

As I said before, “I look forward to pushing for regulations at city level to be logical and sensible, and I will encourage fellow officials and city staff to reach out to experts in these fields to assess/develop/implement pathways to make sure we are supporting improvement where we can.” This includes working with community members and neighborhood organizations to ensure that we all work together to update unnecessarily restrictive measures. As we move forward, I would like to assist the Food Policy Council of SA in pushing more dialogue regarding this issue.

If elected, are these goals you would adopt? Why or why not?

Yes. I think I have clarified enough in my answers above.

How might we as a city best achieve the goal of a better food system? 

We need to ensure that we are connecting our communities with the experts in this field in order to allow them to work together to get on the same page and find a pathway to sustainability in not only the business of providing healthy food, but also in making sure that our communities are able to afford healthy food. I look forward to being a partner with the Food Policy Council of SA in making sure that this conversation moves forward and becomes action.

Melissa Cabello Havrda, District 6

What do you intend to do as councilperson to increase the city’s access to affordable, healthy food for all citizens and the cultivation of sustainable food in San Antonio?

This is an important question, and how we answer it will say a lot about who we are as a city and what our values are.  This, to me, is an emergency situation that we don’t spend enough time talking about, and as such, we need to triage it.

The first priority for me is to identify the food deserts and other places where residents can’t afford or don’t have access to fresh produce and foods.  I’d like to work with community partners, including the FPCSA and the San Antonio Food Bank to bring fresh food to these residents – perhaps through mobile markets or similar events – to make as close to an immediate impact as possible.

Second, we need a plan to address the systemic factors that making fresh, healthy food inaccessible to certain residents and certain parts of town.  This will be a difficult process and, in the end, we’ll all share some of the blame.  The city has a crucial role to play in this part of the fight, however, as we can incentivize retailers to open in these neighborhoods, use the planning/zoning process to determine if prospective development will exacerbate this problem, and facilitate providing access to these foods for our residents.

Finally, as San Antonio’s growth exploded over the end of the 20th century through today, the city’s land use and planning practices haven’t always had sustainability in mind.  Just as we incentivize weatherization, water conservation, and xeroscaping, we can incentivize gardening and cultivation inside the city limits and provide real education that will help residents take partial ownership of this problem.  City-owned lots can be used for community gardens instead of dumping grounds.

Ultimately, the problem of access to affordable, healthy food options is a question of culture:  do we care enough about each other to make necessary changes?  Are we willing to invest, provide resources, and see our efforts through?  Will we track our success and hold ourselves accountable?  As Councilwoman, I will do all these things, and will work with anyone to push my colleagues to do the same.

The Food Policy Council of San Antonio is seeking five policy changes within the next year, all based on the goals adopted within SA Tomorrow. Those include:

  • The hiring of a Food Policy Coordinator. That position will connect departmental programs, engage community members, coordinate research, and suggest policy on the San Antonio food system and its resilience, production, and equitable distribution.
  • The execution of a study of the State of the Food System, to assess the current challenges and opportunities.
  • The creation of a local procurement program for either Pre-K 4 San Antonio and/or the city’s After School Challenge program, to initiate a model of municipal selective sourcing that builds up regional food production.
  • The establishment of a Healthy Corner Store initiative, to bring more nutrition access to the most at-need neighborhoods in the city.
  • Update the livestock provisions of the animal code, in partnership with Animal Control Services, to ensure the ability to raise food at home, protect animal welfare, and avoid nuisance complaints.

If elected, are these goals you would adopt? Why or why not? How might we as a city best achieve the goal of a better food system?

These are admirable goals, and I support them wholeheartedly.  We need to take control of this growing problem, and these are fantastic first steps to take.

Like healthcare and education, we need to treat access to affordable, healthy, whole foods as an essential service we have to proactively provide.  The infrastructure and model already exists, at least in part; the San Antonio Food Bank is recognized as among the best in the nation at raising and delivering food and services.  Organizations like FPSCA will be an important voice as we make decisions about planning, tracking success, and allocating resources.

Our challenge presents an opportunity for San Antonio to lead the way in identifying ways to tackle a growing problem that effects cities across the country.  San Antonio’s childhood and adult obesity rates are among the highest in the country, as are a host of troubling statistics, including the prevalence and child abuse and domestic violence.  We clearly can do more to take care of our residents, and it is imperative that we start immediately.


The apparent consensus among responding candidates is extremely encouraging, and, on behalf of the board and general membership of the FPCSA, we are excited about the future given such clear support among San Antonio politicians representing a majority of San Antonio residents.