Local First Arizona has been a longtime contributor in strengthening Southern Arizona’s local foods system. Through the Local First Arizona local business coalition, LFA connects producers, preparers and distributors in the local food space. LFA also sponsors culinary festivals like SAVOR and DEVOUR promoting local foods to consumers. Through the Local First Arizona Foundatio, LFAF sponsors GoodFoodFinderAZ.com, a statewide informational hub for local food. The Foundation also sponsors several Healthy Food Initiatives including the Farmer + Chef Connection and the Food and Farm Finance Forum. In 2016, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized the City of Tucson as a City of Gastronomy in the Creative Cities Network. Tucson is the first city in North America to receive this prestigious designation. The designation has brought worldwide attention to Tucson’s local food scene. LFA’s Southern Arizona Director, Erika Mitnik-White has been excited to see the change in awareness about local foods in the last few years. Mitnik-White also serves on the City of Tucson Commission for Food Security, Heritage and Economy and the board for the Tucson City of Gastronomy. “It’s been wonderful to see the diversity and resilience of our food system written up around the world,” comments Mitnik-White. “In Tucson, we are very familiar with the hard work being done by organizations here on the ground, but it’s great to see that work get worldwide attention.It also serves as a model for how to create place based food communities.” Stories about the designation have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Smithsonian Magazine and the Vancouver Sun and many more media outlets. VisitTucson estimates that media stories on the City of Gastronomy designation have brought in the marketing equivalent of 13.3 million dollars in publicity for the City of Tucson. “Gaining this sort of attention highlights the importance of supporting our local food businesses within the area,” says Mitnik-White. “Without the farmers and producers, community groups, chefs and educators, we don’t have this designation.”
As part of the requirements towards the UNESCO initiative, a yearly State of Tucson’s Food System report was prepared by the University of Arizona’s Center For Regional Food Studies. The report recognizes the regional efforts in the local food system and states that “credit must therefore be given directly to the grassroots organizations, non-profits, educational institutions and businesses which worked tirelessly toward accomplishing these advances.” Local First Arizona is proud to be recognized in this report in the company of so many extraordinary organizations doing the work of promoting and preserving local food and food heritage. View the full State of Tucson's Food System Report here.