Saturday, May 15, 2010

Draft Proposal for Local Food Currency

(This just a first rough draft of what a local food currency could look like)

Purpose: To support sustainable local food production, distribution, and awareness. To make healthy food more accessible, especially to low income populations. To begin the implementation of a Bay Area wide currency system.
Governance: Representatives from different nonprofit and for profit entities that are part of the currency system, as well as representatives from the communities using the currency. Positions would have term limits.
Mechanism: Paper scrip, mutual credit online accounts, eventually card. Will likely expand to other kinds of local businesses after initial implementation is successful.
Backing: Redemption for local food. Labor on local food projects, related businesses and nonprofits. There would be either be no conversion back to dollars or a penalty for conversion (prefer the former). The money sitting in the bank would be available for loans or grants to urban agriculture projects (urban CSAs, community gardens, rooftop gardens, urban farms, school gardens, coop grocery store start ups, farmers market start ups) in combination with food currency loans/grants, thereby converting value from $USD to real value in community – sustainable food security.
Issuance: Purchase at a "buy local" discount or as change at certain businesses or nonprofits that are local and involved with food and ag - gardening classes and stores, restaurants, farmers markets, for CSA shares, underground farmers market, grocery stores and small producers. Offer memberships where you get even more of a discount on the scrip as a perk for the membership fee. Earn the scrip through working at approved local food related projects like Hayes Valley Farm or a food bank. This creates opportunities for more abundance of food flowing to those that need it most - those that don't have $USD. Workers at a local business that produces/distributes local food (farm, farmers markets, restaurants, grocers, CSAs) can earn scrip as a bonus. People could also earn scrip by gleaning or by growing food in an open lot or other location, such as backyard, and turning the produce in for distribution in exchange for scrip. Grants and loans may be made to sustainable food security projects. The Timebank could form a parallel online accounting system for this project where timebank members could choose that their volunteer hours go to a food currency account (which would be taxable) and then could draw down on positive accounts to issue scrip. Or if we have scrip denominated in dollars, we could form a separate mutual credit accounting system.
Circulation: People/entities would earn or buy or receive as change the currency and then spend at businesses, nonprofits, markets and independent producers related to sustainable, local food. We would encourage member organizations to encourage their suppliers to join the system and integrate the supply chain, thereby creating a currency loop that keeps the money flowing. Loans made in food currency would need to be paid back in food currency thereby creating pressure for borrowers to find ways to both spend and earn back their currency. Businesses that have log jams of currency would be helped to find ways to spend to support their business, to make nonprofit donations of currencies (community grants) for which they would receive public acknowledgment, or to provide bonuses to their employees.
Participants: Unemployed, underemployed, elderly, differently-abled, youth, anyone! Food-related nonprofits, grocery stores and restaurants that source some sustainable local food, farmers markets, underground markets, urban farms, educational institutions that teach about food/agriculture, food banks, municipal food projects. Likely partners: Noe Valley Farmers Market, Underground Farmers Market, Rainbow Grocery, Far West Fungi, Hayes Valley Farm, Alemany Farm, Free Farm/Produce to the People, Little City Urban Gardens CSA, Heart of the City Farmers Market, Mission Pie, Forage SF, Café Gratitude/Gracias Madre, Garden for the Environment, Urban Permaculture Institute, Valencia Whole Foods, Veritable Vegetable, Arizmendi, Alemany Farmers Market, San Francisco Food Bank, St. Vincent De Paul and lots more.
Funding: Sales of scrip for $USD, grants related to local urban agriculture, food security and local economics.


  1. Hello Mira, I have been thinking the same exact thing! Brilliant! What has happened with this?