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Council report presents 59-point blueprint for creating jobs, improving public health and protecting the environment

New York, NY – City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn today unveiled an 86 page, comprehensive plan that sets a bold vision for a more sustainable food system—a ground-to-garbage approach unprecedented in the history of our city. The plan, ‘FoodWorks’, provides a blueprint for addressing issues at every phase of the food system, from agricultural production through post-consumption. The proposals focus on combating hunger and obesity to preserving regional farming and local food manufacturing to decreasing waste and energy usage.

The New York City food system faces a number of critical challenges that must be addressed as we anticipate adding 1 million more New Yorkers in the next two decades:

• 25% of New York City’s children are obese
• 3 million people lack adequate access to grocery stores
• 1.4 million New Yorkers struggle to put food on the table
• 30% of low-income students take advantage of free breakfast

“By addressing the system as a whole, we can begin to make connections throughout the phases of the food system—production, distribution, processing, consumption and post-consumption.” said Speaker Quinn. “These connections will create effective partnerships across sectors, and lead to more powerful, far reaching changes.”

Speaking at The Food and Finance High School in Clinton, Speaker Quinn outlined 59 policy proposals spanning five phases of the food system. The proposals included new legislation, funding initiatives and far-reaching goals that present a long-term vision for a better food system.

I. AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION – Support regional farmers, strengthen regional linkages, and increase urban food production

“New York State is home to over 36,000 farms and 7 million acres of farmland. We rank 2nd in apple production – growing more than enough to meet our local demand.. Yet we still import apples from Washington and apple juice from China.” -Speaker Quinn

To meet the needs of our growing population and achieve a more secure food system for the future, the plan outlines steps to better support regional farmers and reconnect New Yorkers to their food, including facilitating urban-rural linkages to help farmers bring their food to city markets.
• Increasing regional food procurement – Council Member Brewer will introduce legislation that would require the city to develop new procurement guidelines to encourage purchasing from regional farmers by city agencies, leveraging the city’s economic power as a major food purchaser.

• Increasing direct farmer-consumer linkages – Direct to consumer programs increase market opportunities and profit margins for many regional farmers.

o For example, community supported agriculture programs (CSA’s) allow New Yorkers to buy a share of a local farmer’s crops, and then get deliveries of fresh produce every week during the growing season. In today’s speech, the Speaker is leading by example and announcing a City Hall CSA for government employees. The Council will also partner with DFTA and NYCHA to explore ways to increase access to CSA’s by working with residents on the Green Committees in NYCHA facilities.

• Grow the city’s system of farmers markets – Farmers markets are another example of direct-to -consumer linkages. The plan calls for an expansion in the number of farmers markets, and an increase in the number of markets that take EBT and other food benefits. This will provide financial access for communities that lack access to good quality fresh produce and provide an expanded market to small regional farmers.

• Urge State and Federal levels of government to do their part–. Right now, New York State ranks 29th nationwide for farm subsidies, although the state ranks 5th in vegetable production.. Federal farm subsidies must be reprioritized with more importance given for supporting farmers who provide healthy, sustainable crops. Additionally, at the state level, the New York State Farmland Protection Fund has $110 million appropriated, but has not fully dispersed all of its funding, which goes to support New York State farms.

II. PROCESSING –Generate growth and employment in the food sector

“Once our food leaves the farm or the garden, it doesn’t always head straight to the store. In fact, between 80 and 90 percent of all food purchased in the US goes through some form of processing. This could be as simple as slicing and bagging an apple, or as complicated as turning it into apple juice or apple pie” -Speaker Quinn

Unlike other some of our other dwindling manufacturing sectors, food processing continues to thrive. The city must capitalize on and support business activity in the food-manufacturing sector. To that end the Speaker is pursuing several initiatives:

• Create affordable space for food manufacturers – A city council survey identified 70 food processors looking for space. Given the needs of this industry, the speaker announced today that a portion of the Council’s $10 million small manufacturing investment fund would be specifically dedicated for food processing space. This expands on a previous Council announcement to create a new commercial kitchen food incubator in East Harlem’s La Marqueta, which was done in collaboration with Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito.

• Provide technical assistance to new and established food manufacturers – Today’s plan also will create an online resource center and series of workshops, so that food manufacturers will be armed with information, resources and other tools that will help them start and expand their businesses.

• Hold a regional food business-to-business (B2B) conference – In order to help new and emerging food manufacturers make connections with regional farms, create new products, and add new jobs, the Council will organize a business-to-business conference for regional producers, local processors and local retailers.

III. DISTRIBUTION – Improve food distribution channels into and within the city

“In order for food to get from the farm to your table, it has to move through a complex network of warehouses and markets, highways and train stations. During that time, a lot of our food has crisscrossed the country or circled around the globe.” –Speaker Quinn

Food distribution in New York City still faces several obstacles as it makes its way from local producers to New Yorker’s tables. Speaker Quinn proposed infrastructure enhancements, technological advances, alternative transportation and integrated planning. This can be done by:

• Expanding on the current vision for the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center – A redevelopment of the Hunts Point Produce Market would exponentially increase its abilities and transform it into a hub for citywide food system improvement. Key components include the creation of a permanent wholesale farmers market, redevelopment of the hunts point produce market, integrating increased rail usage for goods into and out of the market and the creation of a long term vision for the market that makes Hunts Point a central player in increasing supply of healthy food to all neighborhoods in New York City.

IV. CONSUMPTION – Fresh food must be available to New Yorkers regardless of where they live

“Right now there are neighborhoods around the city with such little access to healthy food, they’re known as food deserts. Go to Jamaica, Queens; Central Brooklyn or the South Bronx. You’ll see bodegas and fast food joints on every corner, but very few supermarkets or healthy restaurants.” –Speaker Quinn

What people choose to eat has a ripple effect on the environment, on our health and on the economy. In many neighborhoods throughout the city, there is a lack of supermarkets that offer fresh, healthy food. In addition, over million New Yorkers are unable to afford enough food for themselves and their families. Speaker Quinn called for the expansion fresh food availability in underserved areas of the city by:

• Removing barriers to enrollment in food programs – Speaker Quinn called for the immediate end to finger imaging of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) applicants. Right now, anyone applying for food stamps needs to get fingerprinted. This deters nearly 30,000 eligible New Yorkers from signing up and an economic loss of over $50 million to the city. She also noted that federal benefit amounts should be adjusted to reflect higher urban food costs and increased outreach for potential applicants should be conducted through agency data matches and at local grocery stores.

• Piloting a food retail workforce development program – In order to put more New Yorkers back to work, Speaker Quinn announced a new initiative called ‘GroceryWorks’. This program will train workers and help them develop careers in the supermarket industry.

• Strengthening existing healthy food options currently available – The Speaker noted the success of the City’s FRESH program in bringing more supermarkets to underserved areas and vowed to continue that expansion. She called for increased access to fresh produce for low-income communities by expanding EBT service on Green Carts. Bodegas can be partners in providing healthy food, and the plan calls for a new program to assist these stores in acquiring the infrastructure they need to carry fresh food items.

• Increase participation by school children in nutrition programs – In high-need schools, breakfast in classrooms should be mandated. In all schools, salad bars should be expanded and school meals can be improved by strengthening the federal Child Nutrition Act. During summer months, the summer meal program should be increase participation rates by learning from the strategies of high-utilization sites, identify sites earlier, and provide information to parents well in advance of the summer recess.

V. POST-CONSUMPTION – Seize opportunities to reduce and recapture waste

“Everything from apple cores to food packaging-not to mention those leftovers that have been sitting in the fridge for the last two weeks. All of this food related waste has to go somewhere. And right now, the majority of it goes right in the trash.” – Speaker Quinn

The Speaker proposed ways to reduce to the environmental impact associated with food:

• Decreasing food packaging for city-procured food – Council Member Palma will introduce legislation requiring the Mayor to establish guidelines for city agencies to reduce packaging for the food they procure. The guidelines will outline preferred methods for businesses to package their products.

• Expand composting programs – The plan includes increasing household composting drop off programs to farmers markets citywide, and notes that Local Law 42 will result in a study of various options for increasing residential, commercial, and governmental composting, including exploring the viability of curbside organic waste collection, development of new composting facilities within the city, and utilization of local transfer stations to consolidate source-separated organics for delivery to composting facilities outside of the city.

• Encouraging restaurant grease recycling – With restaurants disposing of gallons and gallons of used grease and oil, there is an opportunity to instead capture it and process it into biofuel that heats buildings and runs vehicles. The Council just passed a law that requires heating oil sold in the city to have at least 2% biofuel, creating a growing market for this product. By encouraging more restaurants to recycle this waste, it will help the environment and create jobs and economic opportunity in the biofuel sector.

Through implementation, the dozens of proposals presented today will create fundamental, lasting change in New York City’s food system. They will not only change the way the city government and New Yorkers alike approach food issues, but will build the economy, improve health, and strengthen the environment for generations to come.

The Council worked with experts including farmers, gardeners, chefs, partners in government and labor, as well as hunger and environmental advocates throughout the process of developing the Food Works report. The full text of Speaker Quinn’s Food Works speech and report can be viewed at: