Council’s 59-point “FoodWorks” plan has already proven successful in improving city’s food system;
Progress made towards creating more jobs, improving public health and protecting the environment
New York, NY– It’s been a year since City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn unveiled a comprehensive plan that set forth a vision for a more sustainable food system. The 59-point blueprint, “FoodWorks,” takes on New York’s food system from beginning to end – from ground to garbage. The report describes the ways in which the food system impacts New York City and its residents, while proposing 59 actions that address everything from combating hunger and curtailing obesity to promoting regional farming and local food manufacturing to decreasing waste and preserving energy usage. Of the 59 proposals, the Council has already made noteworthy progress in 31 – just over half of them.
When presenting FoodWorks last year, the Speaker cited a number of reasons why such strategic recommendations are essential: a staggering 43% of elementary school children are at an unhealthy weight, more than 3 million people lack adequate access to grocery stores and 1.4 million New Yorkers struggle with food insecurity. The idea, said the Speaker, is to address “the system as a whole.” In that way, she explained, “we can begin to make connections throughout the phases of the food system – production, distribution, processing, consumption and post-consumption.”
Over the past year, the ways in which our food system has changed for the better is already evident. In concert with City agencies, non-profits, advocates and communities, the Council has effectively improved the city’s food system, taking legislative, policy and programmatic approaches to ensure that New York has a strong and healthy food supply that benefits residents citywide.
“Today, we can be proud of the strides we’ve made toward our overall goal to build a stronger food system,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “One year ago, FoodWorks put forth bold proposals designed to improve health, support the local food economy and promote sustainability. By encouraging the growth of regional farms, supporting local food manufacturers, identifying ways to improve food industry infrastructure, reducing harmful byproducts of manufacturing and increasing access to nutritious food, the city and its residents have already made changes in the way food is produced, distributed, processed and consumed.”
In July, the Council passed a package of bills born out of the FoodWorks plan. Specifically, the Council passed a bill to establish metrics in order to better understand the city’s relationship with the food system. Whether providing data on supermarkets or food stamps, this legislation will enable policy makers, advocates and community members to set goals and make informed decisions about how to create a system that will work best for the city and its residents. Additional legislation passed included a bill requiring city agencies to create guidelines for reducing the packaging on the food that they procure and legislation that would encourage City agencies to make efforts to purchase food that is grown, produced, harvested or processed in New York.
Below are additional highlights of the FoodWorks initiative’s progress:
• Currently, 30 students are enrolled in GrowNYC’s New Farmer Development Project, training immigrants seeking agricultural experience, and helping program participants start 20 new farm businesses to date.
• With Council support, farmers’ markets continue to grow in all five boroughs, bringing local fresh produce to many communities. The latest tally from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets counts 123 markets citywide, 14 of which were added in the past year. The Council-funded GrowNYC’s portion of the EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) expansion enables more low-income shoppers to afford fresh food.
• Since opening the doors to its kitchen incubator in 2010, Hot Bread Kitchen (HBK), with the assistance of the Council, has supported the growth of food entrepreneurs at La Marqueta, a reactivated public market in East Harlem. In addition to operating a bakery staffed by immigrant women, HBK runs an incubator for 25 tenants, which helps low-income and minority entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
• The Council has contributed $10 million to the Small Manufacturing Industrial Fund to provide much-needed capital to reactivate old industrial space across the five boroughs. $2 million will be specifically designated for food manufacturers at La Marqueta.
• The Council was critical in authorizing the City’s Food Retail Expansion for Health (FRESH) initiative, which provides financial and zoning incentives to new or expanding grocery stores in areas with reduced access to fresh food. Since the program’s inception in 2009, five businesses have used FRESH incentives, leading to an expansion of six grocery stores and the creation of four new ones. Additional projects are in the works, and all told, these projects are expected to retain over 550 jobs and create 450 new jobs across the City.
• Working with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Council is helping to introduce healthier options at city bodegas. The Healthy Bodegas Initiative has encouraged over 1,000 vendors across the city to sell healthier options.
• The Council helped to develop GROCERYWorks, a food retail workforce development program providing unemployed workers with training and jobs. Since last year, 67 people have graduated from the program, with 80 percent of them securing employment in the field.
• With Council support, GrowNYC launched a program to make it easier for more households to compost. There are currently 12 composting pick-up sites across the city, and GrowNYC’s new pilot program has helped divert an additional 265,000 pounds from the waste stream.
Over the past year, FoodWorks has become an indispensible guide that has enabled the Council and other New Yorkers to improve the food system across all of its phases. Having already made noteworthy advancements in half of these proposals, as the new year approaches, the Council is in the perfect position to take even greater strides to accomplish more of its agenda.