Food Policy in the Works

December 19, 2009 at 12:57 am 2 comments

Food is turning into a matter of public policy in New York City. At a press conference last week, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced “FoodWorks New York,” an initiative to analyze the city’s food system and tap its potential to create jobs, improve public health, and protect the environment.

Speaker Quinn noted that New Yorkers eat very little food that is actually grown in New York State.  Only 2 percent of the fruits and vegetables at Hunts Point Terminal Market in the Bronx – the world’s largest produce market by revenue – for example, are grown locally, she said.

The FoodWorks initiative will examine how New York might keep more of the $30 billion New Yorkers spend on food. One way might be through State legislation that would allow the city to prioritize local producers.

FoodWorks New York will also look to create new jobs in the food industry. Speaker Quinn cited a kitchen incubator that is expected to open next summer in La Marqueta, a city-owned retail market in Harlem.  The 4,000-square-foot commercial kitchen is designed to help entrepreneurs launch bakeries and other food manufacturing businesses.

Speaker Quinn noted that as the nation’s second largest institutional food buyer, New York City presents a large market for local growers.  The institutional food market is currently dominated by out-of-state farmers.  Take, for example, the Department of Education, which spends nearly $300,000 a year on Romaine lettuce for salad bars at many public schools.  It purchases the lettuce from growers in California and Maryland because New York farmers lack a local facility in which to wash, cut and bag the lettuce.

Speaker Quinn is pushing for a washing, cutting and bagging facility in the city, so that local growers would have a chance to supply the Department of Education with the lettuce it needs.

FoodWorks New York will also focus on creating better transportation links between the city and upstate producers.  In addition, it aims to reduce diet-related diseases and environmental damage from the production, transport and consumption of food.

Details of FoodWorks New York will be worked out over the next six months, with final recommendations presented in the spring, said Speaker Quinn.

“With FoodWorks, we’ll make sure that food works for our economy, that it works for our environment, and that it works for our health,” she said.

Click here to read the press release.



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Entry filed under: Local Food Production, Urban Agriculture. Tags: , , , , , .

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