New York City Gets Serious About Local, Sustainable Food

NYC local food photo

Image: Teesha Dunn via flickr

When New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced the 59-point-plan, "FoodWorks," yesterday, she unveiled the city's latest move to reduce its environmental footprint, and boost the local economy and health of its citizens. The plan is designed to address all aspects of food in the city, from agricultural production through post-consumption.As planning for FoodWorks got underway last year, Quinn gave a speech highlighting the vast opportunity that already exists to boost consumption local food in the city, and that considering the city's size, even small changes can have huge impact.

Outside of the U.S. military, "New York City is the largest industrial buyer of food in the country," she said, adding that the Dept. of Education alone serves over 860,000 meals a day. But at the time of her speech, only two percent of the fruits and vegetables coming thru the Hunts Point market, one of the largest food distribution centers in the world, is produced in New York. She wants to change that by prioritizing local producers, and emphasized that it shouldn't be so hard, the city just needs to increase capacity for processing: "We have the product, we have the demand, and we're already spending the money. All we need to do is bring that kind of wash, cut, and bag facility to the five boroughs."

So among the key goals of the new plan are: to increase local food purchases by the city, expand CSAs, farmer's markets, urban farming and gardens, and food stamp eligibility—and she continues to call on Bloomberg to drop the existing fingerprint requirement for food stamp recipients.

Quinn said the city council will pass legislation to require a database of city-owned property that can be used to grow crops, and she hopes the city's FRESH program will continue to successfully provide zoning incentives for stores selling fresh produce to open in the city's most underserved neighborhoods.

The plan also addresses food waste by expanding compost programs and increasing the number of restaurants that recycle their grease. Quinn, who seems to really get the full picture, said at the release of the FoodWorks plan, "We need to stop thinking of food scraps as garbage." Considering the amount of energy wasted by discarded food and the impact food waste has on the environment, these are crucial steps to a comprehensive sustainable food plan.

Here is Quinn giving her speech about food in NYC last year:

More on sustainable food in NYC
Farm Camp Teaches NYC Chefs Where Their Food Comes From
Fighting Obesity, NYC Looks to Regulate the Use of Food Stamps
NYC to Require Biodiesel Heat, and 3 Other Ways the Big Apple is Going Green
Otarian Opens - Vegetarian Fast Food, Carbon Labeled, in New York City and London

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