Urban Agriculture to Increase Food Access in NYC

Columbia University Urban Planning student Margaret Hudson is tackling the important question of how urban farming projects can address the lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables in low-income neighborhoods. For her master’s thesis on the topic, she has interviewed people across the city who are working hard to develop a variety of urban food projects and programs. Her research (summarized by Ms. Hudson in this post) examined the following innovative efforts to supply locally produced food to neighborhoods throughout the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens through varied retail outlets.

GrowNYC (formerly Council on the Environment for New York City)

GrowNYC’s Wholesale Greenmarket team is in the process of expanding the market’s buyers and product inventory. The Wholesale team is actively reaching out to bodegas in the Bronx and other New York neighborhoods to determine which stores are interested in buying local produce from their market. So far, the team has contacted the owners of 700 bodegas and small markets, and 88 of these expressed interest in moving forward with GrowNYC. The team members are now planning visits to these 88 bodegas where they will establish the stores’ capacity to sell fruits and vegetables and determine what needs (in terms of pricing, infrastructure, delivery, etc.) they may have. In addition, GrowNYC is taking steps towards adding Greenmarket produce to the Green Carts program, run by NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. GrowNYC is also working closely with DOH’s Healthy Bodegas Initiative.

Green My Bodega

Green My Bodega is currently working with the Crown Heights chapter of the Brooklyn Food Coalition to increase community support for their ‘farm to bodega’ initiative. They are actively reaching out to bodega owners in the Crown Heights and Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhoods to identify those who are interested in buying local produce. Green My Bodega’s goal is to establish itself as a medium through which local residents can actively engage in the effort to improve their community’s access to healthy food.

Gotham Greens

Gotham Greens is hard at work setting up its rooftop greenhouses in Jamaica, Queens. The company plans on producing 40 to 50 tons of quality, pesticide-free vegetables and herbs annually. Gotham Greens’ mission is to make an impact on food deserts over time, as the firm grows. They plan to sell their produce at local farmers markets in Jamaica and other neighborhoods, and are interested in partnering with other local growers to distribute to local markets and bodegas.

Red Jacket Orchards

Red Jacket Orchards is making great strides toward integrating their healthy, local produce into bodegas in the neighborhoods of Bushwick, Bedford Stuyvesant, and East New York. They are working with bodegas that participated in the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Healthy Bodegas Initiative and are looking for partners to help mobilize the community to support their efforts. Their goal is to deliver produce to these bodegas using their Brooklyn warehouse and fleet of trucks, and then gradually expand the operation to include produce from other local growers. Having already put in many pro bono hours of work on the project, Red Jacket is in the process of applying for grants that will be used to help cover the costs of infrastructure to keep prices affordable.

Margaret Hudson may be contacted at margaret.hudson@gmail.com

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