Detroit Works Project publishes urban ag policy audit

The Detroit Works Project, the city’s comprehensive planning process, has just published a series of “policy audits” that outline the observations, information, and tentative ideas generated by the consultants hired to craft the plan.  Detroit hired the global firm AECOM to prepare its urban agriculture policy audit.  The document describes in very general terms the state of urban agriculture in Detroit, related food policies, the leading proposals for large-scale urban farming, and precedents from other similarly-sized cities.

While the planning process is far from complete, the policy audit outlines the following tentative short- and long-term “opportunities” that will most likely be addressed in the final plan:

SHORT- TERM
• For all efforts, address access to food: physical, financial, nutritional, and cultural access
• Identify local successes, and incentivize their expansion/duplication.
• Identify complementary programs modeled from initiatives/businesses elsewhere; consider how initiatives or elements of the programs may be implemented.
• Consider potential impacts of large‐scale ag efforts on neighborhood identity, infrastructure, employment, etc.; how best to mitigate impacts, what types of initiatives are appropriate to encourage?
• Facilitate, via code and incentives, the “right kind” of farming/gardening, in the “right place” while addressing potential nuisances.
• Identify partnerships for public information campaigns, while remaining sensitive to the community’s concerns of having too much public attention creating disruptions.
• Research potential opportunities for food processing, considering Eastern Market as a hub for businesses and existing expertise.

LONG- TERM
• Identify how City policy can facilitate small‐scale urban ag (such as allowing neighborhood gardens as‐of‐right, facilitating long‐term leases, etc.)
• Identify what types of support are needed for appropriate scales of urban ag; explore the ability of key organizations to expand support.
• Engage institutions, particularly schools, to create strategies for food service to incorporate nutritious local products
• Propose reform to State policies addressing: ‐Farm‐to‐School initiatives ‐ Nutritional standards for school food offerings that are stricter than current USDA requirements. ‐Nutritional standards for competitive foods sold a la carte, in vending machines, or via other sales. ‐Require regular body mass index (BMI) screenings
• Research the carbon footprint implications to shipping food and other ag products, vs. local growing and processing.
• As the food security of the City and food‐related enterprises increase, consider whether there is opportunity to become a center of culinary arts.

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