Categories
Farmland Legislation New York Policy Urban Agriculture

NYC Council’s Food Budget Priorities

On April 26, 2017, Mayor de Blasio submitted a proposed executive budget for Fiscal Year 2017 to the City Council. Following public hearings, the Council and the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget will negotiate a final budget, which the Council then votes on by June 5th.

The City Council recently published a response to the FY 2017 Preliminary Budget that contained the following five recommendations for budget reallocations that address the food system. Members of the public have an opportunity to weigh in on them in prior to the June 5th vote.

  1. Eliminate All School Lunch Fees

The Council proposes adding $8.75 million so that the Department of Education (DOE) can eliminate lunch fees in all schools for all students. The goal is to increase participation in school lunch and remove the stigma associated with the distinction between students who must pay and those who qualify for free lunch. In the 2015-2016 school year, DOE provided free lunch to all students in stand-alone middle schools as a test of the policy. The Council noted that this pilot of universal free lunch did not result in a loss of federal Title I funding, and that student participation increased by at least six percent.

  1. Create Food and Personal Hygiene Pantries at Community Schools

The Council recommends opening pantries to provide food and personal hygiene supplies (e.g., toothpaste and tooth brushes) to needy students in 10-15 schools located in low-income neighborhoods. The cost of construction and stocking the pantries is estimated at $35,000 per school.

  1. Invest in Regional Farmland Preservation

The Council proposed adding $5 million annually to protect regional farms in the Hudson Valley from being lost to real estate development. The goal of this proposal is to ensure the stability of the regional food supply and to to support the regional food economy.

  1. “Baseline” the Emergency Food Assistance Program Budget

The Council urged that a number of items funded by City Council additions to the budget in FY 2016 be converted to “baseline” funds that are included in the Mayor’s budget at the start of the budget process. One food-related item that the Council proposed including in the baseline budget is the Emergency Food Assistance Program, a $22,000,000 line item that supports soup kitchens and food pantries across the city.

  1. Increase Baseline Funding for GreenThumb

GreenThumb, a Parks Department program that supports the city’s community gardens, took over responsibility this year for 34 new gardens that were transferred from the Housing Preservation and Development Department. The Council urged the Mayor to include additional baseline funding of $750,000 in Fiscal 2017 to enable the Parks Department to double the existing GreenThumb staff by hiring six Outreach Coordinators and six field technical staff. These new staff would provide management support, educational programs, and troubleshooting for the GreenThumb gardens.

Categories
Legislation New York

Update on NYC FoodWorks legislation

For readers tracking implementation of the legislation enacted by the New York City Council in August, here is a summary of the local law numbers as well as the effective dates of each law:

LL 50 of 2011– Requires the City Chief Procurement Officer to develop a set of guidelines for city agencies to follow to procure more food products whose components are grown, produced or harvested in New York State. [enacted 8/17/11, effective date 11/17/11]
LL 51 of 2011 – Requires the director of citywide environmental purchasing to develop packaging guidelines for food purchased by the City to eliminate packaging or minimize the amount of packaging used, and to use packaging that is recyclable or reusable. [enacted 8/17/11, effective date 11/17/11]
LL 52 of 2011 – Requires the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability to gather and report on key data about New York City’s food system, including sources of food, including community gardens, how it is distributed, and consumed. An annual food system metrics report is due September 1, 2012 and annually thereafter.
LL 48 of 2011 – Requires the department of citywide administrative services to maintain an online database of all property owned and leased by the city, including detailed data about the sites as well as whether land is potentially suitable for urban agriculture. [enacted 8/17/11, effective date 12/17/11]
LL 49 of 2011 — Adds greenhouses to the list of rooftop structures that can be excluded from height limitations, making it easier to install the structures on top of buildings [effective date 8/17/11]
Categories
Food Access Legislation New York Planning Policy SNAP Urban Agriculture

FoodWorks Legislative Package Scheduled for Vote

On Thursday, July 28, 2011, the New York City Council is expected to enact a package of legislation (Int. Nos. 615-A, 452-A, 248-A, and 338-A) that will advance significant parts of the Council’s groundbreaking Foodworks policy plan and thus move us closer to attaining a sustainable, fair, and healthy food system in New York City. 
Food System Metrics Bill (Int. No. 615-A)
The recently released update to PlaNYC acknowledged that “healthy, sustainable food systems are critical to the well-being of our communities and central to our ability to accommodate a growing population.” Yet administrative agencies have never systematically examined the food system, leaving large gaps in our understanding of where our food comes from and how it moves through the city to our tables and into the waste stream.  Int. No. 615-A begins to close that information gap by requiring the city to develop baseline information about our food system so that we can make intelligent, coordinated planning and policy decisions. And by making core information about our food system available publicly, ordinary citizens, business people, urban farmers, and advocates will be better able to participate in decision-making about food policy.
Specifically, the bill provides the following information:
  • Data on farms participating in the watershed agricultural program, enabling us to understand the kinds of agricultural activity underway in the Catskills, the extent to which NYC funds are being deployed to help farms in our watershed reduce their environmental impacts, the kind of food produced on those farms, and ultimately, whether and to what extent NYC should change or expand its watershed agricultural programs.
  • Information on the provenance of milk and other food products purchased by the city, improving our understanding of the food miles of city-purchased food and opportunities to re-localize food purchases, and therefore support regional farmers and distributors.
  • Information on community gardens that would enable the city council and the public to identify community boards that are underserved, and help to better deploy resources to assist gardeners with production tools and materials, technical assistance, and retail channels for produce, like farmstands and CSA distribution systems.
  • Data on food manufacturers receiving economic development assistance will show the extent to which our EDC and IDA are supporting food manufacturing in NYC and identify opportunities to enhance city support for food manufacturers.
  • The number of truck and rail trips to or through Hunts Point Market will enable the city to improve transportation options in a neighborhood overwhelmed by diesel exhaust.
  • Information on grocery store space per capita will enable city officials, the public, and food access advocates to have a clearer sense of which neighborhoods lack adequate food retail and how food retail access has changed year to year by neighborhood.
  • Data on the FRESH initiative will illustrate progress of the initiative to incentivize grocery store development and to support jobs in the food retail industry, and identify gaps in food access that remain. 
  • Information on the establishments participating in the healthy bodega initiative will illustrate the extent to which that program has been successful in meeting the healthy food access needs of neighborhoods under-served by full-service supermarkets.
  • Data on job training programs to help individuals seeking work in the food industry will help make these training programs more effective.
  • Tracking the total number of meals served by city agencies will illustrate the extent to which city-provided meals are meeting the nutritional needs of residents in different communities.
  • Data on the nutritional quality of city-provided meals will document the extent to which we are meeting the goal of having 100% of our meals meet basic nutrition standards.
  • Information on revenue earned from school vending machines will help school food advocates track the extent to which foods from vending machines compete with school meals, and show the extent to which schools are dependent on vending machine revenue.
  • Data on SNAP recipients will enable the Council and city agencies to determine whether current outreach efforts are adequate.
  • Information on nutrition education programs will help identify the most innovative, successful models of nutrition education, enabling agency officials to improve their educational outreach and, ultimately, improve the nutritional status of agency clients.
  • Tracking the number of salad bars in public schools and hospitals will enable the Council and advocates to track the city’s progress in providing adequate access to fresh fruits and vegetables in these institutions.
  • Quantifying the amount spent to purchase water other than tap water will point out waste and help agencies to figure out how to eliminate bottled water purchases.
  • Information about the green cart initiative will help in evaluating whether the green cart program is meeting the food access needs of the communities in which they are located, how to improve the program, and to what extent cart operators are accepting EBT payments.
  • Tracking the number of vendors at greenmarkets will enable the city to determine whether it is doing a sufficient job providing space for the direct marketing of fresh fruits and vegetables through the Greenmarket program, and whether the number of farmers selling at greenmarkets is increasing or decreasing.
There are gaps in some of the required data (e.g., the farmers market data only includes Greenmarkets, not independent farmers markets), and the legislation imposes few obligations on the part of the city to gather new data (e.g., on the geographic source of food) that does not already exist or that vendors do not currently provide.  In the coming years, the Council will need to ensure that the reporting agencies follow the spirit of this new law and make good faith efforts to obtain and provide this valuable information.
Local Food Procurement Bill (Int. No. 452-A)
This legislation is an important step towards using the city’s purchasing power to support regional farmers, processors, distributors and producers, including businesses located in New York City.  The bill requires the chief procurement officer to develop local food procurement guidelines for agencies, monitor agency implementation of the guidelines, and prepare an annual report for the Council on each agency’s efforts to buy New York (State and City) food.
An important feature of the legislation is a requirement that the city include in each solicitation for food purchases and food-related service contracts a request (unfortunately not a mandate) that each vendor supplying food do the following:
  • Review a list of New York State food products to determine if any are provided under the contract;
  • Report all the food procured under the contract by type with the dollar value of each type; and
  • Report
    • any New York State food procured under the contract, with the dollar value of each type procured,
    • any food from outside of New York State procured when it is also available in New York, together with the value of such purchases, and
    • any other out-of-state food purchases.
The obligations on the procuring agencies are minimal, since they are not authorized to pay a premium for local food and are only obligated to ask their vendors for information about provenance.  Nevertheless, having an annual report will provide information for the first time on whether and to what extent the city is able to encourage the purchase of local food. If the procurement guidelines do not, in fact, result in more local purchases, the Council and advocates will be armed with data to support changing the requirements. 
Database of Potential Urban Agriculture Sites (Int. No. 248-A)
Space is one of the biggest obstacles to the expansion of urban agriculture, especially in dense, economically vibrant cities like New York. Int. No. 248-A would create a powerful new tool for community groups and individuals to identify potential sites for new gardens and farms.  The legislation would require the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) to keep and maintain a free, publicly accessible, searchable database of all city-owned and leased real property, including information regarding the location and current use of such property. This information is currently available in several databases, but not in one place, not online, and not for free.
It will cover the approximately 18,500 parcels that are owned or leased by the city, including schools, police stations, libraries, warehouses, highway maintenance yards, parking lots, piers, and vacant land. Users will be able to find out the location and dimensions of each site, along with many other details. DCAS also would have to indicate whether a particular property is suitable for urban agriculture, presumably requiring the agency to assess site conditions like access to sunlight, and helping to fulfill a commitment in PlaNYC to search for new sites for food production.
Unfortunately, a loophole in the bill specifies that data must be provided to “the extent such information is available” to DCAS, which removes any affirmative obligation on the part of DCAS to collect new information.   It will be up to the Council and advocates to ensure that the spirit of the law is followed, and if not, to tighten the requirements in the coming years.
Rooftop Greenhouse Bill (Int. No. 338)
New York is a leader in rooftop agriculture with commercial rooftop farms (e.g., Brooklyn Grange), greenhouses supplying retail food establishments (e.g., Eli Zabars) and restaurants growing food on their rooftop (e.g., Bell, Book and Candle).  This legislation will facilitate the installation of rooftop greenhouses by exempting them from height or bulk restrictions.  The bill amends the building code by adding greenhouses to a list of other rooftop structures (such as water tanks and air conditioning equipment) that do not count towards height and floor area ratio calculations.  Only greenhouses that are less than one-third of a roof’s area qualify for this exemption, however, so larger structures may still bump up against size limits.

Conclusion
In conclusion, it is clear that Int. Nos. 615-A, 452-A, 248-A will go a long way towards making food systems planning standard operating procedure in New York City.  Doing so will improve program effectiveness, fulfill several goals of PlaNYC, and provide a new level of transparency that will enable the Council to oversee agency performance and allow the public to participate in the development of food policy. 

PlaNYC noted that the “complicated and inter-related subsystems [that make up the food system] aren’t easily understood or influenced….” In part, this is because agencies have never before been required to aggregate, organize, and analyze data about the food system.  Enacting these three bills will change that, ensuring that agencies begin to gather information – and therefore play a role in influencing – New York City’s food system.

Categories
Legislation New York Policy Urban Agriculture Zoning

NYC legislation to exclude rooftop greenhouses from height and bulk restrictions

Legislation in the New York City Council (Int. No. 338) scheduled for a vote on Thursday, July 28, 2011, will facilitate the installation of rooftop greenhouses by exempting them from height or bulk restrictions.  The bill amends the building code by adding greenhouses to a list of other rooftop structures (such as water tanks and air conditioning equipment) that do not count towards height and floor area ratio calculations.  Only greenhouses that are less than one-third of the area of the roof qualify for this exemption, however, so larger structures may still bump up against size limits.

Categories
Legislation New York Planning Urban Agriculture

NYC Legislation Requires Public Database of Potential Urban Agriculture Sites


Space is one of the biggest obstacles to the expansion of urban agriculture, especially in dense, economically vibrant cities like NY. A new bill in the New York City Council, Int. No. 248-A, expected to pass the full Council on Thursday, July 28, 2011, would create a powerful new tool for community groups and individuals to identify potential sites for new gardens and farms. 
The new legislation would require the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) to keep and maintain a free, publicly accessible, searchable database of all city-owned and leased real property, including information regarding the location and current use of such property. It will cover the approximately 18,500 parcels that are owned or leased by the city, including schools, police stations, libraries, warehouses, highway maintenance yards, parking lots, piers, Housing Authority buildings, and vacant land. Users will be able to find out the location and dimensions of each site, along with many other details.
This information is currently available in several databases, but not in one place, online, and not for free. For example, the city’s “Gazetteer,” which lists city-owned and leased properties, does not include the characteristics of the properties to determine whether any particular parcel is suitable for other uses. The Department of City Planning maintains a proprietary database that describes all properties in the five boroughs, but it is only available for purchase.
The new online database would enable ordinary citizens to access the detailed property information that is currently collected by the city, making grassroots urban agriculture planning possible. DCAS also would have to indicate whether a particular property is suitable for urban agriculture, requiring the agency to assess site conditions like access to sunlight, and helping to fulfill a commitment in PlaNYC to find new sites for food production.
Categories
Legislation Planning Policy Urban Agriculture Zoning

Making Vancouver a Global Leader in Urban Food Systems: New Greenest City 2020 Action Plan

The Vancouver City Council is scheduled to vote tomorrow (Thursday, July 14, 2011) on the adoption of a comprehensive sustainability plan called the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan (GCAP). The plan runs the gamut of municipal sustainability issues, from energy to water, but one of its ten key goals is to make Vancouver “a global leader in urban food systems.” To achieve this goal, the plan outlines a series of short and long-term strategies, ranging from planting fruit trees on city property to developing infrastructure to aggregate, process and distribute regionally produced food.
The specific strategies in the document will be familiar to food system planners, and some may seem modest.  Yet three characteristics distinguish the GCAP from other municipal sustainability plans: (1) it will be ratified by the Vancouver City Council and become official city policy; (2) it calls for cross-agency cooperation, which is so often missing in city initiatives; and (3) it addresses both the regional foodshed as well as neighborhood needs.
A Proper Plan
The GCAP is being ratified as a formal plan by the City Council at the end of a multi-year planning process, so it will be a statement of official city policy and a roadmap for city agencies to follow.  The food section sets forth the broad aspiration to make Vancover a global leader in urban food systems, but also establishes a specific target of increasing city and neighborhood food assets by at least 50% from 2010 levels. And the plan designates a lead agency responsible for implementation (Social Policy) with support from two other key agencies, engineering and parks.
The GCAP has been several years in the making, allowing for public scrutiny and the formal adoption over time of goals, targets, and specific strategies. The plan was preceded by the work of an advisory food policy council and a food charter. In February 2010, the Council adopted the long term goals contained in GCAP and requested the action plan.  In January, 2011, the Council adopted 14 targets to achieve these goals as official Council policy (and requested staff to develop an additional target that would encourage businesses to adopt green practices).
Public participation is essential to the development of plans, both because people contribute valuable insights and because a participatory process allows for an airing of differences, building credibility in the process and generating support for the final product.  The GCAP solicited input in a variety of ways using conventional hearings and social media.  But the plan also included external advisory committees made up of key stakeholder organizations.  Often planners speak with experts as they are developing a plan or policy, but the advisory committee members appointed by staff to provide feedback on the GCAP were duly appointed and their names were public, adding transparency to the advising process.
One of the values of having the Council approve the GCAP is that once the Council adopts the plan, the goals, targets, and strategies will be identified as Council priorities. At that point it will be politically trickier for the Council to reject or de-fund programs and policies designed to attain the goals contained within GCAP.  It will also be easier for advocates to argue for program funding, new policies, and agency regulations that are consistent with and that carry out the intent of the plan. 
A Networked Plan
One of the reasons why food gets short shrift in most is that cities generally lack food departments (an idea that planning scholar Jerry Kaufman suggested a decade ago).  And while certain municipal agencies are charged with addressing specific aspects of the food system, those responsibilities are dispersed across multiple agencies that may not even talk to each other, let alone collaborate and cooperate. This can lead to a dearth of innovative cross-agency initiatives, agencies completely letting the ball drop, and inconsistent or incompatible policies or programs.
The GCAP discusses the need for coordination and accountability across administrative agencies to achieve the plan’s goals and outlines mechanisms to facilitate multi-agency participation.  The plan calls for the development of a coordinated food strategy that increases coordination between city departments, food policy council, community partners, and existing policy programs. It explicitly calls for linking together the work of various departments within an overarching municipal food action plan.
From Foodshed to Neighborhood
Unlike plans that focus exclusively on activities within municipal boundaries, the Vancouver plan is outwardly focused, acknowledging that benefits accrue to the City of Vancouver from a thriving regional foodshed that produces food using sustainable, fair methods. It calls on the city to advocate for maintaining food production capacity within the agricultural land reserve and other agricultural lands surrounding the city. It also calls on the city to promote a “food systems” approach to other levels of government, and for Vancouver to work with other large cities to develop key food system indicators to compare efforts.
To support the regional foodshed, the plan calls for the development of a procurement policy within the next three years that supports the purchase and use of local food in city-run facilities. Over the medium term, the plan calls for the creation of a central food hub to provide space for the aggregation, storage and distribution of food from local farms and the processing and development of local food products. And in an effort not to fall into the “local trap,” the plan defines local food as food that is sustainably produced and affordable using fair labor practices and sound production methods.
The GCAP recognizes the regional, national, and global dimensions to the food system, yet also focuses on neighborhood-level solutions that enhance resilience. The GCAP recommends support for neighborhood food networks or coalitions to increase community capacity at the neighborhood scale, along with the development of neighborhood food infrastructure, including food hubs (facilities to connect rural farmers to urban consumers), community kitchens, markets, gardens, and even community root cellars for food storage and community bread ovens. And, recognizing that small initiatives often have a hard time promoting their work and attracting financial support, the plan calls for the development of information-sharing systems to better integrate those working at the grassroots. 
If the GCAP is adopted, as expected, and is actually funded by the City Council over the next decade, Vancouver is likely to achieve its bold goal of being a food systems leader.
Categories
Legislation New York Policy

NY Food Procurement Policy Debated in City Council

The New York City Council’s Committee on Contracts today held a hearing to discuss two measures designed to increase city procurement of local and regionally produced food.

The first is a local bill (Introduction No. 452) to require the city chief procurement officer to encourage city agencies to make best efforts to purchase New York State food, defined as food grown, produced, harvested, or processed in New York. The bill refers only to New York food because New York State authorizes cities to preferentially procure food produced within the state’s boundaries.
Int. No. 452 requires the city’s chief procurement officer to develop and publish procurement guidelines for agencies to help them buy New York State food, train agency contracting personnel, monitor agency procurement activities, and submit an annual report to the Speaker of the Council detailing each agency’s efforts and the overall quantity and dollar amount of New York State food that each agency procured. The bill prohibits the city from spending more on New York State food than on its current purchases.
The Council second measure, a non-binding resolution (Res. No. 627), calls on the New York State Legislature to amend the state’s General Municipal Law to permit New York City to extend this purchasing policy to the entire foodshed (defined as New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire).
The bill and resolution were laid over by the committee today, but the Council expects to schedule them for a follow-up committee hearing and vote in the near future.  Once they are voted out of committee they will go to the full Council for a vote, where they are likely to pass, and then to Mayor Bloomberg, who is likely to sign the measure.
This legislation is one of the first to implement the policies outlined by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in FoodWorks, the Council’s policy plan to overhaul and strengthen New York City’s food system.  Procuring food from New York helps support the region’s farmers, food processors and distributors, and may result in environmental and economic benefits to New York (depending of course on the food distribution systems that are used by New York State producers). But since the bill does not set minimum percentages of food that must be procured locally, it will be up to the Council – and interested citizens –to track the administration’s progress in carrying out the goals of the legislation, and to make revisions if those goals are not met.
Categories
Legislation Planning Policy Urban Agriculture Zoning

Seattle City Council News Release: Seattle City Council approves urban farm and community garden legislation improving access to locally grown food

Seattle City Council News Release: Seattle City Council approves urban farm and community garden legislation improving access to locally grown food

Categories
Food Access Legislation Policy SNAP

Illinois Governor Signs Bills to Support Local Food Systems

Illinois Governor Quinn signed two bills on July 17th that will support local food systems in the state. The Farmers’ Market Technology Improvement Act (HB 4756) will create a program that offers financial support to farmers’ markets and other non-traditional food markets to implement the necessary infrastructure for recipients of federal food stamps to use their Illinois issued LINK cards. The Farm-to-School Electronic Database (SB 615) helps facilitate the purchase of fresh, healthy and locally grown food by schools through the creation of an online geo-coded electronic database of producers and schools interested in fresh health locally produced food. The Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Illinois Local Food, Farms and Jobs Council will jointly develop the database.

Categories
Legislation Policy Urban Agriculture

Right to Home Farm Bill Advances in Georgia

On March 11, 2010, Georgia’s House Committee on Agriculture and Consumer Affairs favorably reported out HB 842, legislation that would preempt local ordinances so that individuals may grow food crops and raise small animals on private property. The legislation applies as long as the crops and animals are used for human consumption by the occupants, gardeners, or raisers and their households, and not for commercial purposes. The bill covers community or cooperative gardens, coops, or pens as well as individual backyard gardens, coops or pens. No site may exceed 2.75 acres, and the bill does not prevent individuals from suing to stop nuisances caused by agricultural activities.