Food in the New Urban Agenda

The question of how food and nutrition should be positioned within the New Urban Agenda was the subject of a meeting of experts at the United Nations on May 12, 2016 that resulted in a detailed set of recommendations. On June 18, 2016, a Habitat III preparatory committee released a revised zero draft of the New Urban Agenda that included some, though not all of the expert group’s suggestions. The following are excerpts from the draft that address food security, hunger, nutrition, and urban and regional food systems. Comments on the zero draft are being accepted until July 4, 2016:


Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All


Shared Vision

We envisage cities and human settlements that: 
(a) fulfill their social function, including the social function of land, ensuring the full and progressive realization of the right to adequate housing, as well as equal access for all to public goods and services, food security and nutrition, quality and accessible public spaces, livelihoods and decent work.


Sustainable Urban Development for Social Inclusion and Poverty Eradication

We commit to ensure equitable and affordable access to basic physical and social infrastructure for all, including affordable serviced land, housing, energy, safe drinking water and sanitation, nutritious food, waste disposal, mobility, health, education, culture and information and communication technologies. We further commit to provide that these services are gender-sensitive and responsive to the rights and needs of children and youth, older persons and persons with disabilities, and other people in vulnerable situations such as refugees, displaced persons and migrants, with no legal, institutional or socio-economic, nor physical barriers.


Environmentally Sound and Resilient Urban Development

We commit to promote the creation of well-connected and well-distributed networks of open, multi- purpose, safe and green public spaces, including the creation of ecological corridors, to improve the resilience of cities to disasters and climate change, reducing flood risks and heat waves, and improving food security and nutrition, physical and mental health, household and ambient air quality, and attractive and livable urban landscapes.


We commit to give particular consideration to urban deltas, coastal areas and other environmentally sensitive areas, highlighting their importance as ecosystems’ providers of significant resources for transport, food security, economic prosperity, ecosystem services and resilience, and integrate appropriate measures to factor them into sustainable urban planning and development.


We commit to support local provision of basic services, leveraging on the proximity of resources, recognizing that a heavy reliance on distant sources of energy, water, food, and materials pose sustainability challenges, including vulnerability to service supply disruptions.


We commit to strengthening the of resources like land, water, energy, materials, food, oceans and seas, freshwater resources as well as the production and environmentally sound management of waste, minimization of hazardous chemicals, and the mitigation of emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants, taking into consideration urban-rural linkages, functional supply and value chains in the full-range of resource requirements vis-à-vis the environmental impact and sustainability, striving to a progressive transition towards a circular economy.


Planning and Managing Urban Spatial Development

We will implement polycentric and balanced territorial development policies and plans, strengthening the role of small and intermediate cities in enhancing food security and nutrition systems, providing access to housing, infrastructure and services, and facilitate effective trade links, ensuring that small scale farmers are linked to larger supply chains. We will also support urban agriculture and farming as an option to contribute to food security.


We will promote the integration of food and nutrition needs of urban residents, particularly the urban poor, in urban development planning, contributing to the elimination of hunger and malnutrition. We will promote coordination of food security and agriculture policies across rural, peri-urban, and urban areas to facilitate the production, storage, transport, and marketing of food to consumers. We will further promote the coordination of food policies with energy, water, transport, and other policies in urban areas to maximize efficiencies and minimize waste, recognizing the food-water-energy nexus. 

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.

New York Planning Policy Urban Agriculture

Urban Agriculture for One New York

[Published on Huffington Post]

On December 12, 2014, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) issued a request for qualifications that offered-up more than 180 vacant city parcels to affordable housing developers. It turned out, however, that 20 weren’t really vacant – they were community gardens, 18 of which were actively growing food.

As this news circulated through the urban agriculture community, gardeners and their allies organized a City Hall protest and began lobbying elected officials to stave off the bulldozers. HPD then took a closer look and discovered that at least 50 gardens, not 20, were under HPD jurisdiction and thus were slated for eventual development.

A year of bureaucratic hand wringing and political backpedaling has ensued, along with staff meetings, site visits, and conversations with gardeners, advocates, and elected officials. The resulting compromise, announced by Mayor de Blasio on December 30, 2015, is that the city will spare 34 of the gardens on HPD land by transferring them to the Parks Department, while 14 active gardens on 9 development sites deemed essential for affordable housing will be lost as construction begins. To its credit, the de Blasio administration has committed to finding alternative sites and assistance for those gardens forced to relocate.

Some might chalk this incident up to an isolated staff-level snafu at HPD. After all, the Mayor cares deeply about quality of life in neighborhoods short on green space and fresh produce, as do the members of his administration. Housing commissioner Vicki Been has published groundbreaking research quantifying the economic benefits of gardens to low-income communities. Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver is leading a Community Parks Initiative that will restore and maintain parks and playgrounds in high-need communities throughout New York, improving open space neglected by previous administrations.

But these conflicts over the city’s gardens arise over and over, pointing not to a slip-up by a particular agency but rather to a more fundamental governance problem: there is no citywide policy that makes urban agriculture a permanentfeature of the cityscape, and no physical plan identifying where future agricultural development should go. Nor is there an overall budget for the urban agriculture system, with dollars instead coming from different sources and little coordination of spending. Urban agriculture remains a patchwork of city programs, making it easy for any individual agency to treat as expendable.

Parks often takes the lead because its GreenThumb program supports more than 600 gardens. But the Housing Authority manages an even larger program, with 670 gardens on NYCHA properties, including an 8,000 square foot rooftop hydroponic farm in the South Bronx, a one-acre farm in Red Hook, and several new large-scale farms planned in East Harlem, Brownsville, Canarsie, the South Bronx, and Staten Island. Some 300 public schools also have gardens, from vegetable patches to high-tech greenhouses. HPD’s flagship affordable housing project, Via Verde, features a community garden and the city’s first and only rooftop apple orchard. And the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) invested nearly $600,000 ($150,000 more than GreenThumb’s entire 2015 operating budget) in a one-acre rooftop farm and another $770,000 in smaller farms and gardens, all to prevent stormwater from inundating the sewers. An alphabet soup of other agencies provides material, land, and technical assistance.

Some argue that this administrative mish-mash encourages innovation and entrepreneurship, but that reflects an overly romantic view of the “guerilla gardening” movement of the 1970s, when urban agriculture blossomed from the grassroots. In those days, in the wake of the city’s fiscal crisis and decades of private disinvestment, community activists, particularly in low-income communities of color, turned rubble-strewn lots into safe, green spaces providing healthy produce, and City Hall was happy to oblige with supplies and technical assistance. But over the past 40 years, urban agriculture has grown from guerilla to mainstream, requiring much more coordination, support, and permanence.

The most compelling reason for a citywide urban agriculture policy and physical plan is to make the system more transparent, equitable and sustainable. Currently, there are no clear criteria for which gardens to save, for how long, through what mechanisms, or at what cost. These decisions are often ad hoc, based on which gardeners are most active and organized, politically connected, and able to provide their own labor and resources. These may sound like reasonable criteria, but they have the effect of disadvantaging communities that would gain the most from gardens and farms but in which poverty, language barriers, immigration status, and other challenges make sustaining a garden more difficult.

Inequities also occur due to the lack of funding priorities for garden and farm projects, which advantages highly networked organizations and individuals with contacts and skills to secure grants, investments, and in-kind resources. While there may be valid reasons for the city to invest in innovative but costly projects like rooftop greenhouses, there is no public process for determining whether alternative farm and garden priorities, including low-tech farms, would be more equitable, cost-effective, or beneficial to the larger urban agriculture system.

A physical plan for agriculture would ensure that farms and gardens are designed into new residential and commercial developments, and that their locations maximize their benefits: near schools and senior centers to link these institutions to gardening programs; integrated into buildings and neighborhoods that would benefit from access to fresh produce and green space; in communities where farm-based youth development, recreation, and job training programs would make a difference; and in places where overburdened stormwater infrastructure would benefit from turning pavement into permeable soil. A citywide policy would also help to break down bureaucratic siloes by integrating urban agriculture into the missions of agencies that do not now view food production as relevant to their mandates. This would mean HPD designing gardens into their housing projects, DEP prioritizing farms and gardens in its green infrastructure financing, and Sanitation linking urban farms to its food-waste composting programs.

Perhaps the best opportunity to start the urban agriculture planning process is with the very program that led to this yearlong garden controversy: the mayor’s signature affordable housing plan. HPD, City Planning, and other agencies have begun community planning and rezoning in neighborhoods targeted for new affordable housing. These plans and rezoning proposals are a unique opportunity to proactively integrate urban agriculture, along with other strategies to increase access to healthy food, like space for neighborhood grocers, food cooperatives, farm stands and public markets, into the communities being transformed.


Calorie Labeling Regs Finalized


On Monday, December 1, 2014, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) published its final rule requiring nearly 300,000 retail food establishments and approximately 9,000 operators of food vending machines to post calorie counts at the point of sale, and provide additional nutrition information. The regulation, required by the Affordable Care Act of 2010, is designed to enable consumers to make better decisions about their diets by giving them calorie information about the food they consume away from home at the moment they make decisions about what to order.

The regulation is an effort to stem the health problems associated with overweight and obesity. In the US, 34% of adults are obese, and 34% are overweight. Among children and adolescents (2-19 years old), nearly a third are overweight or obese. Targeting restaurants (and cafes, grocers, vending machines and other places to buy ready-to-eat food) is critical because Americans consume an increasing percentage of their daily calories away from home — up from 18% in the 1970s to about 1/3 today. Moreover, the meals we buy ready-made away from home are higher in calories than those prepared from scratch at home (134 more calories/meal for those purchased by non-overweight consumers and 239 more for those purchased by obese consumers). (For sources see the Regulatory Impact Analysis of the rules.)

An article published by Reuters today noted that in assessing its costs and benefits, the FDA included the estimated loss of benefits to consumers as they switch from higher to lower calorie foods. FDA estimated that disclosing calorie information would mean lost benefits (or “consumer surplus”) in the range of $2.2 billion to $5.27 billion because there would be a reduction in food dollars spent as the posted calorie information encouraged consumers to switch to lower calorie menu items. This dollar value of reduced consumption of higher calorie food is considered a “cost” in the analysis because the shift in spending is attributed to lost utility (or value and pleasure) to the consumer reflected by our purchasing choices, rather than a gain in satisfaction, taste, pleasure, mental health, and estimated future life benefits that consumers may derive from lower calorie options (or by not purchasing an order of fries at all).

It seems to be a mis-application of the concept of consumer surplus to treat a shift to healthier eating as a consumer loss rather than an indication that consumers derive greater benefits — psychic, gustatory, and health-wise — from eating lower calorie items rather than higher calorie items. Willingness to pay for high calorie food in the absence of information about the caloric content of that food doesn’t indicate consumers are deriving “consumer surplus” by eating that food.

Despite the inclusion of this measure of consumer surplus loss in the cost-benefit analysis, the estimated benefits of the calorie labeling requirement still exceed their costs by $477.9 million over 20 years (at a discount rate of 7%). The regulations are set to take effect a year from now.

Climate Change New York Planning Policy

Increasing the Resilience of NYC’s Food System to Climate Change

New York, like many large cities, has a food system that depends on concentrated distribution channels and legacy infrastructures that are all prone to climate-related disruption. In advance of the People’s Climate March on September 21st, I wanted to reflect on the vulnerabilities of New York City’s food system to climate change-induced weather events, and how municipal policies can help us to mitigate and adapt to those vulnerabilities. Some statistics compiled in the wake of Hurricane Sandy for PlaNYC: A Stronger, More Resilient New York, illustrate the nature of the problem:

  • Nearly 95% of the 5.7 million tons of food that enters the city is transported by truck, mostly over the George Washington Bridge;
  • About 60% of the city’s produce and half of its meat and fish pass through the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center, North America’s largest wholesale food market, in the South Bronx. Nearly a third of the market is at risk of flooding because it is within the 100-year floodplain (and by the end of the century, New York City may experience a 100-year flood every 10 to 22 years).
  • At the retail end of the supply chain, 700 food markets are in a 100-year floodplain, and these are mostly smaller stores serving low-income and vulnerable neighborhoods that lack other retail options.
  • The four communities most at-risk of flooding — Coney Island, the Rockaways, Throgs Neck/Coop City, and East Harlem — will have 75% of their food retail floor area in a floodplain by the 2050s – and all four communities have populations with lower than average incomes.
  • Even the national distributors and large supermarket chains that have their own distribution centers and supply chains are not invulnerable, as their trucks travel the same roads that flood and rely on fuels that are supplied through the same vulnerable distribution systems as everyone else.

Conventional food systems are tightly bound together with other vulnerable urban systems like transportation, electricity, water, wastewater, financial systems, social systems and physical infrastructure. For example, in a system depending on electricity for refrigeration and some food preparation, power failures resulting from storms or heat-induced blackouts are also food system failures. When a city has one fifth of its population dependent on SNAP benefits, as New York does, telecommunications failures (which are also connected to failures to the electrical grid) that block access to SNAP funds are food system failures. When public transit fails, as it did during Hurricane Sandy, those people living in communities with flooded food retailers are unable to access food and services in adjacent neighborhoods.

And as these examples illustrate, while we are all at risk from the effects of climate change-induced weather events, we are unequally exposed to these risks and unequally vulnerable to them. Different socioeconomic status leads to disparate impacts and also disparate capacities to cope and adapt to those impacts. In New York, uneven development and various forms of structural oppression (e.g., racial, gender, age, and class discrimination) create particularly vulnerable populations who experience very different risks from climate change. Vulnerability to flooding and the secondary consequences of a storm – lost wages, hunger, physical and mental illnesses — affect those most socially, economically, politically, and otherwise marginalized more than those with social and financial resources.

Vulnerable populations are affected not only by the direct effects of extreme weather events, like hunger due to the loss of a local food retail establishment or food pantry, and also to the secondary effects of climate change, such as rising food prices that exacerbate food insecurity, but they are also vulnerable to adaptation and mitigation responses. This may include: planning decisions to make housing development in low-lying areas more resilient, but also more costly, leading to displacement; or to decisions to use green infrastructure as a means to absorb stormwater, creating new green spaces that inadvertently raise property values and gentrify the communities being greened. It may involve initiatives like the city’s FRESH initiative (Food Retail Expansion to Support Health) to increase food access in low income neighborhoods by supporting supermarket development, which may increase vulnerability over the long-run by perpetuating reliance on a small number of established supply chains rather than other forms of food retail like coops, small grocers, or farmers markets, which have the added advantage of supporting neighborhood development. This is not an argument for avoiding mitigation and adaptation, but rather to acknowledge and address the potential adverse effects of these actions on vulnerable communities.

Mal-adaptation, particularly choosing to strengthen existing systems rather than considering radical alternatives, can also make us as vulnerable to future risks as non-adaptation. For example, focusing on fortifying the Hunts Point Food Center, while necessary in the short term, locks us into a centralized food supply chain that may be even more vulnerable to weather-related disruptions in the future, forcing us to depend on additional physical infrastructure in the future to keep the floods away. This is not to say that we ought not have sea walls around Hunts Point, but that we need to pay attention to the potential to lock ourselves into vulnerable systems.

While the supply chain in NYC is vulnerable to climate change, the regional foodshed is also vulnerable. Increases in average temperatures and precipitation in the Northeast are likely to affect the types of crops and livestock cultivated regionally as well as the structure of agriculture. For example, dairy production is important to the Northeast’s agricultural economy, yet increases in temperature have been shown to reduce milk yields and slow weight gain in dairy cows. This may require dairy farmers to invest in ventilation and cooling equipment, which would put small farmers who are already marginally profitable under additional financial stress. For a crop like Hudson Valley apples, temperature extremes and increasingly frequent droughts are likely to reduce fruit quality, or require irrigation systems, driving up costs for farmers already struggling to make a living. Those farmers most vulnerable to climate change include owners of small family farms with little capital to invest in on-farm adaptation strategies, such as new infrastructure, stress-tolerant varieties, or increased chemical and water inputs. The most vulnerable farmers will be those without access to knowledge about the full range of adaptation strategies, or credit to pay for new infrastructure. Those without the social and business networks to access alternative supply chains and retailers will suffer financially when existing supply chains are disrupted. As some farmers successfully adapt, others may be disadvantaged, leading to farmland loss or consolidation in the regional farm economy. Short term solutions to problems such as climate-induced increases in weeds or insects, such as by increasing chemical inputs like fertilizers and pesticides, may exacerbate inequitable human health burdens, or degrade land and community health, driving down property values and exacerbating geographic inequities. In cities, increased extreme heat and droughts may also affect the cost structures and productivity of community gardens and urban farms in low-income communities.

But cities are not just the places that bear the brunt of climate change; they also have roles to play in combating climate change through innovative food policies.

  • Regional food procurement can support regional food economies, and in doing so enable farmers to have the financial wherewithal to invest in mitigation and adaptation. If NYC were to adopt food procurement guidelines that also emphasized sustainable farming practices, like no till farming or low-spray/organic production, our municipal purchasing power would support farms that serve as more efficient carbon sinks and reduce their energy consumption through reductions in chemical use.
  • Increased financial and technical support for Catskill farms (particularly dairy farms) through the Watershed Agriculture Council would help these food producers adapt to climate change, preventing the loss of farming in our watershed and the resulting adverse water quality effects and the need for costly and carbon emissions-intensive mechanical filtration.
  • Rooftop and ground level urban farms can serve as green infrastructure and create multidimensional benefits: stemming stormwater; insulating rooftops with soil and vegetation and reducing the heat island effect; increasing and diversifying food production; creating jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities and making communities more economically resilient and thus better able to respond to climate change risks. Increasing support for urban agriculture as a green infrastructure would be a sound way to address climate change while increasing the productive capacity of the cityscape.
  • Diversifying the food distribution system can make it less vulnerable to disruption while also reducing adverse impacts (like highly concentrated truck traffic) in neighborhoods like Hunts Point. Diversification should include new transportation infrastructure including rail and water transport, and an emphasis on various forms of food retail (including farmers markets and cooperatives) that build community-based social networks, competencies, and infrastructures.
  • Food can be made a central aspect of neighborhood planning, environmental assessment, the land use review process, and other governmental processes such as budgeting and agency management evaluation. This would ensure that as development plans move forward food infrastructure is adequately and sustainably included.
  • Urban waste composting is an important part of soil management and reduced dependence on synthetic nitrogen fertilizer in agriculture. A citywide organic composting program that returns processed compost to regional farms would reduce methane generation at landfills and help to build soil fertility, benefitting farmers, the environment, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Perhaps the best way to increase resilience to climate risks is by reducing inequities (providing better transit, affordable housing, adequate sewage infrastructure, nutrition and health programs). Systems of governance that empower vulnerable communities also improve the city’s ability to adapt to climate change.

(A version of this essay was presented on September 9, 2014, at the NYC Food Policy Center’s Food Policy for Breakfast: Climate Change, Food and Health: From Analysis to Action to Protect Our Futures.)


NYS Legislation to Help Beginning Farmers

In 2012, the average farmer in the was 58.3 years old. Farming is a difficult and often unprofitable business, and transferring farmland can be complex and costly.  These and other obstacles, like the high capital costs of farm equipment, prevent young people from entering farming, making regional food systems vulnerable as existing farm operators retire.

To address the problem of farmland access, the NYS Assembly and Senate have passed legislation (A. 7002/ S. 5377) that would: (1) require state agencies to identify state land that is viable for farming that could be sold or leased for that purpose; and (2) require the state’s Agriculture Advisory Council to provide advice to state agencies on tax, financial assistance and other programs that could address the needs of beginning farmers.  The National Young Farmers Coalition, American Farmland Trust and Agrarian Trust are lobbying to ensure that Governor Cuomo signs the legislation into law.


Report on Double-Up Food Bucks Program

The Fair Food Network released a new report on the five-year growth of its double-up food bucks program, which provides a one-to-one subsidy for consumers who use their SNAP benefits at farmers markets (and now select grocers). More than $5 million in SNAP + double-up benefits have been spent at Michigan markets as a result of the program, enabling 10,000 Michigan residents who rely on SNAP benefits to begin shopping at farmers markets for the first time in 2013. The concept has expanded nationwide with the support of other NGOs and city health departments.

New Report on NYC’s "Public Plate"

A new report by the NYC Food Policy Center analyzes the processes by which NYC sources and serves the 260 million meals and snacks served annually in schools, jails, and various social service programs.  This “public plate” (c.f. Kevin Morgan) could provide better nutrition, help reduce food insecurity, create jobs, and support a more resilient and robust regional foodshed. Among the report’s policy recommendations are:
1. Strengthening the Office of the Food Policy Coordinator by providing more staff to monitor public food procurement and provision;
2. Updating food standards;
3. Improving data collection and reporting on the city’s compliance with existing nutrition standards and providing procurement information to better track how much is being spent to purchase food;
4. Expanding participation in federal child nutrition programs by using a federal option to provide school lunch free to all children in low-income neighborhoods, and by implementing breakfast in the classroom across the school system;
5. Advocating for improvements to and expansion of the Federal Child Nutrition programs scheduled for reauthorization in 2015;
6. Assessing the meals provided by various food vendors;
7. Scrutinizing the costs of prices obtained by contractors.
8. Involving those consumers of public food in menu planning and program delivery,;
9. Strengthening the capacity of foodservice workers;
10. Expanding procurement of local food by building menus around what is produced in the region rather than establishing menus and then searching for available local food;
11. Advancing food education;
12. Supporting mission-driven community based catering and food processing organizations; and
13. Identifying the need for new kitchen capacity to support an improved foodservice program.


FoodWorks Update

On September 4, the New York City Council Speaker (and Mayoral candidate) Christine Quinn released an update toFoodWorks, the Council’s food policy platform. The update reviews recent accomplishments and recommends new policies to improve the city’s food system. Here are a handful of highlights, some related to City Council laws, some Council-funded projects run by non-profits, and others initiatives of the Bloomberg Administration:
  • Pursuant to Local Law 48 of 2011, which required the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) to create an online, public database of vacant city-owned property that includes an assessment for urban agriculture, more than 100 properties have been identified as potentially suitable for food production.
  • Local Law 49 of 2011 and the City Planning Department’s 2012 “Zone Green” zoning
 text amendments waived floor area and height limits for certain rooftop greenhouses, making it easier for building owners to install rooftop farms.
  • The New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) green infrastructure grant program has funded the construction of three green roof projects that include food production and education.
  • City funding has enabled the number of farmers markets to increase from 120 in 2010 to 136 today.
  • The number of Greenmarkets accepting electronic benefits transfer cards for SNAP recipients has increased from 6 in 2006 to 51 (of a total of 54) Greenmarkets and 11 Youth Markets. Greenmarkets now sell $800,000 worth of produce through the EBT program.
  • In 2012, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) bought
 an estimated $25 million worth of regional products, 14% of the City’s total food budget.
  • The Department of Education has nearly doubled the number of salad bars in schools, from 586 in 2010 to 1043 this past year.

Summary of London’s Capital Growth urban ag project

Styles House allotment, on land owned by Transport for London above Southwark tube station.
(Source: The Telegraph
A new report by the NGO Sustain (Growing Success: The Impact of Capital Growth on community food growing in London) describes the progress of Capital Growth, a partnership of London Food Link, the Mayor of London, and the Big Lottery’s Local Food Program to create 2,012 new community food growing spaces across London by the end of 2012. The project involved making new land available for gardening spaces, providing materials, technical assistance, and a support network for growers, and influencing policies to support the expansion of urban agriculture.
Among the accomplishments described in the report are:
  • The creation of 124 acres of new food growing spaces;
  • Establishing 20% of these urban agriculture sites on housing estates and 35% on school sites (with 700 schools growing food as part of the project); and
  • Ensuring that two-thirds of the gardens/farms were on land that was unused, derelict, or inaccessible.

New policies are often driven by projects that require legal, administrative or procedural changes. One of the accomplishments of the Capital Growth effort was the generation of policy changes to accommodate the expansion of urban agriculture in London.  Key new policies include:

  • Including the Capital Growth project in 
the London Plan, the city’s 20-year strategic framework, so that it encourages local planners to create and protect land for food production;
  • Getting the Greater London Authority to include food production in the city’s green infrastructure plan;
  • Getting local borough strategies to include food growing as an important land use;
  • Challenging perceived legal barriers to growing food; and
  • Working with Transport for London on ways to access transportation sites and developing a template lease agreement for these sites.