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A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

The New York City Council

Christine C. Quinn, Speaker

This report would not be possible without

the insights and contributions of hundreds of
New Yorkers and organizations who work every
day to improve our food system.

In particular, we would like to thank the following people for

their invaluable guidance and dedication to this project:

Hilary Baum, Baum Forum

Joel Berg, New York City Coalition Against Hunger

Nevin Cohen, The New School

Michael Conard, Urban Design Lab, the Earth Institute at Columbia University

Fern Gale Estrow, FGE Food & Nutrition Team

Christina Grace, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets

Karen Karp, Karp Resources

Ruth Katz, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture

Robert Lewis, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets

Report prepared by: Sarah Brannen

Research and editorial assistants: Gabrielle Blavatsky and Heidi Exline
Report designed by: Antonio M. Rodriguez

Additional assistance provided by: Kubi Ackerman, Lisette Camilo,

Brendan Cheney, Crystal Coston, Brandon Colson, Pamela Corbett,
Danielle DeCerbo, Lyle Frank, Matthew Gewolb, Jeffrey Haberman, Anthony Hogrebe,
Jarret Hova, Noah Isaacs, Wayne Kawadler, Meghan Linehan, Omany Luna,
Christine McLaughlin, Jeffrey Metzler, Margaret Nelson,
Robert Newman, Laura Popa, Danielle Porcaro, Steven Presser, David Pristin,
Alix Pustilnik, Adira Siman, Samara Swanston

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

Table of Contents











A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks


A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

ach morning before Dagele Brothers has provided choices about using fertilizers
sunrise, a truck leaves them with over 40,000 pounds and pesticides. Restaurants
Dagele Brothers Farm of produce—everything from make choices about where to
in Orange County, peppers to celery.) After buy ingredients and how to
New York, and travels 60 miles these employees finish turning dispose of their food scraps
south to the Hunts Point Mar- fresh produce into salads, the and cooking grease. City gov-
ket in the Bronx. There, the new products are then trucked ernment makes choices every
driver makes his first drop of to a network of more than day about what type of food it
the day at a warehouse operat- 350 delis and grocery stores buys and from where. It makes
ed by the Food Bank for New around the city. choices about infrastructure
York City. (Each year Dagele improvements and investments
Brothers provides 560,000 Every day, New Yorkers make in our food economy. And it 1
pounds of fresh produce to choices about what and where enacts building, tax, and ad-
the Food Bank from four dif- we eat. When we buy a salad, ministrative policies that affect
ferent New York State farms.) we might not think about all communities and businesses.
Food Bank trucks then make the people and places that
their way throughout the city, were involved in its creation. Individual choices like these
dropping off fresh produce to But the simple act of eating have an impact on every phase
over 1,000 food pantries, soup that salad could be creat- of our food system, from farm
kitchens, and other community ing jobs on a farm in Orange to table and beyond. Each
organizations across the five County, at a distribution center action has the potential to
boroughs – groups that serve in Hunts Point, and at a factory improve our health, our econ-
400,000 free meals to hungry in Jamaica, Queens. It could omy, and our environment.
New Yorkers every day. also be supporting a growing This FoodWorks plan explores
operation that helps get food some of the ways in which the
Meanwhile, our Dagele Broth- to hungry New Yorkers. And many pieces of our complex
ers driver has continued over it could be a healthy choice to food system are interconnect-
the bridge from the Bronx help reduce our risk of obesity, ed, sets goals to help us make
and on to a food processor diabetes, and heart disease. better choices, and presents a
in Jamaica, Queens, which blueprint for some initial steps,
employs more than 200 New Businesses and government both large and small, that can
Yorkers making salads, wraps, also make decisions about how make the system stronger and
and other healthy meals. they produce, process, and more sustainable for genera-
(Just in this growing season, distribute food. Farmers make tions to come.

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

NYS Farmers and Population 1840-2007

Food is one of our most basic needs.

Throughout human history, the

New York State Population (1000s)

pursuit of food has driven our social,
economic, and cultural develop-
ment. The domestication of animals
and the development of agriculture
paved the way for the first settle-
ments. Later it was the ability of
farmers to move from subsistence
to surplus production that allowed
for specialization of labor and fueled
the growth of civilizations around the
world. Similarly, increased efficiency
and consolidation of food produc-
tion helped feed a rapidly growing Source: USDA Agricultural Census 1840-2007

population throughout the 20th

Century. In the United States, the ways helped transport goods from investments can encourage positive
growth of large scale, centralized coast to coast, further supporting changes for the food system of future
food production and distribution co- centralized food production. generations. This report outlines a
incided with the Industrial Revolution plan for key legislative changes, public
and supported mass urbanization Food systems have changed through- and private investments, infrastructure
and economic growth. Advances in out history to support the evolution improvements, and partnerships to
agriculture through pesticides, syn- and economic growth of societies. improve our food system.
thetic fertilizers, mechanization, and Today we are once again confronted
2 public subsidies increased the ef- with the need for additional change MOVING FROM FOOD
ficiency and productivity of American to the food system. Our national SYSTEM INSECURITY
farmers. As a result, from the 1930s food system evolved to support a TO OPPORTUNITY
to 2002, the portion of Americans rapidly growing population, and it
employed in farming decreased from has allowed us to feed more people As New York City is expected to
24 percent to 1.5 percent.1 Whereas than ever before. Yet, that evolution add nearly one million new resi-
in 1940, each farmer produced had unintended consequences. Our dents in the next two decades,3 we
enough food to feed 11 people, by current system is characterized by high must identify ways to move from an
the 1990s each produced enough energy usage and waste throughout all unsustainable food system to one
to feed 100 people.2 The develop- phases; an aging farming population; that promotes health, environmental
ment of quick freezing and other loss of farmland to development and sustainability, and a thriving econ-
preservation techniques allowed degradation; and an obesity epidemic omy. In 1996, the Food and Agri-
food to maintain nutritional value for that threatens to reverse generations culture Organization of the United
longer periods and reduced product of public health progress. Because of Nations wrote that “food security”
loss for both producers and retail- these challenges, the very system that occurs when food systems operate
ers. Government services like the is meant to sustain and nourish us im- so that “all people, at all times, have
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance poses costs to our health, our econo- physical and economic access to
Program, which started in 1939, of- my, and our environment. However, sufficient, safe, and nutritious food
fered a basic level of food access to just as the policies and technologies to meet their dietary needs and food
all Americans, regardless of income. of the past created the food system preferences for an active and healthy
And after World War II, new high- we experience now, new policies and lifestyle.”4 By this definition, the

NYC stops
Refrigerated dumping First U.S.
Invention John Deere train cars garbage aluminum Henry Ford
Horses are of food & Leonard Mixed introduced, from a recycling Food and introduces Clarence
domesticated preserved Andrus begin chemical increasing na- platform plant opens Drug Act the Fordson, Birdseye, a
Egyptians use for transport, Chinese in cans feeds manufacturing fertilizers tional markets built over in Chicago, & Meat the first mass Brooklynite,
yeast to make plowing, use salt to Napoleon’s steel plows & sold com- for fruit and the East IL and Inspection produced tests frozen
bread and drafting preserve food Army threshing mercially vegetables River Cleveland, OH Act pass tractor food technology
4000 B.C. 3000 B.C. 2700 B.C. 1810 1837 1849 1870 1872 1904 1906 1917 1923
U.S. Industrial Revolution World
War I
New York City food system is not
new Food
NYC yorkOutlets
city Food
2010 outlets
fully secure. Additionally, our food
system faces a number of issues Food Outlet  Quantity 
that compromise its long-term sus- Restaurants  24,000 
tainability. Agricultural production Supermarkets, Grocery Stores & Convenience Stores  5,445 
is energy intensive, greatly contrib- Food Wholesalers  1,730 
utes to greenhouse gas (GHG) Public Schools  1,500 
emissions, and is not economi- Emergency Feeding Programs  1,000 
cally viable for many farmers. Food
Food & Beverage Manufacturers  1,000 
processing and distribution require
Green Carts  445  Source: Bureau of Labor
large non-renewable energy inputs  
Statistics, Quarterly Census
Farmers Markets  120  of
  Employment and Wages
and further impact our environ- and NYC Dept. of Health
Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs)  100    Mental Hygiene
ment. There is significant waste
throughout the system, both from  
discarded food and food packaging.   Seizing economic the food chain, farming is threatened
Moreover, New York City is not fully opportunity not only by environmental prob-
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages and NYC Department of 
capitalizing on its economic power Health and Mental Hygiene, NYS Dept. Agriculture & Markets, Just Food, Food Bank  
lems, but also by economic fragility.
to create good jobs and economic The New York City food market con- Global food demand and energy
opportunity at each phase of the sists of over 8 million residents, $30 prices cause fluctuations in prices
food system. billion in food spending and a bud- that hit consumers at the register.
get for institutional meals second Additionally, many New Yorkers’
Our FoodWorks plan details the only to the Unites States military.5 demand for fresh, healthy food is not
issues our food system faces today, With such vast purchasing power, met. There have been some promis-
how they are born of a national and New York City is uniquely positioned ing recent developments, but there
global system, and what we can do to stimulate the food economy, are additional opportunities to more
to address them both nationally strengthen our regional food system, fully capitalize on existing resources
and locally. New York City can be and drive local and regional business in the food economy.
a leader in food systems change, activity. To accomplish this, we must 3
serving as a model of how targeted first address several points of eco- Supporting a Diverse
local action can support large nomic vulnerability and loss in our Retail Sector
scale improvements. food system. At the beginning of
Demand for food at and away from
home is met by tens of thousands
of businesses — a vast network of
farmers, wholesalers, distributors,
processors, grocery stores, bode-
gas, street vendors, restaurants and
other food service establishments.
Despite the reach of these busi-
nesses, New York City has yet to ef-
fectively meet all consumer demand
in these sectors and thus has the
opportunity to generate business
activity and create jobs. In terms
Photo Credit: Zach K

of fresh food retail alone, New York

City has the potential to capture an
additional $1 billion in grocery store
sales each year that are not met by
FDA approves There is
Federal-Aid Fresh Kills in FLAVRSAVR
Highway Staten Island tomato, first Largest
great de-
National drive-thru Act passes, becomes Congress whole food First recall mand
of for
First Lady
King Kullen Victory Garden Microwave restaurant helping the largest passes the produced NYC CSA groundregional
beef Obama plants
opens the first Food Stamp Program oven is in the trucking to landfill in Organic Food through drop off in U.S. White House
“supermarket” program begins launched invented U.S. opens expand the world Production Act biotechnology established historyproducts,
organic garden
1930 1939 1941 1945 1948 1956 1986 1990 1994 1995 1997 2009
great Depression World War ii
energy prices, global trade de-
mands, and conversion of cropland
Bronx to energy uses. Agricultural prod-
ucts are one of America’s fastest
New York City
growing exports, particularly corn,

Farmers Markets

soy, rice and food oils.12 As other

2010 countries continue to develop and

demand more of these U.S. prod-
Queens ucts, the domestic supply will be
subject to increased prices as seen
in 2007 and 2008, impacting con-
sumers at home.13 This problem is
exacerbated when oil prices in-
Brooklyn crease, which causes producers to
Staten Island spend more on inputs such as fertil-
izer and transportation.14 Because
the costs of non-renewable energy
are expected to rise, this trend will
Source: : NYS Dept. of Agriculture and Markets
likely also persist if not mitigated by
food system improvements locally
stores.6 There is great demand for supports 76 jobs in other industries.11 and nationally.
regional products, seen in the rapid However, our food manufacturers
growth of farmers markets and com- need to be better linked to regional Compounding these price vulner-
munity supported agriculture (CSA) processors and markets. abilities are the financial challenges
throughout the city. Today there are faced by most farmers. Less than
120 farmers markets throughout the Supporting two percent of our population is
city7 and since 1995 CSAs have in- Regional Farmers employed in farming and of those,
4 creased from 1 drop off point to ap- many are nearing retirement, with
proximately 100 in 2010.8 However, Strengthening the regional supply farmers six times more likely to be
restaurants and retailers attempting chain is an important strategy for over the age of 65 than under the
to fill this demand through their of- shoring up our food system against age of 35.15 Over the past genera-
ferings encounter difficulty sourcing other economic threats. In recent tion, the industry has struggled to
regional products from wholesalers. years, our food supply and prices attract younger farmers because it
This market has a surplus demand have become more vulnerable to is not economically sustainable. In
of nearly $600 million annually that
could be captured.9 Not only would Food & Energy CPI New York - Northern New Jersey - Long Island
meeting this demand help individual
farmers, it would also strengthen
our regional economy and state tax
base, alleviating some of the finan-
cial burden on New York City.

Expanding Food
Consumer Price Index


In addition to capturing more of

our local food dollars through retail
outlets like supermarkets and CSAs,
New York City can utilize its econom-
ic power to support local manufac-
turers. Food processing is a valuable
part of our city’s economy, providing
$1.3 billion to the Gross City Prod-
uct.10 Additionally, every 100 jobs in
the City’s food manufacturing sector Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consumer Price Index-All Urban Consumers.
Energy and Food. New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island. 2010

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

2007 only 63 percent of all farms
earned a positive net farm income.16
Despite recent food price spikes,
real food prices have increased
modestly in the past 40 years due
to innovations in food production.
However, farmers receive a shrink-
ing portion of our food dollar. In
1950, farmers received 41 percent of
the food dollar, while in 2006, they
received only 19 percent.17 Because
most farmers in the U.S. already Photo Credit: Gabrielle Blavatsky
struggle to maintain profitability,
added environmental and input tribute to greater food insecurity and topsoil is lost every 34 years, which
costs cause prices of food to rise, consumption of less healthy foods.18 could take over 200 years to replen-
putting added pressure on consum- ish.20 To many New Yorkers, the loss
ers. Because fresher, healthier items ImprovIng of topsoil may seem a distant con-
are more expensive on a per calorie EnvIronmEntal cern, even though healthy topsoil is
basis, food price increases will con- SuStaInabIlIty required to grow much of our food.
Yet some New Yorkers might remem-
Farmer's Share of the Our food system faces several ber when one of the worst storms of
Food Dollar in 1950 environmental issues: loss of farm- the Dust Bowl carried topsoil from
land, water pollution, high energy the fields of the Great Plains all the
usage, greenhouse gas emissions, way to New York City in 1934. This
and waste at every phase of the type of major ecological event may
food chain. The gains in efficiency not be in our current forecast, but
that were needed to feed a rap- New Yorkers are still intricately tied
idly increasing population in past to the health of farmland, which 5
$0.41 generations have contributed to feeds us every day.
problems that are now beginning to
be internalized to the food system, Additionally, we rely on the upstate
affecting systemic security and rais- watershed, home to several hun-
ing the costs to farmers, processors, dred farmers, for our water supply.
distributors, consumers, and tax The environmental threats typical
payers. of conventional agriculture, over
consumption of water and chemical
Source: USDA. ERS. Price Spreads From Farm to
Consumer. May 28, 2008
Protecting Farmland run-off, are therefore of particular
Farmer's Share of the Food Dollar in 2006 concern to city residents. Well-
Farmer's Share of the Although a much smaller portion managed regional agriculture offers
Food Dollar in 2006 of our population is engaged in a better alternative to both con-
farming than ever before, most of ventional agriculture and develop-
our food still comes from American ment, which increases impermeable
farmland. Protecting cropland and surfaces and run-off. These threats
$0.19 ensuring that farming is economi- to farmland are widespread issues
cally viable are therefore critical to that extend beyond the boundaries
long-term food security. Unfortu- of the five boroughs. However, New
nately, farmland is being rapidly lost York City has immense power to
to development and environmental support farmers and good farming
degradation, which puts increas- practices by ensuring that they have
ing pressure on the farmland that direct-to-consumer and institu-
remains. Due to unsustainable tional markets, and by continuing
agricultural practices, the U.S. is los- to pursue direct support programs
ing topsoil approximately ten times for farmers in our watershed and
faster than it can be replaced.19 By training for New Yorkers interested
Source: USDA. ERS. Price Spreads From Farm to some estimates, roughly one inch of in the field.
Consumer. May 28, 2008

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

Reducing Energy Usage
Food Transport in New York City Region* by Type
and GHG Emissions
Food Transport in New York City Region by Type*
In addition to the loss of farmland and
watershed issues, our food system is
characterized by high energy usage
and greenhouse gas emissions. Fully 50000

80 percent of the increase in energy 45000

flows in the United States between
1997 and 2002 were related to the
food system, in large part due to 35000

increased consumption of processed 30000
foods.21 Overall, the food system ac-

Weight (short
counts for approximately 14 to 19 per-
cent of national energy usage,22 most
of which comes from non-renewable 15000
fossil fuels.23 10000 2025
5000 2020
This problem affects all phases of the 2015
food system. Agricultural production 2010
Air & Truck
requires energy to run equipment and Other
Pipeline &  Rail Truck
Unknown Truck & Rail
vehicles, and to produce fertilizers, Water

pesticides and feed. Agriculture’s * For New York Combined Statistical Area
contribution to all greenhouse emis- Transport Mode
sions in the U.S. range from approxi- A Bor Cew Dork EomFined GtaHIHcal Area
Source: U.S. Dept. of Transportation. Federal Highway Administration. Freight Analysis Framework. 2010

mately 6 to 8 percent annually, with

livestock contributing the most.24 Food
6 processing and distribution practices volume and distance of food trans- 27 percent of the food we prepare,
also consume considerable energy and ported increases. The vast majority which nationally costs approximately
contribute to greenhouse gas emis- of food coming into New York City $1 billion in disposal.31 Preventing just
sions. As consumers look for more arrives by truck, with these truck trips 10 percent of this food from being
convenience in their daily lives, our con- expected to increase through 2035, discarded would be enough to feed all
sumption of highly processed foods will further stressing our infrastructure. of New York City.32 At the same time,
continue to increase.25 Energy usage And because transportation accounts much of the city’s waste is disposed
in the processing sector has increased for 4 percent of food costs and con- of in landfills or through incineration.
noticeably at a rate of approximately tributes to the cost of farm inputs, we Food decomposition in landfill can
8.3 percent annually and is expected to may also see food prices increase in produce 4 to 8 percent of the food
continue over the next two decades.26 the future.29 Several strategies exist for system’s greenhouse gases in the form
Significant opportunities exist for both reducing the impact of food transport, of methane.33 However, increased
households and businesses to reduce such as increasing regional and local recycling of food packaging, compost-
environmental impacts with new tech- capacity and energy efficiency among ing of organic matter, reuse of grease,
nologies and equipment. producers, processors and distributors, and other recovery techniques can
and encouraging alternative modes of help the city reduce costs of disposal,
Transportation of food also contrib- transportation. lower greenhouse gas emissions, and
utes to high energy usage in the food identify resources for future use.
system. From the time food leaves the Waste
farm, it usually passes through several IMPROVING
phases before reaching consumers. Opportunities also exist for minimiz- PUBLIC HEALTH
From 1997 to 2002, transportation of ing environmental impact and food
several major types of food products system costs by reducing waste and Addressing Both Hunger
averaged an increase of 5 to 15 miles recovering by-products to be used as and Obesity
annually.27 This rate increased from resources. The national food system
2002 to 2007 to between 10 and 16 produces the equivalent of 3,900 New York City is one of the great-
miles annually.28 The demand for fossil calories per person per day.30 How- est food destinations in the world,
fuels is expected to rise as both the ever, consumers discard more than boasting over 24,000 restaurants34

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

Child and Adolescent Obesity in the U.S. vide a safety net to those who lack
financial resources. The city has
begun to pursue these policies, but
additional improvements to public
meal programs, benefits administra-
tion, and economic development
efforts can be made.

As paradoxical as it seems to the

problem of food insecurity, three of

the five leading causes of mortality

in New York City can be linked to
diet and are mostly preventable:
heart disease, stroke, and diabe-
tes.37 Each of these is strongly root-
ed in the problem of obesity. Over
the past 20 years, obesity among
children and adults has doubled
and is now considered epidemic.38
Source: CDC, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). June 2010. The economic costs of these health
problems are also considerable.
Obesity-related medical expendi-
Adult Obesity in the U.S.
tures in New York State are over
$6 billion, 81 percent of which are
paid by Medicare and Medicaid.39
Currently, Medicaid comprises 30
percent of all state revenues.40 New
York City alone spends an estimated 7
$2.65 billion on health care each
year, at a cost of roughly $315 per


Improving the
Food Environment

The widespread rise in obesity has

been attributed to changes in our
food environment and eating habits.
On average, we each consume 530
calories more each day than we did
Source: CDC, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), in 1970, with more than half of this
NCHS Health E-Stat and NYC Community Health Survey, 2008
increase in the form of added sugar,
fats and oils.42 Over the past three
and scores of renowned chefs due to a lack of supply, but rather decades, the kinds of meals we eat
and food representing countries the inability of people to purchase and where we eat them have also
around the world. Additionally, enough food. changed. We now eat more food
the domestic and imported food away from home and consume more
supply provides each American with As the New York City population processed foods, which account for
nearly twice the average caloric increases in the coming decades, 82 to 92 percent of food sales in the
intake needed.35 But in this seem- adequately feeding all of our United States.43 Several factors likely
ing culture of plenty, there are still residents will continue to present contribute to our changing eating
1.4 million New Yorkers who live a challenge. To do so will not only habits here and elsewhere across the
in households that cannot afford require enabling more New Yorkers nation: the higher price of healthy
an adequate supply of nutritious to afford healthy food, but also en- foods compared to unhealthy foods,
food.36 Hunger is therefore not hancing public programs that pro- shortages of healthy food retail in

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

Fats Available Per Capita and Adult Obesity in the U.S. Even if affordability and proximity
Fats Available Per Capita and Adult Obesity in the U.S. to healthier food options are not
Obesity Total Fats
at issue, there are other factors
that affect our food choices.
100 40%
Pressures on our time from work,
35% transportation, and child care,
especially for working parents,
30% compete with our ability to cook
Total Fats Available (lbs./capita)

nutritious meals.46 Americans
Total Fats (Lbs/capita)

Adult Obesity Rate

Adult Obesity Rate
spend 1.23 hours each day eating
50 20%
and drinking and only about a half
hour each day on food prepara-
15% tion.47 Additionally, with the in-
30 crease in consumption of processed
foods and food away from home,
keeping track of our caloric intake
10 has become more difficult. In many
0 0% ways, New Yorkers spend little time
thinking about food and how it’s




































prepared, which has resulted in a
Source: USDA. ERS. U.S. Per Capita Food Availability Custom Report. 2010
loss of food knowledge and reli-
ance on unhealthy, more processed
Caloric Sweeteners Available Per Capita and Adult Obesity in the U.S. foods. Fortunately, unlike other
public health problems, the solu-
tions to food insecurity and obesity
are known and achievable. By
improving utilization of public
8 programs, supporting a healthier
Total Sweeteners Available (lbs./capita)

food environment in the city, and

making good food more affordable,
we can achieve better health
Adult Obesity Rate

outcomes for all New Yorkers,

regardless of their income.

Although many of these problems

are national and global in nature,
there are immediate steps that
can be taken within New York
City to strengthen our food system.
The city can facilitate urban-rural
Source: USDA. ERS. U.S. Per Capita Food Availability Custom Report. 2010
linkages, support a market for
regional products, and use its
institutional purchasing power
neighborhoods, an abundance of linked to the prevalence of obesity to support small and local produc-
unhealthy food options, and a lack of in neighborhoods.44 In fact, nearly ers. Moreover, by helping green
knowledge or time to improve cook- 3 million residents in New York City the city’s landscape, assisting
ing and eating habits. lack adequate fresh food retail in their companies with adopting new
neighborhood.45 However, these fac- technologies, and exploring
Many neighborhoods in the city are tors can be influenced through public better distribution networks, we
not healthy food environments. They policies like zoning, financial incen- can begin to address the high
are characterized by a relatively low tives, health regulations, infrastruc- energy usage and greenhouse
concentration of fresh food retail ture changes, and the types of meal gas emissions characteristic of
and a higher concentration of fast programs and benefits offered to our food system.
food establishments, which has been New Yorkers in need.

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System


tHE FoodWorKS PlAn

Through the key investments and policy nationally. For example, over 20 years ago
changes recommended in this report, we can New York City was the first large American
build a better food system for our growing city to institute a city-wide curbside recycling
city – one that that provides healthy, affordable program as a regular, municipal function, and
food for all New Yorkers in our growing popu- was the first to include high-rise apartment
lation, while supporting our local and regional buildings in any such program. Now all major
economy and mitigating environmental im- cities across the U.S. are doing the same - just
pacts. In short, our food system will be better one example of how local government action
able to respond to the needs of New Yorkers can create a groundswell of national change.
today and in the years to come. Today, the New York City Council (“City Coun-
cil”) and numerous other stakeholders are
Although the New York City food system is already beginning to invest in new initiatives
part of a national and international system that and ideas to improve health outcomes, build
will also require large scale changes, there are up our food infrastructure, and strengthen our
significant opportunities on the local level to food economy. To further these efforts, this re-
restructure the food system to create positive port proposes a series of initiatives and policy
outcomes. Historically, the actions of individ- changes at each phase of New York City’s food
ual consumers, businesses, and municipalities system, from agricultural production all the
have often led the way for positive changes way through post-consumption.


Each section of the plan AgriculturAl tively to develop new procurement

that follows outlines: Production guidelines that encourage purchas-
ing from regional farmers.
• A number of goals that can be Our plan begins where our food
achieved through improvements begins – on farms, in community To further mitigate farmland loss, we
along each phase of the gardens, and atop roofs across the will continue to fund sustainability
food system (for example, five boroughs and throughout the practices for farmers in the upstate
increasing regional food region. To meet the needs of our watersheds and encourage new
production and creating a growing population and achieve a farmers. Yet despite all of these ef-
healthier food environment); more secure food system for the forts, we still need federal subsidies
future, we must support our regional to prioritize small producers and
• Specific strategies that can be farmers and reconnect New Yorkers those growing fruits and vegetables.
employed to meet each goal to their food. Our plan is to facilitate Beyond these local actions, we
(for example, strengthening urban-rural linkages to help farmers therefore urge the state and federal
regional supply channels); and bring their food to city markets. To governments to do their part by in-
do this, we will support alternative creasing subsidies for small produce
• A series of proposals or retail outlets like farmers markets growers and improving the State
tangible initiatives that we will and community supported agricul- Farmland Protection Fund.
work to implement in the ture (CSAs). However, we must also
coming months and years build a permanent wholesale farmers Although much of our food originates
(for example, expanding and market to help mid-sized farmers sell on rural farms, agricultural produc-
supporting farmers markets). to restaurants, government institu- tion also occurs right here in the five
tions, and grocers. Additionally, we boroughs. Our community gardens
Together, these elements form will use the city’s economic power as and urban farms are vital community
our blueprint for long-term a purchaser of food to support our assets. Not only do they provide chil-
food system change. regional farmers by working legisla- dren and adults vital open space, but

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

they also afford us the opportunity to resources through workshops and carts, farmers markets, CSAs, and
learn about how food is grown, while an online center. Through these key food co-operatives. Additionally,
improving attitudes toward fruit and investments and policy changes, we will discourage unhealthy food
vegetable consumption. To encour- our food manufacturing industry can consumption by targeting fast food
age more local growers, we will make thrive, generating more economic and helping bodegas improve their
sure that out community gardens activity for our city while ensuring a infrastructure so they can more easily
are preserved, that new gardeners greener future for all New Yorkers. offer fresh products. We’ll invest
are connected to space, and that all in workforce development for food
qualifying urban farms are counted in Distribution retail careers and create guides that
the Census of Agriculture. The city direct New Yorkers to healthy food in
can also be more hospitable to urban Food reaches New Yorkers by a vari- their neighborhoods.
agriculture by making our regulatory ety of means and from places all over
environment easier to navigate and the world. Some comes directly from We can make the meals that the City
disseminating new technologies farmers a mere hour or two away serves to children, seniors, and other
and knowledge. from consumers, while other food New Yorkers healthier and more
passes through an elaborate national nutritious by making sure agencies
By supporting our regional farmers distribution network. Our plan to have the tools they need to cook
and urban growers, we can ensure improve distribution addresses the healthy foods. To combat hunger,
that agricultural production remains issues associated with the transport we’ll continue to push for improve-
an economically viable part of our of food into and throughout the city, ments to federal programs like food
food system, improves the health regardless of its origin. Through stamps and Supplemental Nutrition
and eating habits of residents, careful study of this intricate network Program for Women, Infants, and
preserves and creates more valuable within the city, we will better under- Children (WIC), and for a stronger
open space, and better protects stand local distribution and identify Child Nutrition Act. At the same
our environment. means for diversifying our transporta- time, we will work locally to make
tion modes, reducing truck trips and sure everyone eligible for these ben-
Processing miles, and decreasing the environ- efits can receive them.
mental impact associated with get- 11
Our plan continues with food ting food to consumers. To do this, Post-consumPtion
processing. Much of the food we we must find optimal routes, adopt
consume goes through some form new technologies, and help distribu- Improving environmental sustain-
of processing before reaching our tors navigate our city more quickly ability in the food system will require
plates. In New York City, we boast and easily. Additionally, improving recapturing our waste as resources
a strong food processing sector. our food distribution system will to be reinvested, rather than pay-
However, many of these businesses require a forward-thinking redevelop- ing to incinerate or landfill them. By
struggle to stay profitable and main- ment of the Hunts Point Distribution encouraging household composting
tain what are often energy intensive Center. We envision a new produce and exploring citywide composting
operations. Our goals are to support market with vastly expanded capac- technologies, we can begin to recap-
these processors, connect them ity, reduced energy usage and GHG ture more food system waste and re-
to regional agricultural producers, emissions, increased rail service, and duce our municipal burden. We can
and help them to reduce their greater opportunity for processors, work to expand recycling of restau-
environmental impact. retailers and other relevant uses. rant grease and packaging materials
in every sector. Additionally, we must
To achieve these positive changes, consumPtion begin to reduce waste upstream by
we will help these businesses find discouraging bottled water consump-
affordable manufacturing space, The food system we envision for to- tion and making better choices about
whether they’re start-ups or estab- morrow addresses the twin problems the types of packaging on food we
lished firms. Additionally, we will of hunger and obesity and makes procure through city meal programs.
hold a business-to-business confer- sure that all New Yorkers, regard-
ence with private sector partners less of income, have access to fresh, By addressing the system as a
to help make the connections that healthy and affordable food. This whole, we can begin to make
might otherwise be difficult. Lastly, will require restoring a healthier food connections throughout these
to help businesses reduce their costs environment where all residents live phases, establish partnerships
and become more energy efficient, near a grocery store, and expanding across sectors, and create more
we will help link them to valuable other healthy food outlets like green powerful, far-reaching changes.

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

Agricultural Production
Agricultural Production
Agricultural production involves growing crops and raising
animals for food. A wide array of people and organiza-
tions produce food for New Yorkers. New York State boasts
36,000 farms and over 7 million acres of farmland, a quarter
of our state’s land. While rural farms throughout the state
are a part of our food production, much of New York City’s
food is trucked or flown in from across the country and globe.
Yet some food is even produced within the five boroughs of
New York City on urban farms, rooftop gardens, beekeeping
operations, and hundreds of community gardens.
Agricultural Production

For most New Yorkers, our connec-

New York State Top Agricultural Products
tion to food begins in a restaurant
or grocery store, far removed from New York StateÕ s Top Agricultural Products
the farm. Agricultural production
has traditionally been considered
Product  National Rank  Sales Value 
a rural or national concern among Cabbage  2nd  $67,300,000 
local policy makers. Recently, how- Apples  2nd  $185,000,000 
ever, many New Yorkers have begun Corn Silage  3rd  $227,000,000 
to think about where our food
comes from, the implications of
Milk  3rd  $1,910,000,000 
how our food is produced, and what Sweet Corn   4th  $699,00,000 
our food dollar buys. Even though Onions  6th  $49,000,000 
most of it occurs outside of our Grain   19th  $117,000,000 
urban boundaries and is affected by
Hay   22nd  $282,000,000 
national and international factors,
cities have a major stake in the way Poultry  27th  $54,800,000 
food is produced. Through our Meat  34th  $190,000,000 
role as purchasers of food, we can
effect considerable positive change Source: NYS Dept. of Agriculture and Markets. Ag Facts. 2009. and Environmental Working Group
Source: New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.  
in agricultural production within our
own region. Much of our food in
New York City will continue to come
from places outside the region, but commitment to growing their own Farmers in our state do not earn
progress toward a thriving agricul- food, whether in their backyards, the same per acre for their products
16 tural production economy in our on school lots, or on rooftops. as do farmers nationally. Currently,
region can be achieved. Producers This interest in urban agriculture New York farms sell an average of
in the region can maintain and de- offers significant opportunity to $121,551 overall, approximately
velop a competitive advantage in a green our urban landscape, foster $1,623 per acre whereas nationally,
variety of products, such as apples, nutrition and food education, and farmers sell an average of $134,807
pears, cabbage, grapes, cucumbers, help reconnect New Yorkers to annually, or approximately $3,102
dairy and squash. In fact, New York their food. per acre.52 In their struggle to make
is already a large producer of many ends meet and remain profitable,
of these products. New York State Agricultural production in our re- many farmers are forced to sell their
produces a remarkable $4.4 billion gion and across the nation land for development. Additionally,
each year in agricultural products, faces several critical issues: loss the average age of farmers in our
ranking 3rd nationally for dairy of farmland, increasingly con- state is 56 years and has been rising
products, 2nd nationally in apple centrated operations, economic as fewer young people enter the
production, and 5th nationally for vulnerability, and environmental industry, instead opting for more lu-
vegetable production.48 Help- degradation. Although farmland crative careers.53 As the number of
ing regional producers distribute loss is a national problem, New York farms in our region has decreased,
their products to New York City State has lost farms and farmland there is increased environmental
restaurants, retailers, wholesalers, acreage at a much faster pace. In and economic pressure on the
individual consumers, and agencies 1950, New York State had 124,977 farmland that remains. In particular,
will be a critical strategy for building farms on 30.6 million acres.49 By intensive farming can threaten the
production capacity. 2007, only 36,352 farms remained health of topsoil and water supply
on approximately 7.1 million acres.50 due to run-off. Because residents
In addition to supporting regional This represents a 70.1 percent drop of the city rely on the upstate water-
producers, our food system can in the number of farms and a 76.8 shed for our drinking water, ensur-
be strengthened in other ways by percent loss in farmland acres. In ing the farms in the watershed
supporting urban agriculture. New contrast, over the same period, the are able to invest in sustainable
Yorkers across the five boroughs are U.S. lost just 20.5 percent of farm- practices is of particular concern
showing increased interest in and land acres.51 to New Yorkers.

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

Agricultural Production
These problems in agricultural pro- 1930.54 This makes it increasingly Through state and local support
duction were born of national needs difficult for smaller producers to en- and continued commitment from
and policies. Historically, increased ter and thrive in the market. Federal private sector and non-profit
mechanization and centralization subsidies have further supported organizations, we can develop a
of agricultural production have centralized, large-scale commodity regional food system that comple-
enabled us to feed millions of new operations, but have not focused ments and strengthens our national
Americans over several generations. as much of these resources in our food system. As New York City
As in the rest of the country, produc- region or on smaller producers. As begins to implement key policy
tion in New York has become more outlined later in this report, New changes to facilitate this shift at
concentrated, with the average size York City must continue to focus on home, other cities around the
of the remaining farms increasing supporting federal policy changes country are also beginning to
by approximately 75 percent since to support our region’s farmers. focus on their regional food econo-
mies. This national shift over time
will support further development
of regional competitive advantage
Farms ininNew York State
Farms New York State
in different products. For example,
although New York State is now
a major producer of apples and
produces enough to support our
demand, we still import apples
from Washington and apple juice
from China.55 These kinds of
of Farms


practices are not sustainable and

Number of

can create environmental and


100,000 economic inefficiencies in our

food system.56 By making a con-
scious effort to support our re-
gional farmers through developing
infrastructure, programming and
procurement change, we can
1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950 1964 1974 1982 1987 1992 1997 2002 2007 ensure they are competitive at
home and nationally.

Source: USDA NYS Agricultural Census. 1900-2007

The City Council and other stake-
holders have begun to invest in
several programs to help support
our farmers. Yet there are other
Average Size of New York State Farms things we can do locally to help
strengthen agricultural production.
This includes facilitating supply
channels between producers
and the urban market, using the
city’s economic power to support
regional producers, and ensuring

that our community gardens and

urban farms have the ability to
thrive. The following series of
goals and proposals aim to
preserve and increase regional
and urban food production.

Source: : USDA NYS Agricultural Census. 1900-2007

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

Agricultural Production
prices compared to products at
aGrICUltUral ProDUCtIoN retail stores.57 However, farms that
have been extremely successful at
Goal 1: Preserve and increase regional food production. farmers markets throughout the city
Strategy: Strengthen regional food supply channels. are frequently not large enough to
Proposals: sell wholesale to retail stores, food
• Reorient federal farm subsidies to support healthy, sustainable service establishments, institutions
food production. or processors. A small but persis-
• Improve the New York State Farmland Protection Fund. tent handful of farmers sell whole-
• Encourage new farmers. sale at the Hunts Point Market, but
• Build a permanent wholesale farmers market. do not currently have a permanent
• Expand and support farmers markets. home. Meanwhile, many farmers in
• Expand the electronic benefits transfer (EBT) program and our region continue to face difficulty
acceptance of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for aggregating and transporting their
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits at farmers markets. products throughout the urban
• Expand and support community supported agriculture (CSA). market. To address this issue, the
city will pursue the following two
StrateGy: Leverage the city’s economic power to support
strategies to support regional
regional producers.
production: 1) strengthen regional
Proposals: food supply channels and 2) lever-
• Track and encourage regional food procurement. age the city’s economic power.
• Support farmers in the upstate watersheds.
Goal 2: Increase urban food production.
Strengthen regional
StrateGy: Better use existing space for urban food production. food supply channels.

Proposals: There has been enormous growth in

• Protect community gardens. direct-to-consumer supply channels,
18 • Ensure urban farms are counted in the Census of Agriculture.
such as farmer’s markets and CSAs,
• Create a searchable database of city-owned property.
throughout the city. These venues
• Identify city-owned properties with roofs suitable for urban agriculture.
are important because they enable
• Waive the Floor to Area Ratio (FAR) requirements and height
restrictions for certain rooftop greenhouses. farmers to capture more of food
• Change the state green roofs tax credit to encourage food-producing sale prices than they can through
green roofs. traditional sale channels.58 They also
• Change water rates to encourage green roofs. have helped meet growing demand
• Streamline the green roof permit application process. for regional products. For some
farmers, retail farmers markets and
StrateGy: Restore food and horticultural knowledge. CSAs will continue to offer the best
Proposals: venue for selling their products, and
• Ensure garden education is available citywide. the City Council will continue to sup-
• Support urban agriculture technology development. port these direct-to-consumer sup-
ply channels. However, for mid-sized
and larger farmers who struggle to
channels. It is not as cost effective penetrate the urban market, the city
Goal 1 for many wholesalers, distributors, must establish new supply chan-
and retailers to do business with nels to institutions and commercial
Preserve and increase small-scale operators, even though outlets, and enhance existing supply
regional food production. on an individual basis many re- channels like the wholesale farmers
gional farmers offer quality products market. Over the past few years,
Many northeast regional agricul- and are price competitive. In the there have been several companies
tural producers are at a competitive direct-to-consumer market here in that have successfully begun to grow
disadvantage compared to large New York City, farmers selling at food, process them into new prod-
producers in other areas of the local outdoor markets offer prod- ucts, and sell them to mainstream
country because they lack the ability ucts that consumers consider to be retailers and institutions throughout
to tap into mainstream distribution higher quality and at competitive the city.

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

Agricultural Production
that regional supply channels can
New York City Wholesale Farmer's Market Prices vs. Average U.S. Wholesale Prices 2009
Wholesale Farmers Market vs Average U.S. Prices 2009
be developed and expanded to
serve lower income New Yorkers.
NYC Wholesale Farmers Market Average U.S.
Many regional farmers are price
competitive with other mainstream
suppliers and will likely become
$0.35 increasingly so as demand rises, as
they are able to increase produc-
tion, and as it becomes easier to

bring their products to the urban



$0.20 market.

The following proposals outline

our plan to facilitate regional
supply channels.

Celery Onions Cabbage Lettuce Sweet

Eggplant Bell
Apples Broccoli
• Reorient federal farm
Source: GrowNYC, USDA. ERS. Vegetables and Melons Yearbook Data 2010. State of Georgia Legal Commodity Weights.
subsidies to support healthy,
sustainable food production.
U.S. Federal Farm Subsidies 2009
U.S. Federal Farm Subsidies 2009 New York State continues to lose
$1,600,000,000 farmland and farmers because the
industry is not economically viable.
National policies have exacerbated

this problem for small farmers in our
state and northeast region by devot- 19
$1,000,000,000 ing resources to large, centralized
farms rather than supporting small,
non-commodity farms with the same
$600,000,000 level of funding. National farm sub-
sidies increased from $8.1 billion in
1995 to $15.4 billion in 2009.59 Half
of the subsidies paid last year were
for commodity crops, a large portion
$‐ of which went to corn.60 Overall,
Texas Iowa Illinois Kansas Minnesota North Dakota California South Dakota Missouri New York
New York State ranked 29th in the
country for total farm subsidies in
2009, receiving only 1 percent of all
Source: NYS Dept. of Agriculture and Markets. Ag Facts. 2009. and Environmental Working Group
federal farm support.61 Even shifting
The New York State Department rect in Long Island City has greatly an additional 1 percent of national
of Agriculture and Markets has expanded and marketed its new subsidies would be the equivalent
actively marketed state products line of local products to customers. of what 211,000 New York City
to city agencies, wholesalers and Whole Foods has also implemented residents spend on fruits and veg-
distributors. In partnership with the a corporate policy of purchasing re- etables in a given year.62 The most
State Department of Agricultural gional products for its retail stores. recent Farm Bill in 2008 represented
and Markets, the New York City While these mainstream outlets are some progress, increasing the pro-
Department of Education is already considered to offer good products, portion of fresh fruit and vegetable
procuring dairy and some produce they generally cater to consumers producers receiving subsidies. As
from the region. However, private with bigger food budgets. The suc- the next Farm Bill approaches, New
companies have also responded cess and growth of farms selling to York stakeholders must again ad-
independently to the growing these outlets demonstrate not only vocate for federal support for fresh,
consumer demand for regional strong consumer demand for these healthy, sustainable operations in
products. For example, Fresh Di- kinds of products, but also the way the region.

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

Agricultural Production
• Improve the New York State to the 1970s. In comparison, New York create farmland protection plans and
Farmland Protection Fund. State’s program began in 1992, but did has assisted with the purchase of 170
not provide funding for easements until conservation easements that cover
In 1992, New York State began the 1996.63 While New York and all of its 32,867 acres.66 These easements help
Farmland Protection Program to contiguous states have lost farm acreage farmers preserve working farms and
prevent farmers from selling their over the past 10 years, New York and avoid succumbing to pressure to sell
land for development. The program Vermont are the only states to have also their land for commercial or residential
receives funds through the Clean Wa- experienced a decline in the number uses. In spite of these successes, over
ter and Air Bond Act and the Environ- of farms.64 Additionally, the states with the past several fiscal years there have
mental Protection Fund. These funds the highest cumulative expenditures on been significant delays in pending
are dispersed to localities for the farmland protection, New Jersey, Penn- contracts for these easements be-
purchase of development rights and sylvania, and Massachusetts, have also tween the New York State Department
to create farmland protection plans. seen the highest percentage change of Agriculture and towns.
increase in the number of farms over the
All of our neighboring states have similar past 10 years.65 Currently, there are 113 contracts
farmland protection plans. Connecticut pending, almost 48 percent of which
and Massachusetts have two of the So far, the New York State program has have been outstanding for at least
oldest programs in the country, dating allowed 53 counties and 64 towns to 3 years.67 Moreover, there is $110.1
million in funding for this program
that has been appropriated but not
Percent Change in Number of Farms 1997-2007
Percent Change in Number of Northeast Farms 1997-2007 dispersed.68 The backlog is not due
to lack of demand; many applicants
have been turned away since the
4% program’s founding due to lack of
funds. Rather, this backlog represents
an administrative delay in the pro-
gram. New York State must prioritize
20 farmland protection and identify the
administrative causes of the pro-
New Jersey New York Vermont Connecticut Massachusetts Pennsylvania
gram’s backlog to disperse the funds
-2% that have already been appropriated.

• Encourage new farmers.


New York To ensure that our regional production

system remains viable in the future,
Source: USDA, Agricultural Census, State and County Profiles. 1997 and 2007
we must engage a new generation of
young farmers. Right now, the average
Farmland Protection Funding by Northeast State 1997-2007
farmer is within ten years of retirement
age. Attracting new farmers to take
their place will require not only making
sure farming is economically viable,
but also active outreach and education
to younger New Yorkers interested in
the field. Organizations such as the
Greenhorns, Hawthorne Valley Farm,
and the Stone Barns Center for Food
and Agriculture, together with the U.S.
Department of Agriculture’s beginning
farmer loan program, help organize
young farmers, hold educational
events, and provide resources to help
nurture this new generation of produc-
ers. These kinds of programs must be
continued and supported.
Source: American Farmland Trust. Farmland Information Center. June 2010

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

Agricultural Production
Additionally, the City Council is part- producers increasingly take advan- a permanent home. Rungis, outside
nering with GrowNYC and the New tage of direct-to-consumer outlets of Paris, currently has 80 to 100 farm-
York State Department of Agriculture like farmers markets and community ers selling in their market through-
and Markets on the New Farmer supported agriculture. However, out the growing season74 and the
Development Project. This program for larger purchasers and larger Ontario Terminal market in Toronto
has already supported the training of producers, there is a missing link in sells products from hundreds of re-
16 new farmers who farm outside of the supply chain: a large wholesale gional farmers each year.75 A similar
the city and many of whom sell their market. Many commercial business type of dedicated space here would
products at local farmers markets.69 owners have indicated they would also allow regional producers to sell
Not only is this program supporting like to purchase more regional foods at Hunts Point and would allow the
new farmers, but it is also strength- but that they were not able to find city and region to better promote
ening local communities within the the products and the amounts they the products to restaurants, agency
city by bringing fresh, healthy foods needed.73 Having to source from food service programs, and other
to underserved neighborhoods. individual producers is too cumber- large institutions. It would also be a
This next generation of farmers will some for many buyers. A wholesale boon to the regional economy and
continue to require this type of tech- market at Hunts Point would fulfill an important regional hub to lay the
nical assistance, as well as help with this need and provide a reliable out- foundation for strengthening urban-
finding land and resources to launch let for mid-sized producers. rural linkages in the future. Adding
their businesses. value-added and other processing
Currently, there are about a dozen capability nearby would create new
• Build a permanent wholesale farmers who sell at Hunts Point in business opportunities, good jobs,
farmers market. a temporary market operated by and a new venue for distributing
GrowNYC. Despite their best efforts regional products.
The desire for local and regional to keep the market open, the lack
food has been a growing market of a permanent home has compro- • Expand and support
trend for several years but the supply mised its ability to thrive. Instead farmers markets.
channels throughout the region have of a designated, marketable space,
not enabled producers to keep up these farmers are relegated to the Direct-to-consumer sales of agri- 21
with this demand in the city. In par- parking lot of the fish market without cultural products have increased by
ticular, sales of local foods increased the basic amenities needed by any $399 million (49 percent) from 2002
25 percent nationally from 2002 to business. Much in the way that to 2007, and by $660 million (120
2007.70 A 2005 report estimated the other cities have embraced regional percent) from 1997 to 2007.76 Since
demand for local foods in the city producers by building wholesale 1994, the number of farmer’s markets
was as much as $860 million annu- farmers markets as a part of their recorded in the United States has
ally.71 This far outpaced supply at terminal markets, New York City more than tripled from 1,755 to
that time, which was estimated to be should ensure these producers have 6,132.77 In New York City, there are
under $200 million.72 Restaurants,
food manufacturers and grocery
stores have recognized this demand New York City Farmers Markets
and are increasingly incorporating
local options into their offerings.
However, connections between
regional agricultural producers and
local processors, retailers and food
service establishments have only be-
gun to take shape. Facilitating these

relationships and supply channels as

an alternative to the national, cen-
tralized, large-scale system will be
necessary to better meet consumer
demand and strengthen our regional

As the demand for food from

regional farmers has increased,
Source: NYS Dept. of Agriculture and Markets

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

Agricultural Production
currently 120 farmers markets.78 cess to fresh, healthy and affordable and offices across the five boroughs.
These markets serve several pur- food. Since 2005, the City Council Residents demand these products
poses. Not only do they provide a has partnered with several market throughout the northeast growing
critical outlet to farmers and provide operators to bring EBT to farmers season to such an extent that some
residents better access to healthy markets throughout the city. One of CSAs have waiting lists and are
food, but they make our neighbor- these programs began with only 3 forced to turn customers away. The
hoods more vibrant and economi- markets in 2005, but expanded to 23 city should capitalize on this growing
cally stronger. The Union Square markets by 2009, with sales increasing popularity for fresh, healthy, regional
market in Manhattan has been in by 24,000 percent over that time.79 food. Working with local organiza-
existence for over 30 years. Many Not only does this program increase tions and businesses, we can expand
residents credit its popularity with financial access among several com- CSAs citywide. The City Council
prompting Union Square’s rebirth munities that lack access to good can lead by example by enrolling
as a major economic hub, attracting quality fresh produce, it also provides employees of City Hall in a CSA and
thousands of shoppers daily. For an expanded market to small farmers then encouraging organizations and
these reasons, the city should ensure in the region. These sales put money large companies throughout the five
farmers markets have adequate, high directly into the farmer’s pockets, boroughs to start workplace CSAs
traffic, and stable space in which allowing many of them to stay in for their employees. Additionally,
to operate. Additionally, the city business and even increase their pro- the City Council is exploring with
should leverage its resources and ductivity. This year, the City Council the New York City Department for
voice to support markets of all sizes expanded this valuable program even the Aging (DFTA) opportunities to
throughout the city to maximize their more from 23 markets to 40 markets expand CSAs to the city’s senior
reach. throughout the city. centers. The City Council will also
work with the New York City Hous-
• Expand the electronic benefits • Expand and support community ing Authority (NYCHA) to explore
transfer (EBT) program and accep- supported agriculture (CSA). ways to increase access to CSAs by
tance of the Special Supplemental working with the residents who serve
Nutrition Program for Women, In- CSAs have grown nationally from just on the Green Committees in NYCHA
22 fants, and Children (WIC) benefits 2 in 1986 to an estimated 2,500 in developments.
at farmers markets. 2010.80 In the city, there are now over
100 CSA drop off points.81 Organiza- STRATeGY:
Another strategy to support farmers tions like Just Food and the New York Leverage the city’s economic
markets throughout the city is ensur- City Coalition Against Hunger have power to support regional
ing that they have a broad customer been critical in helping communities producers.
base. Doing so has enabled markets start new CSAs in the city. Drop off
to open in neighborhoods where of fresh, seasonal products occurs at The city has immense purchas-
residents do not have adequate ac- churches, community organizations ing power through its various food
programs, whether through senior
centers, day care centers, after
eBT Sales at Green Markets school programs, summer meals,
or student breakfasts and lunches.
Each year, the city’s agencies spend
over $175 million on food for these
programs.82 The NYC Department of
Education alone is the second largest
institutional purchaser of food in the
country, next to the US Department
of Defense.83 Researchers estimated
in 2005 that as much as $12 to $15
million, or 10 percent, of Department
of Education procured food could
be produced in the region.84 Addi-
tionally, between 2006 and 2009, the
Department of Education successfully
purchased almost $4.5 million of re-
gional food without additional cost.85
Source: GrowNYC. EBT Progress Report 2008 and 2009

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

Agricultural Production
New York, jurisdiction over school food
procurement lies with the U.S. Depart-
ment of Agriculture (USDA), the New
York State Department of Education,
New York City Bronx the New York State Legislature, and
CSA Drop-Off Sites to some extent with local education
departments, while other city agencies


follow state law and local regulations in

their procurement practices. Through
advocating for both state and local
policy change, the City Council intends
to further encourage regional food
procurement to support and expand
our regional farming operations.
Staten Island
• Track and encourage regional
food procurement.
Source: JustFood
One way in which the city can support
regional farming is to encourage local
agencies to procure regionally pro-
duced food for its meal programs. The
New York City Department of Educa-
tion (DOE) has begun to purchase
some produce from New York State and
surrounding states, and much of the 23
milk served in meal programs comes
from regional dairies. However, this
procurement has, thus far, occurred on
an ad hoc basis. As their food distribu-
tor contracts come due for renewal, the
DOE should consider including require-
ments to track food sourcing from their
newly contracted distributors. As a first
step, the City Council is introducing
legislation requiring city agencies to
report the sources of the food served
in their meal programs.
Photo Credit: Mina Pekovic

Although the DOE has already begun

to proactively procure regional food,
there are no guidelines to encourage
other city agencies to do the same.
Therefore, the City Council will
This expenditure is the equivalent Recognizing this opportunity, Con- introduce legislation to require that
of what 37 New York farms sell in a gress included a provision in the 2008 guidelines be developed for agen-
year and the additional expenditure Farm Bill to explicitly allow schools, for cies to encourage procurement of
potential would be equal to what 98 the first time, to extend a preference food that is grown, harvested or
farms sell in a year.86 This presents an to regional farmers in their procure- produced in New York State. Many
incredible opportunity to positively ment process. However, the federal city agencies may not know that state
impact the food system by conscious- legislation does not mandate the law already allows them to prioritize
ly choosing where, how, and what we preference and leaves implementa- certain state products over food from
procure for the city’s food programs. tion to the state and local agencies. In other areas. These guidelines will

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

Agricultural Production
assist city agencies in maximizing the ment and providing funding for farmers ricultural programs to assist farmers
purchase of New York State food. to engage in best management prac- in the watershed with implementing
Additionally, because New York City's tices and whole farm planning in the better environmental practices on
regional food system extends beyond watershed. There are approximately their land to prevent harmful run-off
the jurisdictional boundaries of the 350 farms located within the New York into the water supply, while also
State, the City Council will introduce City watershed.89 The economic viabil- helping them to maintain financial
a resolution calling on the State to ity and management of their operations sustainability.91 This vital program
enact legislation that would allow are of critical concern to New Yorkers. has served over 65,000 farmed acres
the City to preference the purchase Loss of this farmland to development or in our watershed.92 The City Council
of food that is produced in other environmental degradation presents a has been and will continue to be a
states within the region. These prac- major threat to our water supply. major impetus for financial support
tices, combined with other initiatives for these critical farmers, making
in this report to build capacity among The City has partnered with the sure this program is adequately
regional producers, will facilitate stron- Watershed Agricultural Council, an funded. In maintaining this support,
ger regional supply channels and help entity formed after the FAD, to carry we not only protect the integrity of
farmers bring their products into larger out these preservation activities. In our water supply, but also ensure
institutional outlets. the 2008-2009 fiscal year, the City a nearby supply of fresh products
provided $11.5 million for these and economically viable farms to
• Support farmers in the activities.90 Approximately $4.43 mil- further strengthen our regional
upstate watersheds. lion of this funding was used in ag- food economy.

New York City’s drinking water is sup-

plied by the Catskill-Delaware water-
shed, approximately 125 miles north
of the city, and the Croton watershed,
within approximately 75 miles of the
city. These watershed areas cover
24 2,000 square miles and together supply
over 1 billion gallons of water to city
residents every day.87 Despite antici-
pated population growth in the city, we
will continue to have an ample water
supply. The concern, however, is that
the purity of this water is protected.
Currently, our water arrives through
two major aqueducts and does not
pass through filtration plants. It is one
of only five similar large urban systems
nationally. The City has plans to build
a filtration plant for the Croton water-
shed, which represents approximately
10 percent of our water supply, but not
for the remaining water supply.88

To maintain this system, New York City

is subject to a 10-year Filtration Avoid-
ance Determination (FAD), a waiver
issued by the federal government. To
preserve our water supply and avoid
spending billions on a filtration plant
for the Catskill-Delaware watershed,
the city is required by this agreement to
engage in several conservation activities Source: NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection
in the watershed areas. These include
purchasing land to avoid their develop-

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

Agricultural Production

Northeastern U.S. Agricultural Land


New York City

Image Courtesy of the Urban Design Lab

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

Agricultural Production

Source: New York Public Library

Farm on 55th Drive, Queens, NY circa 1920s

GOAL 2 Gardens, Just Food, and Green Gue- STRATeGY:

rillas, offer education and support to Better use existing space for
Increase urban help residents start and expand food urban food production.
food production. growing within the five boroughs.
New York City is the largest and
Long before the five boroughs were Some organizations have even densest metropolitan area in the
26 unified, much of New York City’s begun experimenting with com- country. Yet residents and orga-
landmass was used for farming and mercial food growing enterprises nizations throughout the city have
the waterways were home to a rich in the city. While these enterprises discovered creative ways to produce
supply of aquatic life. Since that have yet to develop into a robust food within this environment using
time, our city has undergone count- part of the city’s urban agricultural rooftops, vacant parcels and raised
less transformations to become the activities or a major source of food, beds. Some new technologies are
dense, soaring urban capital we see they can inspire urban agriculture even able to grow food inside build-
today. Property ownership is out of innovation. There are a number of ings.94 However, gardeners still face
reach for the vast majority of New ways the city can support all of these challenges protecting the gardens
Yorkers and open space is a precious different types of activities. These they have from development, finding
– and sparse - resource. Even so, urban gardeners and farmers need new space for gardens, and navigat-
the most recent federal agricultural stable spaces to grow food, as well ing the city’s approval processes.
census reports as many as 20 farms as technical assistance. Although Other cities also face these issues
in the five boroughs.93 Addition- space is extremely expensive in and have begun to implement policy
ally, the city is home to hundreds of New York City, agencies can better changes to facilitate urban agricul-
community gardens that grow food. promote the underutilized spaces ture. For example, the Mayor of
While these efforts are not sufficient that do exist. Yet even once grow- San Francisco issued an executive
to feed nearly nine million residents, ers find space, they may lack the order requiring all city agencies to
they provide opportunities to learn knowledge required to navigate the report on city-owned land available
about growing food, healthy eating, city’s regulatory process or to ensure and appropriate for growing food.95
and our environment. They also the space they have is productive. Additionally, Detroit is now trying to
provide a small but important source To address these issues, the City position itself as a leader in urban
of food for some New Yorkers. Ad- Council will pursue two strategies: agriculture.96 One thing Detroit has
ditionally, in New York City over a 1) better utilizing existing space at its disposal that is not easily iden-
dozen programs, such as Green for urban food production and 2) tified in New York City is inexpen-
Thumb through the New York City supporting horticultural education sive, available space. However, as
Department of Parks and Recreation, and technology around the city. demonstrated by urban agriculture
the New York and Brooklyn Botanical already underway in the city, much

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

Agricultural Production
can be done with the little space we
do have. There are numerous ways
in which the city can facilitate these
efforts. Specifically, the City Council
will pursue the following key initia-
tives to better utilize existing space
for urban food production.

• Protect community gardens.

There are 600 community gardens

throughout the five boroughs that
have deep roots in the city’s history.
As many families left the city and ur-
ban decay settled in to some neigh-

Photo Credit: Ambient Traffic

borhoods, dedicated New Yorkers
reclaimed vacant lots by planting
gardens. Many of these gardens still
remain and have become a vital part
of their communities’ identity. Not
only do they provide healthy food
and educational opportunities for
children, but they also offer residents of these community gardens, most from development. While this is an
an oasis in otherwise densely built of which are under the jurisdiction of important policy change, the rules
neighborhoods. Yet, despite these the City’s Department of Parks and are subject to change at the discre-
benefits, community gardens have Recreation.97 The City Council part- tion of the next Mayor and thus 27
not yet achieved long-term protec- nered with community gardeners to do not afford long-term protection
tion as part of the city’s landscape ensure these rules are the strongest to these gardens. Therefore, the
for future generations. Recently, the possible. Thanks to our efforts, the City Council will pursue policies to
Mayor’s administration promulgated rules now state that these gardens achieve long-term garden conserva-
rules to preserve approximately 300 are to be preserved and protected tion, along with the addition of new

• Ensure urban farms

New York City
are counted in the Census
Community Gardens of Agriculture.
Size in Square Feet
27 - 12,839
Another way to support local urban

13,934 - 51,059

58,278 - 150,001 farming is to ensure that they are


recognized by the USDA’s Census of


217,290 - 335,450
579,948 - 633,228
Agriculture. This annual census counts
Queens all farms by county if they produce at
least $1,000 worth of product each
year. Many of the city’s moderately
sized and larger community gardens
would qualify as farms by this federal
Brooklyn definition. However, these gardens are
Staten Island not yet officially recognized as urban
farms because gardeners do not track
and report the financial value of the
food they grow. Currently, only 20
farms in New York City are counted by
the Census of Agriculture.98 By educat-
Source: Data courtesy of Mara Gittleman

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

Agricultural Production
ing and assisting more of our growers as a critical resource to organizations farms or commercial enterprises, does
to participate in this census, we could seeking new space for other food not have to be located on the ground
increase that number dramatically. As uses (such as food processing or level – many have adapted to our built
a result, the city would not only be retail space). It will also ensure that environment by using rooftops as a
recognized as a leader in urban farm- underutilized space can be better growing surface. Several new rooftop
ing, but we would also be better able identified and put to good use. locations have attracted public atten-
to utilize federal resources to support tion and are attempting to pioneer a
farming. The City Council will part- • Identify city-owned new approach to urban agriculture in
ner with organizations citywide on an properties with roofs suitable the city.99 Unfortunately, new green-
outreach and education campaign to for urban agriculture. houses encounter a barrier to develop-
make sure as many of our farmers are ment because some buildings are at
counted as possible. The Administration is conducting a or exceed their floor-to-area ratio (FAR)
study of city-owned buildings to de- allowance, preventing an addition to
• Create a searchable database termine the potential for rooftop solar the building. For example, buildings
of city-owned property. panels. While this is a valuable study, in Chelsea, Greenpoint, downtown
the Administration should at the same Brooklyn, and Jamaica have faced
With widespread and growing inter- time determine which roofs would be this problem. These restrictions serve
est in gardening and urban farming, good candidates for vegetative green several important purposes. They
identifying and publicizing available roofs. Given that many of the same moderate the density of development
space for cultivation will be critical to factors being evaluated for solar roofs in neighborhoods, allowing for a safer,
increasing urban food production. To would yield information needed for more pleasant built environment while
help support this activity, the City will determining viability of green roofs ensuring that the local infrastructure is
create a database of all city-owned and – such as total roof square footage, not excessively burdened. But green-
leased properties, including vacant sunlight exposure, and load bearing houses used for growing food also
land. Currently, this information is capacity – expanding this study now provide a public benefit, and the City
available in various forms, but is not would be an efficient way of exploring Council will pursue two policy changes
collected in one, consumer-friendly where vegetative roofs could be sited. to facilitate their development. First,
28 place. The City publishes a book, we will pass legislation to exempt
called the Gazeteer, that catalogues • Waive the Floor to Area Ratio greenhouses from building height
city-owned and leased properties and (FAR) requirements and height restrictions. Second, we will call on the
which agencies control them. How- restrictions for certain rooftop New York City Departments of Build-
ever, the book includes only limited greenhouses. ings (DOB) and City Planning (DCP) to
information on city-owned properties, develop a waiver program for green-
and is only available for purchase in Urban food production, whether in the houses seeking space on buildings
hard copy and thus not easily accessi- form of community gardens, urban that have met or exceeded their FAR.
ble to most New Yorkers. The City also
produces a software program called
PLUTO that includes more detailed
information about all properties in the
five boroughs, including city-owned
property. However, this is also only
available for purchase. Lastly, there
is an application called City Map
online that includes city-owned
properties, but it is not searchable
by property feature.

The City Council will introduce

legislation that requires the Admin-
istration to create a new searchable
Photo Credit: Kristen Taylor

database of all city-owned and

leased properties. The database will
not only provide useful information
to stakeholders seeking urban agri-
culture land, but could also service

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

Agricultural Production
• Streamline the green roof
permit application process.

Although encouraging green roofs

is a stated goal of both the City
Council and the Administration,
many organizations in the city have
difficulty navigating our complex
permitting and inspections process.
The DOB is responsible for the
important task of ensuring public
Photo Credit: William Alatriste

safety by inspecting and regulat-

ing our buildings. They are also
therefore responsible for processing
green roof permit applications. As
with any new technology, balancing
the goals of enforcing our building
code and encouraging innovation
These two initiatives will encourage not ing of wastewater are billed at 159 can be difficult. Realizing this, the
only the growth of urban agriculture, percent of drinking water costs.100 City Council partnered with various
but also the development of urban ag- This calculation means that waste- stakeholders to green our building
riculture technologies as organizations water is billed by consumption and code. Through this effort, an inter-
develop and adapt to rooftop sites. therefore does not impose a cost agency group within the Administra-
on stormwater. However, stormwa- tion was established to review new
• Change the state green ter imposes significant costs on the technologies, illustrating a policy
roofs tax credit to encourage city. The city’s wastewater treatment innovation to facilitate energy con-
food-producing green roofs. system combines stormwater and servation in buildings.
wastewater. During times of low 29
In 2008, New York State passed leg- flow, all stormwater is treated by Because many organizations are
islation to encourage environmental the city’s sewage treatment plants, finding the building and inspections
sustainability by providing a tax credit which is costly. Additionally, during process for green roofs challenging,
for green roofs. While an important large rainstorms, the system cannot the City Council recommends that
advancement at the time, the credit process all of the waste in the sewer the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term
defines green roofs narrowly. When system and instead sends some of Planning and Sustainability work
the original legislation was written, that waste directly into our water- with the Department of Buildings,
the city did not have any high-profile ways without treatment, polluting the Fire Department and other city
rooftop food gardens, and green our waterways and waterfronts with agencies to review the current pro-
roofs were not generally discussed as raw sewage. cess and develop best practices to
a means of growing food. Consid- facilitate rooftop agriculture.
ering the movement toward urban The City Council calls on the Water
agriculture and the growing interest in Board to change the wastewater billing STRATeGY:
rooftop gardens, the City Council will to include a charge on stormwater Restore food and horticultural
pass a resolution calling on the state to based on a lot’s impermeable surface. knowledge.
expand the definition of green roofs to This charge will incentivize building
include those that grow edible plants. owners to develop green roofs. As Producing food in New York City
We will also partner with state officials a result, we would hope to see more relies not only on the physical en-
to pass legislation on the state level to green roofs developed that also vironment, but also on the techni-
change the tax credit definition. include urban agriculture. The Water cal knowledge of our residents.
Board took the first step in Fiscal Year In 1840, there were 20,286 New
• Change water rates to 2011 by charging city licensed park- Yorkers working in the agricultural
encourage green roofs. ing lots with no water service a fee of sector in the five boroughs.101 Even
five cents per square foot. The Water as recently as World War II, more
Under the current water rate struc- Board should take the next step and than 20 million families in the U.S.
ture, approved by the New York City charge all building owners based on were growing food in their back
Water Board, costs for the process- impermeable square feet. yards in “victory gardens.” These

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

Agricultural Production
small plots supplied 40 • Support urban agricul-
percent of the produce ture technology develop-
consumed in America ment.
during the war.102 But with
increasing urbanization and Because of New York City’s
industrialization, much of dense environment and
this knowledge about industrial history, agriculture
food production has and gardening can be chal-
become specialized and lenging enterprises. Not only
unavailable to residents is finding space difficult, but
of the city today. implementing the appropri-
ate growing systems – wheth-
Programs like Garden to er greenhouses, hoop houses,
Café, Added Value, and bo- rain water harvesting, vertical
tanical garden workshops indoor systems, or any of the
are trying to recapture countless other technologies
this knowledge. Research available – can be overly com-
has demonstrated that plex as well. However, there
these programs reconnect are engineers, architects, and
people to their food and seasoned growers in our city
encourage healthier eating that have been leading the
habits.103 To coordinate way to the development and
these efforts and help dis- execution of new technolo-
seminate knowledge about gies. These technologies
creating school gardens can be found on the ground,
Source: Division of Public Inquiries. Office of War Information.
or home gardens, the City on roofs, inside, outside, and
Council will invest in garden educa- classroom. Some strides have been all over the five boroughs. Moreover,
30 tion centers throughout the city. made to better coordinate these there is a growing community of innova-
programs and publicize them to tors across the country who are sharing
Proposals: teachers. The City has appointed best practices.
a new citywide garden coordinator
• Ensure garden education to assist teachers in finding gardens This expertise and interest in urban
is available citywide. and educational programs. Ad- agriculture nationally presents a unique
ditionally, the New York City De- opportunity here in New York City. We
Several organizations and programs partment of Education has hired a are fortunate to boast a great number
across the five boroughs provide staff member to collect the various of well-known academic institutions,
garden education to residents. curriculum aids for teachers and to a rich talent pool in urban design and
These include several botanical help facilitate the development of planning, and a highly motivated and
gardens, the New York Horticulture new gardens. active community of growers. By
Society, the New York City Depart- connecting these resources and using
ment of Parks and Recreation’s Several organizations also provide them to solve urban agriculture prob-
Green Thumb Program, and count- assistance to home, institutional, lems in such a large, dense city as ours,
less others. The workshops currently and community gardeners. These we can position ourselves as leaders in
offered target home gardeners and can include workshops on rainwater urban technology development. The
teachers who utilize gardens to capture, composting, and other City Council will partner with academic
complement their in-class curricu- skills needed to make an urban institutions, such as Columbia Univer-
lum. To date, there are as many as garden thrive. However, these pro- sity and the New School, to identify
300 school gardens in operation.104 grams lack resources and coordina- strategies for encouraging innovation
Despite the popularity of school tion. They also are financially out of and dissemination of new technolo-
gardens and community gardens, reach for some New Yorkers. The gies. Not only would this support the
there is still additional demand for City Council will work with organiza- efforts of growers here, but if we can
educational services. Additionally, tions throughout the city to support begin to formalize and commercialize
many teachers are unaware of the and expand garden education these technologies, we can also lay
opportunities that exist for incor- services for residents and commu- the foundation for potential economic
porating garden education into the nity gardeners. activity in the future.

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

Much of the food we consume goes through
some form of processing. Food processing
transforms ingredients like harvested crops or
animal products into new products for con-
sumption. This can be as simple as washing
and packaging fresh produce or as complex
as making breakfast cereal. Few processors
source ingredients directly from farms, in-
stead purchasing ingredients through a broker,
intermediary, or from another processor. In
New York City, food processing is an important
sector of our economy and presents a great
opportunity for growth.
Food processing in New York City rep-
resents a $5 billion industry that adds GOal 3: Generate growth and employment in the food manufac-
approximately $1.3 billion to the Gross turing sector.
City Product.105 There are nearly 1,000
StRatEGy: Make affordable space available.
food processing and manufacturing
establishments employing over 14,000 Proposals:
workers in New York City.106 Many of • Build a commercial kitchen incubator for start-ups.
these processors make foods such as • Develop new industrial space for food manufacturing businesses.
baked goods, tortillas, chocolates, or • Revitalize New York City’s market system through the New
roasted coffee.107 Companies range in Yorkers 4 Markets initiative.
size from individual entrepreneurs to
StRatEGy: Provide technical assistance to food manufacturers.
large-scale operations that export their
goods around the country and world, Proposals:
bringing much needed revenue into • Create an online resource center for food manufacturers.
the city. Despite these strengths, there • Establish a workshops series to assist food manufacturers.
are barriers to entry for start-ups, and
larger businesses find it increasingly GOal 4: Increase regional products processed in and for New
difficult to remain in the city or invest in York City.
infrastructure due to high costs. StRatEGy: Facilitate urban-rural linkages.
Like other businesses in the city, food Proposal:
manufacturers struggle to access • Hold a regional food business-to-business (B2B) conference.
capital, pay for equipment, and find
GOal 5: Reduce the environmental impact associated with food
affordable manufacturing and retail
processing in New York City.
space within which to grow their
34 business. Despite these challenges, StRatEGy: Help businesses reduce energy consumption.
food manufacturing remains a stable
economic sector, while other manu- Proposal:
facturing sectors have been declining • Help food manufacturers access energy efficiency programs.
in the city for decades. Although

food manufacturing is a source of

good jobs and revenue, it has not
been a specific part of the city’s eco-
nomic development efforts. The City
Council will pursue several strategies
to aggressively grow the food manu-
facturing sector. The initiatives that
follow will ensure food manufacturers
have the space, financial resources,
business relationships, distribution
channels, and knowledge to thrive in
New York City.

GOal 3
Generate growth and
Photo Credit: William Alatriste

employment in the food

manufacturing sector.
The city must take several key actions
to support and protect food manu-

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

New Yorkers. Yet maintaining these
operations remains difficult due to a
shrinking supply of industrial space
and increasing prices compared to
areas like New Jersey or upstate
New York. One major strategy
for keeping and growing the food
manufacturing sector must be to en-
sure an affordable supply of space,
from the fledgling enterprise to the
well-established business.
Photo Credit:

• Build a commercial kitchen
incubator for start-ups.

Between the moment when an

facturers and generate growth in the entrepreneur first tests a recipe and
sector. These strategies will include the time he or she is ready to rent
linking companies to affordable and equip his or her own space,
industrial and retail space, and ensur- their business comes to a difficult
ing that they can access the resources cross-roads. There might be enough
already available to them. The New revenue to stay in business, but
York City Economic Development Photo Credit: William Alatriste not enough to afford a commercial
Corporation (EDC) has partnered with kitchen and market their products. To
several lenders to develop a capital StRatEGy: fill this gap and help these businesses
access program that is open to dif- Make affordable grow, the City Council has invested in 35
ferent types of businesses, but many space available. a commercial kitchen incubator at the
food manufacturing companies may La Marqueta building in East Harlem,
not know how to apply. Additionally, The cost of manufacturing space in which will be opening later this year.
because food manufacturers require many industrial neighborhoods has This building has a long history as
expensive equipment and energy, increased significantly over the past a public food market, but has fallen
they often need assistance cover- 10 years, with space that was approxi- largely into disuse over the past 20
ing these costs. The New York City mately $6 to $9 per square foot in 2000 years. Building an incubator in part
Industrial Development Agency offers now renting for closer to $12 to $18 per of this building will not only help
programs that provide companies square foot.108 This makes New York grow individual businesses, but it will
with access to triple tax-exempt bond City a less competitive market for these also attract new tenants to the rest of
financing or tax benefits to acquire manufacturers, especially new and the building. Moreover, clients of the
or create capital assets, such as smaller operations, prompting manu- incubator may be able to utilize the
purchasing real estate, constructing facturers to leave the city. We have front of the market or other com-
or renovating facilities, and acquir- begun to address this issue by invest- ponents of the La Marqueta site as
ing new equipment. Additionally, ing in a food incubator, but there are future retail space for their products.
there are several programs in New other supports that could be provided,
York to help companies with energy especially for companies beyond the • Develop new industrial space
efficiency, thus reducing their operat- start-up phase. for food manufacturing busi-
ing costs. Companies could benefit nesses.
from targeted marketing of these Through the Brooklyn Navy Yard,
programs. To generate growth and the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Food processors in the city have dif-
employment in the food manufac- Design Center, Industrial Business ficulty finding affordable space at every
turing sector, the City Council will Zones (IBZs) and other programs, the stage of their business, from their initial
pursue two strategies: 1) making city has attempted to retain some start up through their growth into larger
affordable space available and 2) manufacturing in the five boroughs operations. Even if the city is able to
providing technical assistance to as this industry provides good, assist new start-ups in the incubator,
food manufacturers. living-wage jobs for thousands of more established firms still face an im-

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

portant decision. Once they are ready processing should be explored. Given into contained, shared retail spaces
to find their own, larger manufacturing its proximity to wholesalers, local whole- throughout the city. They provided
space, do they remain in New York City sale farmers, and major highways, Hunts vendors with affordable space and
or do they move to a more affordable Point presents a promising opportunity cleared streets that residents com-
area? Unfortunately, some manufac- to create a hub for local food manu- plained were becoming overly clut-
turers have answered this question by facturers, especially those interested in tered with push carts. However, these
leaving New York City. In an attempt sourcing regional ingredients and mak- markets served another important
to keep more of these companies in ing fresh convenience foods. function: they opened a pipeline for
the five boroughs, the City Council has these individual vendors to become
partnered with private sector brokers, • Revitalize New York City’s more established businesses. Today
not-for-profits, and the EDC to develop market system through the New only four of the original retail markets
food manufacturing space. Yorkers 4 Markets initiative. remain: La Marqueta in East Harlem,
Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, Moore
First, we surveyed food manufacturers Just as food manufactures require pro- Street Market in Brooklyn, and Essex
and identified dozens who are seeking duction space, many are also looking Street Market in the Lower East Side.
space and began to assist these food for retail spaces to bring their products Visiting each of these markets reveals
manufacturers with finding space, either to market. The City currently owns very different states of repair and occu-
publicly or privately owned. Second, the several public food market buildings pancy. While Essex Street Market has
City Council created a Small Manufac- that could be better utilized for both undergone significant changes and is
turing Investment Fund of $10 million production and retail space to sup- now a popular shopping venue, Moore
to assist in the development of new port local food businesses. However, Street Market and La Marqueta have
manufacturing space, some of which they are not yet fully occupied and not enjoyed the same level of attention
can be utilized for developing food require renovation. The City Council and success. And despite a grassroots
processing space. Over the coming has already begun an initiative, NYers effort to celebrate the area’s history as
year, we will be partnering with EDC to 4 Markets, to revitalize these markets a major food destination through the
identify buildings that can be renovated through outreach efforts and signifi- New Amsterdam Market, the South
and subdivided into leasable space for cant investment in their renovation. Street Seaport area, once home to the
36 small manufacturers. Lastly, as the city city’s famous Fulton Fish Market, still
redevelops the Hunts Point produce The city built several food markets doesn’t have a new permanent market.
market, any opportunities for develop- under Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia with
ing underutilized or vacant space for the intent to draw street cart vendors These sites, rather than generating
jobs and revenue for the city, have sat
underutilized for years. This is a lost
opportunity not only for the city, but
also for food processors and retailers
who seek small, affordable space to
make and sell their products. Just as
Mayor LaGuardia originally envisioned,
these markets could be the launching
pad for dozens of small businesses.
The City Council is committed to rais-
ing the profile of these markets and
investing in their revitalization.

Last year, we invested $1.5 million in

the La Marqueta building by creating
the kitchen incubator, to be oper-
ated by the not-for-profit Hot Bread
Kitchen. Already, this has allowed
EDC to attract three new tenants to
Photo Credit: Manyhighways

the retail space and begin planning

for future development of the rest of
the site. We have also been actively
involved in efforts to help raise the
profile of these markets by conducting

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

effort has worked in reaching other
industries and should be replicated for
food manufacturers. For example, EDC
has organized well-attended work-
shops for the biotech sector to educate
researchers and companies about grant
programs, innovation contests, and
leasing opportunities. Additionally,
through the Food Retail Expansion to
Support Health (FRESH) program, EDC
outreach to the supermarket industry
has contributed to three supermarket
expansions. Similar outreach and
workshops should be focused on food
manufacturers to assist them in access-
ing capital, business planning assis-
Source: Project for Public Spaces

tance, necessary health permits, leasing

and other important opportunities.

GOal 4
Increase regional
outreach through our New Yorkers 4 To make this information more readily products processed in
Markets campaign, collecting over one available, the City Council will pursue and for New york City.
thousand signatures from residents the following two initiatives.
Preserving and Revitalizing theOurMoore
who support the revitalization of these city’s rich cultural diversity has
critical assets. This type of outreach resulted in an abundance of specialty
Street Market in Brooklyn, New York
is imperative for helping to build a and ethnic foods across the five bor-
customer base for these public mar-
• Create an online resource oughs. As Americans’ palates have
kets. Additionally, we have provided center for food manufacturers. become more diverse, the demand for
significant financial investment in the these products has increased, boosting
Moore Street Market. As a result, this EDC and the city’s Department of our local manufacturers. Now consum-
market will be undergoing renovation Small Business Services (SBS) have ers are demanding regional foods,
to revitalize the retail space and attract individual web pages devoted to “value-added” products, and fresh
new vendors. various industries that explain what convenience foods.110 The growing
programs and benefits are available popularity of farmers markets and com-
StRatEGy: to help businesses in each indus- munity supported agriculture (CSA) has
Provide technical try grow. However, none of these also brought an increased demand for
assistance to food specifically target the needs of food regional products that are processed,
manufacturers. manufacturers. To better market the or “value-added” products like yogurts,
space, capital, technical assistance cheeses, jams, mixed salad greens,
Just as with any type of business, ac- and other benefits available, the City and baked goods. Finding a steady
cessing or even identifying available Council will partner with SBS Business supply of regional ingredients presents
resources can be difficult for food Express to create a one-stop resource a challenge for some processors and
manufacturers. There are numerous page for food manufacturers. food service establishments. Likewise,
types of business assistance available, for some institutions obtaining lightly
from the city’s Small Business Services • Establish a workshops series processed foods, such as washed and
Department to the Capital Access to assist food manufacturers. packaged greens, is a barrier to purchas-
Loan Guarantee Program administered ing regional food. It is much easier and
by the Economic Development Corpo- To support food manufacturers in less staff intensive to obtain pre-washed
ration, Citibank, and Accion.109 Many accessing available resources, we rec- and cut produce than to receive raw
businesses are unaware of these pro- ommend that EDC conduct outreach product that requires additional prepara-
grams, or even that the city may have to food manufacturing businesses and tion before use. These kinds of interim
available space for rent or purchase. hold informational workshops. A similar processing activities are an important

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

missing link in the regional food system. business-to-business conference, which Strategy:
Therefore, one strategy for increas- will target both regional producers and Help businesses reduce energy
ing regional products consumed in local businesses to facilitate networking consumption.
New York City is to facilitate urban- and distribution. The conference will
rural linkages among businesses and also feature workshops by city agencies, Not only does high energy consumption
institutions. including the Department for the Aging, by food processors represent an envi-
the Economic Development Corpora- ronmental challenge, it is also a high cost
Strategy: tion, and the Department of Education. burden for businesses. In New York City,
Facilitate urban-rural linkages. Various workshops will feature informa- in particular, energy costs are 56.4 per-
tion about becoming a vendor for city cent higher than in other cities.115 This
New York State is home to 35,600 family food programs, a difficult market to ac- not only threatens businesses’ bottom
farms111 and New York City boasts ap- cess for many regional and local produc- line, but it can also result in higher food
proximately 1,000 food manufacturers,112 ers and distributors, and about financial costs. Recognizing the impact these
over 7,000 food retailers,113 and tens of programs, finding space, and accessing energy prices have now and are likely to
thousands of restaurants. Throughout other business assistance services in the have as the cost of energy increases over
the year, these businesses perform the city. By connecting businesses at every time, there have been several efforts in
impressive task of bringing food to over step of the food system, we will help New York to increase businesses’ energy
8 million residents and 45 million visi- existing firms grow and add new jobs, efficiency. However, we must ensure that
tors.114 Doing so requires relationships while creating opportunities for new and New York City companies are aware of
across every phase of the system. For emerging entrepreneurs. these programs and can utilize them.
small- and mid-sized producers, how-
ever, getting their products to processors Proposal:
and to sales outlets or institutions in the goal 5
form demanded can present a chal- • Help food manufacturers access
lenge. Specifically, the lack of processors reduce the environmen- energy efficiency programs.
linked to our regional growers has pre- tal impact associated
vented city institutions from procuring with food processing in The New York State Energy Research
38 more regional products. By helping to New york City. and Development Authority (NYSERDA)
facilitate these urban-rural linkages, New oversees several programs that help
York City can help spark economic activ- Although the food processing indus- assist businesses to reduce their energy
ity without significant capital investment. try has benefited from our increased costs and become more energy efficient.
demand for convenience foods, there Several programs exist to help with
Proposal: are also environmental implications. As energy audits and energy reduction
consumers seek faster, easier ways to planning, such as FlexTech.116 Addition-
• Hold a regional food business- prepare meals, much of the work tradi- ally, the New Construction Program117
to-business (B2B) conference. tionally done in our kitchens has been and the Existing Facilities Program118
outsourced. Grocery stores now feature provide benefits for companies to
Although many wholesalers, retailers, products like pre-washed vegetables, upgrade to more energy efficient equip-
and processors are trying to meet the frozen meals, shredded cheeses, ment during construction of new facilities
demand for regional products, finding and individually packaged snacks to or for renovation of existing facilities. For
suppliers can be difficult. Even once a help us reduce our time in preparing companies located specifically within
regional agricultural product is identified, meals. The result, however, has been the five boroughs, there is a program
there are additional challenges getting it an increase in energy consumption by to help transition to clean fuel vehicles
to the city so it can be processed or sold. food processors and an increase in food for distribution called the New York City
Farmers who participate in direct-to-con- packaging. To help support our local Private Fleet Program.119 Together, these
sumer venues may not be able to access processors while still reducing negative programs represent a vital resource for
other channels like traditional retail or environmental impacts, we must better companies that manufacture and distrib-
larger food service establishments and link them to programs that will help ute food citywide and will be aggressive-
public institutions. One effective way reduce their energy consumption. We ly marketed to New York City businesses.
that government can support industry also must reduce packaging upstream These efforts will include better publiciz-
growth and encourage new markets is and ensure that food packaging is recy- ing these programs through workshops
to better connect producers, proces- clable. Our central strategy for reduc- for food manufacturers in a business-
sors, and buyers in order to strengthen ing the environmental impact among to-business conference to be held next
and create new markets. As a first food processors will be to help them year, and as part of a new resource page
step, the City Council will organize a reduce their energy consumption. through Business Express.

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

Food distribution refers not only to the way
food travels, but also to the establishments
that distribute food for sale or donation. These
outlets include national chain supermarkets,
grocery stores, bodegas, food cooperatives,
street vendors, farmers markets, community
supported agriculture (CSAs), soup kitchens,
and food pantries. Getting food into and
throughout the city relies on transportation
infrastructure such as roads, bridges, ports,
vehicles, and rail lines. It also requires related
inputs like warehousing, technology, and food
handling processes. Food distribution in
New York City is a complex network involving
thousands of participants and several modes
of transportation. Most of the food distributed
in the city enters via truck with a small portion
arriving by boat, air, and rail.
Over the past decade, the time our
food spends in transit and the distance GOal 6: Improve food distribution in New York City through
it travels have increased measurably.120 infrastructure enhancements, technological advances, alternative
This trend has compounded the prob- transportation, and integrated planning.
lems of energy usage and greenhouse
gas (GHG) emissions already typical STRaTeGY: Expand on the current vision for the Hunts Point
of our current food system. Yet these Food Distribution Center to maximize its potential.
trends cannot continue given global
climate change and the increasing
• Redevelop the Hunts Point Produce Market.
cost of energy – the food system must
• Increase rail service through the Hunts Point Distribution Center.
adapt to these new realities. Sourc- • Transform the Hunts Point Distribution Center into a hub for
ing more food locally is a critical piece citywide food system improvement strategies.
of the puzzle, but we must also make
key changes to the way in which food STRaTeGY: Diversify and improve food transport.
is distributed throughout the country,
region, and city. Proposal:
• Identify optimal distribution routes and modes for food distribution
Decades ago, the U.S. began to move within the region and city.
away from rail as a primary means of
transport toward an increased reliance
on our highways and airways. But while dents suffer from increased congestion percent of the truck traffic over the
these modes may be faster, they are on roadways, degraded infrastructure, George Washington Bridge on any
also more energy intensive. For years, and noise due to truck traffic through- given day is carrying food.122 These
city planners and environmentalists out the city. Because much of this is trucks, often refrigerated, consume
have been encouraging a return to the due to food transport, the city must great amounts of fuel, contribute to
42 use of trains and public transit as a more also do its part to facilitate alternative greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,
environmentally sustainable way for modes of transport and new technolo- and degrade our infrastructure due
transporting the general public. How- gies. We’ll likely never reach full rail to their frequent, heavy trips on our
ever, shifting to alternative transport transport, but even moving some food bridges and roadways. The system
for food is more complicated. It must transport to rail and other modes and overall is energy intensive and a
meet the needs of the businesses that improving current trucking technologies considerable contributor to our
buy and sell food. Since products like can have significant impact on improv- carbon footprint.
berries, spinach, peaches, and citrus are ing air quality, reducing congestion, and
highly perishable and prone to bruis- reducing our GHG emissions. The New Although the distance traveled is not
ing, refrigerated trucks with heavy food York City Department of Transportation the only factor in the environmental
packaging (which are typically faster, has begun some of this work, but the impact of food distribution, it is a
more reliable, and better at protecting issue will require additional partners key area for improvement. Just as
cargo) have remained the most popular locally and regionally. facilitating urban-rural linkages in
means for long distance transport. the New York City region will help
However, there is a national movement farmers and local businesses, it can
to find an efficient, effective means for GOal 6 also help lower our energy costs and
increasing rail transport, with companies reduce GHG emissions. However,
like Railex, which guarantees five day Improve food distribution the extent to which these reduc-
service from coast to coast, to compete in New York City through tions are achievable depends on
with trucking companies.121 infrastructure enhance- the per unit impact of the type of
ments, technological ad- transportation involved, the en-
Improving food distribution in New York vances, alternative trans- ergy efficiency of the vehicles used,
City is also an important quality of life portation, and integrated and the distance traveled. Some
issue for residents. In many neighbor- planning. research has demonstrated that local
hoods, like Hunts Point in the Bronx, distribution networks can be more
children and adults suffer from high Our current distribution system energy efficient and have a lower
rates of asthma, which is exacerbated relies greatly on food trucked long carbon footprint than national dis-
by poor air quality. Additionally, resi- distances into the city. Nearly 30 tribution networks.123 However, no

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

such targeted assessment has been
conducted for our region. Hunts Point Peninsula
The distribution challenges faced
within our city are tied to many
outside factors, and fully addressing
these issues will require us to partner
with state and federal stakehold-
ers and the business community.
Regional planning is needed to
consider optimal transportation
routes, as well as infrastructure and
warehousing needs. Additionally,
addressing the most vital piece of
our food system infrastructure, the
Hunts Point Distribution Center, will
require cross-sector and interagency
collaboration. The City Council’s
strategies for pursuing an im-
proved food distribution system
are: 1) creating a new vision for Hunts Point
the Hunts Point Food Distribution Produce Market
Center and 2) diversifying and
improving food transport.

Expand on the current vision Source: NYC Economic Development Corporation
for the Hunts Point Food Distri- 43
bution Center to maximize its the world’s largest food distribution Since the Hunts Point markets were
potential. center.124 Its meat, fish, and produce originally built in the late 1960s, they
markets house over 200 businesses have served the New York City and
A significant amount of our food trav- that employ over 12,400 people.125 It regional market well. But as with
els through a small number of large is the lynchpin of the New York City any older piece of infrastructure,
distribution centers in the city – most distribution system that feeds 9 per- their age and limited capacity are
significantly Hunts Point in the Bronx, cent of the U.S. population.126 showing. The produce market is 50
percent over capacity, causing busi-
nesses to use overflow storage in
diesel trucks. These trucks run con-
Hunts Point Food Distribution Center
stantly, using fuel and releasing CO2
into the surrounding environment.
Traffic congestion, aging infrastruc-
ture, and the capacity issues at the
produce market have come at a cost
to its competitive advantage. These
problems, along with new competi-
tion from large national businesses
and the new produce market in
Philadelphia, threaten the future
growth of the market.

Like other terminal markets in major

cities around the world, such as
Rungis outside of Paris, the Hunts
Point Market could be an integrated,
forward-thinking generator of eco-
Source: NYC Economic Development Corporation

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks


Source: NYC Economic Development Corporation

Produce Market Buildings and Parking lot

44 nomic activity. Because of capacity, to expanding one part of the facility at a part of the equation. The Hunts
infrastructural, and governmental Hunts Point, the city should reassess Point produce market supplies fully 60
issues, Hunts Point will require an what more could be achieved through percent of the city’s produce.128 Yet
expanded and coordinated vision an expanded vision for the entire com- it is well over capacity and in desper-
and investment to maximize its po- plex. In addition to the development ate need of new space. The city must
tential for the city and region. EDC of a permanent wholesale farmers invest in redeveloping this vital market
published a Hunts Point Vision plan market discussed earlier in this report, not only to ensure a growing supply of
in 2004 after a year-long task force.127 three key components should be fresh produce into the city but also to
This task force considered issues fac- included and are outlined below. create new business activity for its ven-
ing the Hunts Point peninsula, which dors. The estimated $320-350 million
includes both the residential area and Proposals: redevelopment plan for the market
the food distribution center. A series could increase capacity by as much as
of short-term proposals emerged • Redevelop the Hunts Point Pro- 33 percent,129 eliminating the need for
to address the tension between the duce Market. storage in large trailers that constantly
different needs among residents and consume diesel fuel and impact air
businesses. These included address- As public health research has dem- quality with heavy emissions. Working
ing traffic safety, local land use issues onstrated, consumption of fruits and through the produce market co-op-
between the residential and industrial vegetables is integral to maintaining erative, EDC, and other city, state and
areas, and nearby residents’ need for health. Through the Health Bucks federal partners, the produce market
employment opportunities. program, Food Retail Expansion to can be an example to other markets
Support Health (FRESH) initiative, throughout the country and world.
While a good effort to improve the Green Carts program, nutrition educa-
relationship between local residents tion programs, and numerous other • Increase rail service through the
and the distribution center, this plan efforts, city agencies and organizations Hunts Point Distribution Center.
does not include a vision for capitaliz- have been working diligently to in-
ing on Hunts Point to achieve citywide crease consumption of fresh produce. The vast majority of food transported
health, economic, and environmental Ensuring New Yorkers have a stable through Hunts Point Produce Mar-
goals. Rather than limiting their focus supply of fresh produce must also be ket – 97 percent – is transported by

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

truck.130 Traditionally, truck transport tion to post-consumption. This mapping their movements and re-
has offered customers a faster way makes its issues complex, but also its searching distribution alternatives will
of bringing fresh products across the promise immense. The Hunts Point be an important step in improving
country than is possible via rail. How- Distribution Center could be a hub food transportation for the future.
ever, trucks consume more energy for the City’s food system improve-
per unit transported and contribute ments and a symbol of our citywide Proposal:
to GHG emissions, road degradation, goals. As we consider things like
and traffic congestion. Because of reducing citywide congestion and • Identify optimal distribution
these reasons, the city should pursue our carbon footprint, expanding routes and modes for food distri-
a policy of increasing rail usage for food processing and food jobs, ad- bution within the region and city.
food distribution. Although rail is dressing food deserts and obesity,
not likely to replace most truck trips creating better urban-rural linkages Food businesses in the city and
into the city in the near future, even and reducing our solid waste stream, region face several distribution
limited increases in rail service could Hunts Point should be part of these challenges – traffic congestion, lack
have meaningful impacts. Whereas conversations. A strategic plan for of loading zones, frequent citations
nearly 10 percent of food is transport- Hunts Point should include explora- and fines, and an aging Hunts Point
ed to the Rungis market in France by tion of ways to get more regional market. Residents also feel the im-
rail,131 only approximately 3 percent product into our markets, diversify pact of these distribution challenges,
arrives at the Hunts Point Produce our food transport, get fresh and but through problems like poor air
Market by rail.132 Increasing rail ser- healthy foods into bodegas and gro- quality, traffic congestion, higher
vice through Hunts Point to 6 percent cery stores, and support more local food prices, and degraded infra-
would eliminate 58 million truck miles jobs. The City Council calls on the structure. The city should work with
every year.133 This is the equivalent Mayor’s Office and EDC to incorpo- its state, federal, community, and
of a single truck making 2,412 trips rate these goals into their plans for business partners to identify specific
around the globe. Eliminating those Hunts Point and to explore ways targets for improving food transport
trucks would prevent 76,000 tons of in which Hunts Point can be used throughout the region and within
CO2 being emitted each year.134 Just to support our long-term efforts to the city and develop key changes to
to counter that CO2 contribution, the improve environmental, health, and ensure that we reach them. Bringing 45
city would have to plant 29,000 acres economic outcomes across the city. increased rail access into Hunts Point
of trees, or an area roughly 30 times is one such change, but even with
the size of Central Park.135 As a first STRaTeGY: new infrastructure in place it must
step toward increasing rail usage, Diversify and improve still be made cost-effective for busi-
the city will ensure that the plans food transport. nesses. By mapping key parts of the
to redevelop the produce market food distribution system in the city
include new rail terminals that allow Although Hunts Point is the lynchpin and getting community and business
for increased usage in the future. of the city’s distribution system, it is owners’ input, the city can begin to
To this end, the city is pursuing by no means the only place where make critical investments and policy
federal transportation grants to help distribution of food can be improved. changes to reduce congestion,
fund these improvements. Addition- Fully 30 percent of truck traffic com- diversify transportation modes,
ally, achieving a long-term increase in ing over the George Washington and improve environmental and
rail service will require increased Bridge is due to food transport,136 community impacts of the distribu-
turnover of rail boxcars and increased and not all of these truck trips end up tion system.
usage of rail over truck shipments at Hunts Point. Many larger retailers
by wholesalers. and food service suppliers, like Sysco
and Sodexo, have warehouses out-
• Transform the Hunts Point side of the city and move their goods
Distribution Center into a hub for through their own delivery systems.
citywide food system improvement Each day, hundreds of trucks from all
strategies. over the country and region travel
into New York City to make deliveries
Photo Credit: Russell Sekeet

Hunts Point is one of the only exam- to restaurants, bodegas, supermar-

ples in our food system infrastructure kets, colleges, hotels, and other food
that cuts across all sectors—private, outlets. Given the contribution of
public, and not-for-profit—and all these trucks to congestion, energy
food system phases, from produc- consumption, and GHG emissions,

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

Consumption is the phase of the food system
that defines what and where New Yorkers eat
and has an impact on the health outcomes
associated with those choices. Our “food
environment” where we live and work has a
large impact on what we consume. Addition-
ally, the affordability of food greatly impacts
our choices. Over one million New Yorkers are
food insecure, meaning they rely, at least in
part, on government assistance for their food.
The city also provides nearly one million in-
stitutional meals every day, in schools, senior
centers, and other locations. There is also a
growing trend toward consumption of meals
at restaurants and take-out establishments.
Currently, about half of our food is consumed
away from home.
CONSUMPTION born of broad national factors, but more over this period than the price
through targeted, local action, some of soft drinks.140 In general, the
The past several decades have seen progress toward better consumption cost per calorie for healthier foods
two troubling, but resolvable food patterns can be made. is higher than for unhealthy foods.
system issues related to consump- For example, the price per calorie
tion: increasing obesity and persis- Over the past 20 years, obesity in of zucchini and lettuce is 100 times
tent food insecurity. Seemingly dis- New York City has doubled.137 The greater than the price per calorie of
cordant problems, these two major trend among children and young sugar or butter.141
health problems are rooted in the adults is particularly troubling, with
same food system issues: access to 25 percent of Head Start children This price disparity in our food
fresh, healthy, and affordable food. and 28 percent of high school stu- system encourages consumption of
For many New Yorkers, access is dents either overweight or obese.138 foods that are high in calories and
limited by financial, geographic, and This rise in obesity can be traced to low in nutrients, contributing to the
knowledge barriers. These issues changes in our food environment prevalence of diet-related disease.
are evidenced in many neighbor- and consumption habits. New York- Consequently, families with smaller
hoods across the city by an un- ers are consuming more calories budgets will use their food dollars
healthy food environment, low con- each day than we did a generation to buy lower quality foods because
sumption of fruits and vegetables, ago, largely because it has become they seem, at least in the short run,
higher consumption of unhealthy easier and cheaper to consume more cost effective. Compounding
foods, food insecurity, and pressure higher calorie and unhealthy foods. this issue of price disparity is the
on public nutrition assistance pro- From 1980 to 2000, the price of relatively unhealthy balance of food
grams. The poor health outcomes healthier foods has increased much outlets in neighborhoods across
that result are not just costly to indi- more than the price of unhealthy the five boroughs. In some neigh-
viduals and their families, but to all foods.139 The price of fruits and borhoods, there is a serious lack of
New Yorkers. These issues are partly vegetables increased nearly six times grocery stores offering fresh, healthy

Adult Obesity in New York City

Obesity Rate by Neighborhood

0% - 11.1%

11.2% - 21.3%

21.4% - 25.7%

25.8% - 32.1%
32.2% - 44.2%



Staten Island

Source: NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene. Community Health Survey 2008

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System


CONSUMPTION • Increase federal benefit amounts to reflect

higher costs of living.
GOAl 7: Create a healthier food environment. • End finger imaging for SNAP applicants.
• Continue SNAP outreach through agency data
STRATeGY: Expand fresh food retail in under- matches and grocery stores.
served areas of the city. • Improve the WIC program.
• Enact federal legislative changes to the WIC program.
• Help WIC vendors by translating the vendor book
• Aggressively market the FRESH Program.
into multiple languages.
• Support efforts to expand food co-operatives.
• Improve bodega infrastructure. • Mandate breakfast in the classroom for
• Improve the Green Cart program by expanding high-need schools.
the electronic benefits transfer (EBT) service. • Improve the summer meal program.
• Establish a process to make sure summer meal
STRATeGY: Better support food outlets that sites are identified earlier and outreach has
provide fresh and healthy foods. begun in advance of summer recess.
• Identify and expand on high-utilization sites.
Proposals: • Produce a list of nearby summer meal sites for
• Pilot a food retail workforce development program. parents receiving SNAP or TANF with children.
• Create neighborhood healthy food guides.
GOAl 9: Improve the nutrition of
STRATeGY: Discourage unhealthy food institutional meals.
STRATeGY: Expand the capacity of city
Proposal: agencies to cook whole foods for
• Discourage consumption of fast food. nutritious meals.
GOAl 8: Strengthen the safety net of hunger Proposals:
and nutrition programs. • Agency kitchen capital investment and staff
STRATeGY: Improve federal food programs • Expand salad bars in schools.
and remove local barriers to enrollment.
GOAl 10: Increase quantity and quality
Proposals: of opportunities for food, nutrition and
• Strengthen the federal Child Nutrition Act to cooking knowledge.
improve school meals.
• Improve the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Proposal:
Program (SNAP). • Maximize SNAP-Education funding.

food, but bodegas and fast food es- Food insecurity, or this absence of behavioral disturbances.143 This in
tablishments are in abundant supply. resources to purchase food, impacts turn causes more frequent absences
This type of environment greatly af- 1.62 times more households with from school and an inability to
fects New Yorkers’ food choices and children than households without concentrate, which impacts educa-
encourages poor health outcomes. children.142 Food insecurity is the tional performance.144 However, the
first domino in a line of other health problem is not isolated to individual
For over one million New Yorkers, and economic problems. Pregnant children or families. It affects our
what they eat has less to do with women without adequate nutri- entire city as hindered learning
what type of food is available than tion are more likely to have babies becomes hindered productivity and
what financial resources they have with low birth weight and develop- as chronic health problems among
to buy food. Not only do they mental delays. Children who lack some residents cause higher health
struggle to afford healthy food, but adequate food are more prone to care costs for everyone. In short,
they are unable to buy enough food health problems from frequent colds these health issues are shared by
for themselves and their families. and anemia, to developmental and everyone and are not sustainable.

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

Although consumption patterns
greatly affect the health outcomes
Ratio of Total Food Bought Outside of the Home
we observe in New York City, ad- to Food eaten at Home 1954 – 2009
dressing them also offers economic
opportunities. By promoting usage
of government assistance programs,
local businesses reap the benefits
of increased spending on food. Ad-
ditionally, unmet demand for fresh

food in many neighborhoods is an
opportunity to expand retail busi-
ness and create hundreds of new
jobs. The goals below describe our
plan to create a healthier food en-
vironment, make healthy food more
affordable and accessible to all New
Yorkers, and combat food insecurity
while also stimulating the economy
through demand for good food.
Source: USDA. ERS. Food CPI and Expenditures. Food at Home and Food Away from Home. 1954-2009

GOAl 7 While many New Yorkers may not be better weight and health outcomes.
able to transition entirely to home- To achieve our goal of creating a
Create a healthier cooked meals, having the knowl- healthier food environment, the
food environment. edge to make healthier choices is an City Council will pursue three strat-
important step toward combating egies: 1) expanding fresh food re-
Over the past two generations, obesity and diet-related disease. tail, 2) supporting existing healthy
52 Americans have experienced dra- food outlets, and 3) discouraging
matic changes in our food environ- Unfortunately for many New Yorkers, unhealthy food consumption.
ment. These changes have affected their food environment does not sup-
our relationship with food and our port consumption of nutritious foods STRATeGY:
health outcomes. Compounding or healthy outcomes. Approximately Expand fresh food retail in
the price disparity between healthy 3 million people across the city do underserved areas of the city.
and unhealthy foods is the fact that not have adequate access to fresh
we are now cooking fewer meals at food retail.148 This severe shortage is While millions of New Yorkers are
home, relying on food service es- exemplified in residents’ low con- without easy access to a grocery store,
tablishments for more of our meals. sumption of fresh fruits and veg- nearly all New Yorkers live near an
Both our caloric intake away from etables. In several neighborhoods unhealthy food outlet.150 As a result,
home and the amount of money – South Bronx, Pelham/Throggs many of us do not consume adequate
we spend on food away from home Neck, East New York, Jamaica – 20 to fruits and vegetables, are obese or
have dramatically increased over 25 percent of people report eating overweight, and suffer from costly
the past 30 years. In the 1970s, New no fruits or vegetables in a given day diet-related diseases. Additionally,
Yorkers spent 27.8 percent of their even though recommended intake New York City is losing as much as $1
food budget away from home and is 5 to 7 servings.149 Not surprisingly, billion in grocery store sales each year
consumed 18 percent of their calo- in these same neighborhoods we to surrounding suburban areas due
ries outside the home.145 By 2003, also see a shortage of grocery stores to a lack of stores in many neighbor-
45.6 percent of our food budget and a higher prevalence of diet- hoods.151 The City could gain as many
purchased meals away from home related diseases. Through programs as 100 new grocery stores to fulfill this
and in 2008, 35 percent of our calo- to support local food businesses need.152 With each new grocery store
ries were consumed eating out.146 like supermarkets, bodegas, food employee contributing $2,800 to the
Although eating out does not neces- co-operatives, and Green Carts, the city’s tax base, the economic impact
sarily mean healthy choices are not city can restore a healthier balance of of additional grocery stores is consid-
available, restaurant and take-out options in neighborhoods. In doing erable.153 Through the Food Retail
meals tend to be higher in calories so, New Yorkers will enjoy increased Expansion to Support Health (FRESH)
than meals we prepare at home.147 availability of fresh foods to support program, the city is now directing

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System


"Food Deserts" in New York City

Supermaket Need Index


Source: NYC Dept. of City Planning


financial and zoning incentives to the

food retail industry to begin meet-
ing this need. Given the size of the NYC
NYC Fresh
Fresh Food
Food Retail
Retail Programs
demand, the city should pursue other Bronx
programs to increase fresh food ven-

ues in underserved neighborhoods.


Additionally, New York State is now FRESH Zoning Boundaries

providing healthy food retail financing, Green Cart Zones

which could be utilized within the city. Queens

• Aggressively market the FRESH
Staten Island
In 2007, the City Council partnered
with the Food Trust in Philadelphia Source: NYC Dept. of City Planning
to identify “food deserts,” or areas
with a severe shortage of fresh
food access. This work launched a
broader effort in partnership with the for eliminating them. The result businesses that expand or create
Bloomberg Administration to form was FRESH, the first program of its new grocery stores in targeted areas.
a Supermarket Commission whose kind in the country. This program, The FRESH zones currently cover
goal was not only to identify food launched last year, provides financial three areas in the city identified as
deserts, but also develop strategies benefits and zoning incentives to the highest need based on health

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

outcomes and grocery store short-
ages: Jamaica, Central Brooklyn,
and South Bronx/ Upper Manhattan.
To date, three grocery stores have
utilized the program, adding 63,000
square feet of additional grocery
store space, providing 93 new jobs
and retaining 90 existing jobs.154 The
City Council will continue to market
FRESH to potential supermarkets to
help them identify financial resources

Photo Credit: William Alatriste

and assistance with energy efficiency
programs that will encourage expan-
sion into these underserved neigh-

• Support efforts to expand food

for members. However, only members products. The result is an over-
Although grocery stores and large who maintain this level of service may reliance on nutritionally poor, calorie
supermarkets provide a considerable shop there. dense convenience foods. The New
amount of food to consumers, other York City Department of Health and
models of retail are available. One of While this particular model of a food Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) has been
these, food co-operatives, has been co-operative may not be desirable offering valuable assistance to these
gaining public support in several for all communities, there are nearly bodegas to help them carry fresh,
areas of the city. The longest run- a dozen neighborhoods around the healthier options. This has included
ning and perhaps most famous food city with residents who are seeking help with sourcing fresh foods, stor-
54 co-operative in the city is the Park assistance to begin their own co-oper- ing them, and merchandising them
Slope Food Co-op in Brooklyn. This atives. As has been seen in the South to appeal to customers. Addition-
co-operative has been in existence Bronx and East New York, starting and ally, through this program, bodegas
since 1973 and now boasts over 12,000 maintaining a food co-operative can have been able to obtain permits
members.155 By the Park Slope Food be extremely difficult. They face chal- to place produce stands outside
Co-op’s model, members must work lenges in maintaining strong member- their stores.
at the store 2 hours and 45 minutes ship, finding space, and managing the
every four weeks.156 Relying at least in flow of products. However, when they Despite this helpful program, many
part on member labor has allowed the do succeed, they provide an important bodega owners face structural
Park Slope Food Co-op to keep their asset to their communities. The City challenges that prevent them from
prices at a 20 to 40 percent discount Council will therefore be partnering sourcing and stocking fresh food.
with organizations and communities These include distribution challenges
across the five boroughs to assess the and a lack of shelving, refrigeration,
feasibility of expanding co-ops, build- air conditioning, and awnings, all of
ing community capacity, and launching which help extend the shelf life of
new co-operatives. fresh products. Bodegas are, by their
nature, small independent business-
• Improve bodega infrastructure. es, which makes the upfront invest-
ment in these kinds of infrastructure
In neighborhoods that lack grocery out of reach. To assist these small
stores, consumers turn to other business owners carry fresh products,
available outlets such as bodegas. the City Council will explore ways to
While bodegas offer a convenient provide infrastructural support. Ad-
option for nearby residents, they ditionally, by working with wholesale
Photo Credit: WallyG

do not frequently offer the types of farmers, regional products can find
fresh foods that support a healthy a new retail outlet in these bodegas.
diet. Instead, they generally special- Not only will this kind of investment
ize in processed, shelf-stable food and collaboration improve the food

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

environment for consumers, it will have been identified. Specifically, children how to grow vegetables.
assist small business owners and the the Green Carts offer an excellent Together, they serve as a positive
regional farming economy. opportunity to expand utilization influence on the city’s food landscape
of SNAP benefits in their neighbor- and help make our food environment
• Improve the Green Cart pro- hoods. Currently, some Green Carts more supportive of healthy, sustainable
gram by expanding the electronic are piloting EBT. Similar to the farm- outcomes. However, given the sheer
benefits transfer (EBT) service. ers’ market program, increased rev- size and density of the city, residents
enue for the vendors and purchases oftentimes don’t know what lies in their
In 2007, the City Council passed leg- of fresh produce by Supplemental own backyard. These outlets must be
islation creating a new street vendor Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) supported as assets in communities
program, the Green Cart Program. recipients is expected. Once this and marketed to residents.
The program established a new pilot has concluded, the city should
license for vendor carts to sell fresh identify ways to successfully support Proposals:
produce in designated areas of the EBT on Green Carts citywide.
city, identified as having a shortage • Pilot a food retail workforce
of fresh food access and high levels STRATeGY: development program.
of diet-related disease. To date, Better support food outlets that
there are over 400 active Green Cart provide fresh and healthy foods. Over 47,000 people work in the food
licenses citywide. Not only does retail sector today.157 There was a
the program help create a healthier In addition to expanding fresh food time in New York City history, before
food environment in these neigh- retail in underserved areas, we must the evolution of the modern super-
borhoods, but it has also created support existing stores and other market, when food retail workers
hundreds of jobs for independent venues that provide healthy food. were full-time employees who could
retailers. Many of these retailers are These can include existing grocery support a family on their income.
immigrant New Yorkers who have stores, co-operatives, farmers mar- While this remains true for some food
been able to launch their own small kets, community supported agricul- retail workers, most are part-time and
enterprises. ture (CSA) drop-offs, pantries, senior temporary workers, and the industry
centers, and many other types of food is characterized by high turnover. For 55
The Green Cart Program has been outlets. These outlets may prepare, store owners, training a revolving
growing over the past several years sell, or donate food; or they may help workforce can be a financial burden.
and, as with any new initiative, sev- families enroll in public programs, learn For workers, there is reduced incen-
eral opportunities for improvement about healthy cooking, or even teach tive to invest themselves in their work.
Providing training to underemployed
and unemployed people to create a
pipeline into the industry and a career
path for workers can begin to address
some of these issues.

The City Council is partnering with

the Hope Program to pilot a new
food retail training program called
GroceryWorks. The program is be-
ing designed with the input of the
food retail industry, labor unions,
and other experts to ensure that
high quality training is provided
and that program graduates will be
placed in good jobs. In its first year,
the program will train 100 unem-
Photo Credit: Karp Resources

ployed people.158 The initial invest-

ment of $2,400 in the training and
job placement of a former welfare
recipient through this program will
save taxpayers $6,290 in the first year
alone.159 The training will focus on

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

the skills needed to maintain a high
level of quality at stores, including
U.S. Fast
U.S. Fast Food Sales
Food Sales
safe food handling, sourcing good

food, and merchandising.

35.0 Federal

• Create neighborhood healthy
food guides. 30.0

Burger King

Purchases at at
25.0 Wendy's

The city boasts hundreds of healthy 1948 1st

food venues – from farmers markets 20.0
1962 Taco
Bell Opens

to community gardens to local pro-

duce stands. However, locating all

of Home


of these resources can be a daunting 10.0


task. Additionally, for policymakers,

of Outofof
performing a thorough assessment of 5.0

a neighborhood’s food environment 0.0

can be difficult. Disparate organiza- 29 48 58 67 77 83 85 87 89 91 93 95 97 99 01 03 05 07 09

19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 20 20 20 20 20
tions and city agencies gather and
report on various components of
the food landscape, but there is no Source: USDA. ERS. Food CPI and Expenditures. Food Away from Home. 1929-2009

centralized system to collect, analyze,

and publicize all of this information. unhealthy food outlets compared Proposal:
to healthy food outlets. Just as the
The City University of New York rise in obesity has occurred over the • Discourage consumption
(CUNY) has for several years man- past several decades, the changing of fast food.
aged a database of city information, balance in our food environment
collected into an online map. This has been a slow, steady progres- There are over 24,000 food service es-
56 includes transportation, zoning, and sion. Reversing these trends and tablishments in New York City,160 ranging
other key data. However, significant establishing a healthier balance of from Italian restaurants on Arthur Avenue
opportunity exists to utilize this infor- food options for New Yorkers will in the Bronx to Sri Lankan restaurants on
mation to map neighborhoods’ food therefore require a long-term policy Staten Island’s North Shore. The diversity
environments. A food map could response. New York City has already of food options is unmatched by any
draw on information from all of our become a national leader on public other city in the U.S. The sheer number
community gardeners, urban farms, health policies to reduce unhealthy of choices and the convenience of having
farmers markets, and CSAs. Addi- food consumption. These have food anytime, anywhere, is part of the
tionally, it could also collect informa- included nutritional standards for fabric of New York City life. However, in
tion on SNAP enrollment offices, public meal programs and vending the midst of this vibrant restaurant scene
emergency feeding programs, and machines on city property, calorie there are real and widespread faults.
supermarkets. From this expanded labeling on chain restaurant menus,
set of information, community boards and a ban on trans fat in food ser- Over the last three decades, there has
and community organizations could vice establishments. Additionally, been a staggering rise in the prevalence
assess their neighborhood food the DOHMH has launched aggres- of fast food establishments.161 In 1970,
environments to advocate for key sive campaigns against soft drink Americans spent about $6 billion on fast
changes. As a result, neighborhood and salt consumption. Together, food.162 In 2000 they spent more than
food guides could be produced and these policies are a compelling $110 billion.163 While they offer consum-
distributed to help market healthy effort to encourage healthier eat- ers convenient and relatively inexpensive
food outlets to residents. ing habits. However, they do not meals, there is also a high long-term
address the very real problem of cost. As New Yorkers eat more meals
STRATeGY: what choices New Yorkers face in outside of the home, our overall caloric
Discourage unhealthy their neighborhoods every day. Not intake has increased.164 The pervasive-
food consumption. only will restoring a healthy food ness of fast food establishments and the
environment require encouraging consumption of fast food, in particular,
The food environment observed in good options, but it will also require have been associated with higher
many neighborhoods is character- addressing the overabundance of incidence of obesity, weight gain, and
ized by a higher concentration of unhealthy food options. increased waist circumference.165

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

Large chain fast food establishments became critical for thousands more However, for many individuals and
have particularly troubling effects. New Yorkers in the most recent families, these benefits do not run
They market their foods directly to recession, as unemployment peaked deep enough to last a whole month
children through the use of toys, mas- near 10 percent. The reach and or to pull them out of food insecu-
cots, and advertising during youth quality of these programs has had a rity. Additionally, our local public
television programming, and cluster widespread impact on New York- meal programs struggle to improve
their establishments near schools.166 ers’ ability to maintain a good diet their food quality and extend their
The effects of these business prac- and improve their health outcomes. reach because reimbursement rates
tices are now seen in the high rates Currently, 1.75 million New Yorkers for individual meals do not take into
of children who are overweight receive SNAP benefits each month, account the high cost of service
and obese.167 Specifically, children a program administered by the city’s delivery in New York. The proposals
who attend schools within walking Human Resources Administration below will be a key step in address-
distance of fast food establishments (HRA).173 Yet barriers to enrollment ing food insecurity through en-
have significantly higher weight and prevent many more eligible people hanced benefits for individuals and
body mass index.168 The combination from using these benefits. Addition- improved meal programs provided
of targeted marketing, proximity, and ally, the federal Special Supplemen- by institutions.
low price have proven attractive to tal Nutrition Program for Women, In-
the youth market, who now have an fants and Children (WIC) is a proven Despite the breadth of our public
obesity rate of 40 percent.169 means to reducing food insecurity safety net, many New Yorkers still do
and improving the health outcomes not take advantage of the benefits for
Other cities have attempted to of children. which they are eligible. As might be
limit fast food establishments expected, the fewer barriers to enroll-
with various policies. Los Angeles Many children and adults also re- ment in public nutrition programs,
placed a moratorium on all new fast ceive meals from schools and other the higher the enrollment of eligible
food establishments in part of the institutions, but utilization of some of consumers.176 All New Yorkers juggle
city.170 San Francisco recently voted these programs could be improved. multiple, competing responsibilities.
to prevent toys from being given Lastly, approximately 1.3 million New For low-income New Yorkers, the task
out with unhealthy menu items.171 Yorkers, many of them children and of meeting all of these obligations 57
London is pursuing land use poli- seniors, rely on emergency food can be overwhelming as they balance
cies to limit fast food establishments programs.174 While these non-profit child care, employment, and appoint-
near schools.172 The City Council organizations provide a much-need- ments to receive benefits. In fact,
will review best practices nationally ed service to hungry New Yorkers, most people on SNAP work at least
and internationally to discourage the they themselves often struggle to part-time and have children. For
consumption of fast food, and create acquire the healthy food that hungry them, having the time to learn about
more opportunities for healthy food families need. Many of them run out and apply for public benefits can
service in neighborhoods around the of food before adequately meeting be a difficult task under our current
city. By identifying effective strate- demand.175 Strengthening this safety system. There are several key im-
gies to restore a healthier food en- net of programs is therefore vital provements that can be made to the
vironment in all neighborhoods, we to improving food consumption in administration of benefits programs
hope to reverse some of the trend New York and the quality of life for to remove barriers to enrollment and
toward obesity and higher rates of over a million residents. To improve improve food security.
diet-related disease. these programs, the City Council
will pursue a strategy of improving Despite the critical role of state and
federal food programs and remov- federal policies in addressing hun-
GOAl 8 ing local barriers to enrollment. ger, there are also multiple things
the city can do to improve utilization
Strengthen the safety STRATeGY: of the programs and benefits avail-
net of hunger and Improve federal food programs able now. We must remove barriers
nutrition programs. and remove local barriers to to enrollment, better coordinate
enrollment. the programs we have, and aggres-
New York City provides a safety sively market our programs to needy
net of various food and nutrition The combination of federal, state, New Yorkers. Drawing down these
programs for New Yorkers who lack and local food and nutrition pro- additional federal benefits will not
the financial resources to purchase grams provides a broad safety only help us address food insecurity
enough food. This safety net net for food insecure residents. in our city, it will provide a critical

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

during the recession, Congress
made some changes to funding
levels through the American Recov-
NYC School Food by the Numbers ery and Reinvestment Act. These
included an increase in the amount
School Food Budget  $143,533,088  of SNAP benefits people can receive
Students  1,000,000  and federal funding for emergency
Meals Served Daily  860,000  feeding programs. As a result, many
Schools  1,500  emergency feeding programs were
Salad Bars  586  better able to meet demand.178 The
Students Eligible for Free & Reduced Price Lunch  75%  City Council will continue to advo-
cate for increased federal funding
Source: Budget of the City of New York and NYC Dept. of Education
for these programs to ensure that
Source: Hunter College. School of Public Health. Projects for Health Public Policies at the
we have the resources to adequately
City University of New York Ò Recipes for Health: Improving School Food in New York
combat hunger in neighborhoods
City.Ó August,
economic stimulus as we increase
2010 partner organizations will continue across the five boroughs.
the purchasing power of consumers to advocate for a stronger Child
without increasing local costs. Nutrition Act now and for the future 2) End finger imaging for SNAP
and to make sure food and nutrition applicants.
Proposals: benefits for low income New Yorkers
are not reduced in one program to New York City is one of only four
• Strengthen the federal serve another. jurisdictions in the country that re-
Child Nutrition Act to improve quires finger imaging of SNAP appli-
school meals. • Improve the Supplemental Nu- cants. In total, almost 100,000 New
trition Assistance Program (SNAP). Yorkers were required to provide
The Child Nutrition Act governs finger prints over the past year solely
many of our public food programs, 1) Increase federal benefit in order to receive SNAP benefits for
58 including school lunches, school amounts to reflect higher costs of them and their families.179 Propo-
breakfast, summer meals for chil- living. nents of this policy argue it saves
dren, the child and adult care feed- the city valuable resources because
ing program, and the WIC program. Federal legislation also governs it reduces fraud in the system. Yet
This legislation was originally passed SNAP income eligibility standards no compelling evidence of this has
over 40 years ago and is updated and provides funding for the ben- been demonstrated to date. On
approximately every five years. It efits people use to purchase grocer- the contrary, evidence exists that
determines how much federal fund- ies. However, states and cities are the policy costs the city greatly and
ing New York City agencies receive left with the task and cost of admin- deters eligible, food insecure, New
for the meals they serve, the nutri- istering this program. Unfortunately Yorkers from receiving the federally-
tional standards for those meals, and for New York City, the way in which funded benefits they need.180
who is eligible to receive them. The eligibility is determined and the
Council and a local coalition of or- amount of benefits offered to fami- In 2006, the Mayor’s Commission on
ganizations have advocated for key lies is not sufficient for an adequate, Economic Opportunity estimated as
changes to this law to improve the healthy diet. In New York City, over many as 28 percent of eligible New
programs’ impact. These changes 27 percent of children live below the Yorkers were not enrolled in SNAP.181
include higher reimbursement rates federally-defined poverty line, much Using our current enrollment182 as a
to allow city agencies to improve higher than the national rate.177 Ad- baseline, nearly 500,000 New Yorkers
the quality of foods served and ditionally, the cost of living in New are eligible but not enrolled in SNAP.
streamlined eligibility determination York City is higher than the national This is in alignment with other
and enrollment to help more New average, but SNAP benefits do citywide estimates that range from
Yorkers get the meals they need. not reflect these costs. Our soup 500,000 to almost 800,000 people.183
Although some of these changes kitchens and food pantries often see According to some research, finger
are likely to be incorporated into a surge in demand at the end of the imaging has a direct deterrent effect
the new legislation this year, paying month as families see their SNAP on recipients, which indicates as
for them might come at the cost of benefits dwindling. In recognition many as 29,500 New Yorkers likely
other vital programs, such as SNAP- of this problem and the increased do not receive SNAP because of the
education. The City Council and our pressure on our safety net programs finger imaging requirement.184

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

The potential benefits of this policy benefits. Because these benefits are ties is also needed. Only with this
have not been demonstrated and do spent in scores of local businesses approach can we reach people with
not support its persistence. Finger and markets, there is also an indirect limited English proficiency or those
imaging only captures one type of po- economic loss as a result of this policy. who have no experience with public
tential fraud—the attempt by some- Additionally, as these New Yorkers are programs. The City Council is there-
one to open more than one benefit not able to afford fresh food, they rely fore partnering with grocery stores
case. Officials on both the state and on our emergency feeding programs around the city to conduct outreach
federal levels have testified that finger that already struggle to meet demand. to more New Yorkers who may be
imaging does not increase program- For all these reasons the policy should eligible for WIC and SNAP.
matic integrity or reduce fraud.185 be immediately eliminated.
Even by HRA’s own estimates, there • Improve the WIC program.
have been relatively few duplicate 3) Continue SNAP outreach
cases, only 0.35 percent of cases in through agency data matches and 1) Enact federal legislative
2008 of all 278,225 new cases were du- grocery stores. changes to the WIC program.
plicates.186 Moreover, whether these
cases were due to agency adminis- Even if the city eliminates the finger The WIC program was created
trative error is unclear. To date, no imaging requirement for receiving nearly 30 years ago with the goal of
penalties have been pursued for any SNAP benefits, there are thou- improving the health of low income
of these cases and other methods for sands of New Yorkers who may not pregnant women, new mothers, in-
identifying duplicate cases have not even know they are eligible or why fants, and children up to age five.192
been attempted. Additionally, officials they should apply. WIC is an even Through the program, women
both in New York State and the USDA smaller program in the city, but one receive vouchers for formula and
have recognized that finger imaging that has been shown to measurably certain types of food for themselves
deters eligible low income people improve the health and well-being and their children. They also receive
from receiving SNAP benefits.187 of mothers and their children. To nutrition counseling. Evaluation
support these programs and health- of the program has demonstrated
The direct and indirect costs of the ier outcomes, the city must continue lower Medicaid costs for recipients,
policy are considerable and support its to improve its outreach efforts. longer gestation periods, higher 59
elimination. Direct costs include finger birth weights, and reduced infant
imaging machinery and staff time to One recently successful project mortality.193 Forty five percent of
handle in-person appointments by targeted outreach to people en- infants born in the United States
applicants. New York State eliminated rolled in Medicaid, but not in SNAP. receive WIC assistance.194 The
the finger imaging requirement for Because the program requirements program is therefore a key strategy
SNAP applicants, but provided an are similar, those who are enrolled for addressing food insecurity and
exception to New York City to con- in Medicaid are also likely eligible to related health issues among low-
tinue the policy. This exception was receive SNAP. However, the data- income women and their children.
provided on the condition that the city bases that organize the caseloads
would provide additional locations and for these two programs are sepa- Despite the program’s clear ben-
hours for SNAP applicants to reduce rately administered. By matching efits, it does not have the depth of
the burden on applicants. These the two databases, HRA was able to impact for all needy mothers and
additional hours and locations also identify approximately 650,000 New children because of federal recer-
have an associated direct cost to the Yorkers enrolled in Medicaid but not tification requirements. Currently,
city, although they have not yet been in SNAP.190 Identifying these New children must be recertified every
consistently or publicly quantified. To Yorkers and targeting outreach to six months, which requires a doctor’s
date, estimates of these direct costs them resulted in 51,000 new SNAP examination. The City Council has
by HRA have ranged from $150,000 to beneficiaries.191 This type of com- and will continue to advocate for
over $900,000 annually.188 mon sense approach to administer- a federal change to extend this re-
ing benefit programs and conduct- certification period from six months
There are also large costs to the city ing outreach to eligible New Yorkers to one year. Doing so will remove
due to this policy. Each of these should become a routine practice. a significant burden on low-income
estimated 29,500 low income people mothers.
would receive an average federal ben- Even though targeted outreach
efit of $153.59 monthly, or $1,843 annu- has proven successful in improving 2) Help WIC vendors by translat-
ally.189 The city is therefore losing $54.4 utilization of government programs, ing the vendor book into multiple
million each year in foregone federal broad-based outreach in communi- languages.

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

Not only does WIC help mothers and Unfortunately, many vendors and po- day. Citywide, approximately 75
their children, it also provides a benefit tential vendors in New York City still percent of public school children are
to local food retailers by establishing are not fully able to take advantage eligible for free and reduced price
a customer base and revenue stream. of this handbook because, to date, lunch under federal definitions.196
In New York City, there are more than it has only been provided in English.
2,000 businesses who accept WIC At the urging of the New York City Breakfast in schools is not nearly as
vouchers for food purchases.195 To Council, the NYSDOH has com- well utilized as the lunch program,
become a WIC vendor, a local busi- mitted to translating this book into despite its clear benefits to chil-
ness must meet very specific stock- multiple languages and to revising dren. Participation in the school
ing requirements of WIC program- its website for vendors to be more breakfast program in New York City
approved foods. Local retailers who accessible. Not only will this ensure is extremely low when compared to
are approved WIC vendors are subject a supply of WIC vendors for women other cities. Only approximately 29
to inspections and, if they are found in communities citywide, it will help percent of children eligible for free
in violation of the program rules, they our local stores take advantage of and reduced price lunch receive
could be issued fines. another resource to support their breakfast.197 Right across the Hud-
business. son in Newark, New Jersey, almost
Ensuring vendors are in adequate 94 percent of students participate.198
supply in New York City is necessary • Mandate breakfast in the In fact, New York City ranked second
to the success of the WIC program. classroom for high-need schools. to last in a survey of urban school
They must be readily accessible to districts’ school breakfast participa-
women who need to redeem their The New York City Department of tion.199 Children receiving school
vouchers for food and formula. Education (DOE) administers two breakfast perform better throughout
The New York State Department of key programs that provide food to the day, are able to maintain their
Health (NYSDOH) publishes a hand- children: summer meals and school attention, and have fewer disciplin-
book to assist vendors in meeting all breakfast. During the school year, ary issues.200 Moreover, schools
program requirements. the DOE serves 860,000 meals each providing breakfast have reported


School Breakfast Participation Rates 2009

Ratio of Students Receiving Breakfast to Students Eligible for Free or Reduced Price Lunch

Source: Food Research and Action Center. “School Breakfast in America’s Big Cities.” December 2009

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

fewer issues with attendance.201 While it is likely not feasible to reach 3) Produce a list of nearby sum-
Breakfast for students lives up to its all of these children during the mer meal sites for parents receiv-
reputation as the most important summer, improvements to the sum- ing SNAP or TANF with children.
meal of the day. mer meal program can be made to
increase participation. The DOE has While utilization of free and reduced
Currently, the DOE does not require advertised the program on subways price lunch during the school year is
school principals or teachers to serve and bus stops and has partnered relatively high, summer meals repre-
breakfast in the classroom to students. with the City Council to conduct sent only approximately 19 percent
Unlike school lunch, breakfast is served outreach to increase participation. of the number of meals students
at the discretion of the principals, Yet there are several additional receive during the year.206 This begs
regardless of student need. For many steps that can be taken to reach the question of where these chil-
students, the city will not bear the more students. dren are eating during the summer
cost of providing breakfast because months and whether they are ad-
it is funded through the federal Child 1) Establish a process to make equately receiving the nourishment
Nutrition Act. The cost of breakfast sure summer meal sites are identi- they need. Because most of these
for lower-income students, those who fied earlier and outreach has be- children are in households that are
need meal assistance the most, is reim- gun in advance of summer recess. eligible for SNAP or Temporary As-
bursed at a set rate. The DOE should sistance for Needy Families (TANF),
therefore take full advantage of this One barrier to adequately publiciz- the city should target outreach to
program and mandate breakfast in the ing summer meal sites each year these parents so they are aware of
classroom in schools that have a high is the late publication of the site the program and where they can
portion of low-income students. addresses by the DOE. Although bring their children to receive
Council Members, the DOE, and summer meals.
• Improve the summer meal community organizations have
program. consistently conducted outreach
in past years to attract more par- GOAl 9
Similar to school breakfast, the ticipants, it has been underminded
city’s summer meal program for because the list of sites is typically Improve the nutrition of 61
students is underutilized. Summer not available until June. The DOE institutional meals.
meal programs are more difficult should establish a protocol for
to administer than school lunches identifying these sites earlier, includ- In an effort to reduce obesity and
because many students are not at- ing those that are collocated with improve other health outcomes, New
tending classes and are difficult to summer schools, to support more York City instituted new nutrition
reach. In New York City, the summer effective outreach efforts. standards for meals served by its agen-
meal program is administered by a cies. These nutrition standards exceed
network of providers, including sum- 2) Identify and expand on high- federal standards for meal programs
mer school sites, recreation centers, utilization sites. like school lunches. The standards for
summer camps, and community- meals require City agencies to serve
based organizations. Last year, Free summer meals are provided to low-calorie beverages like skim or
300 schools, 82 NYCHA sites, school-aged children at several dif- 1 percent milk, eliminate deep fry-
and 100 public parks and pools ferent types of sites: New York City ing, include two servings of fruits and
provided summer meals throughout Housing Authority (NYCHA), parks, vegetables in every lunch and dinner,
the five boroughs.202 However, pools, recreation centers, community lower salt content and ensure adequate
compared to utilization of school organizations, faith-based organiza- fiber in meals.207 Furthermore, juices
meals during the academic year, tions, and schools. Additionally, a must be 100 percent fruit juice and all
utilization at these sites was low. new mobile meal van was piloted food purchased and served must not
Schools serve over 860,000 meals just this past summer. Because contain trans fat.208 The Mayor’s Office
each day during the school year.203 utilization overall is low across this and DOHMH have worked with several
More than 720,000 are to low in- population of sites and because city agencies to improve the nutritional
come students eligible for free and some types of sites have higher uti- quality of institutional meals and ensure
reduced price lunch.204 However, lization than others, the DOE should they comply with new nutrition stan-
this past summer, approximately identify which types of sites are more dards. While the reach and ambition
160,000 meals were served daily.205 popular and expand them to other of this project are impressive, there are
neighborhoods. structural challenges to improving the

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

Photo Credit: William Alatriste

quality of institutional meal programs from scratch.209 Some of the remaining • Expand salad bars in schools.
that the city should make a long-term schools are not able to prepare whole
goal for addressing. The City Council’s foods for meals because they lack a Currently, 586 of the 1,500 public
strategy for improving the nutrition kitchen. Additionally, many public hos- schools across the city have salad
62 of institutional meals will be to ex- pitals also lack the ability to cook whole bars in their cafeterias.210 These
pand the capacity of city agencies to meals on-site. Partly due to financial salad bars have been a success-
cook whole foods through infrastruc- constraints, hospitals centralized their ful means for increasing children’s
tural improvements. food preparation and have meals dis- access to fresh, healthy foods, and
tributed and reheated on-site. also for increasing their consumption
STRATeGY: of fresh produce. Because children
Expand the capacity of city PROPOSAlS: are able to select their salad ingre-
agencies to cook whole foods dients, these salad bars have been
for nutritious meals. • Agency kitchen capital popular among children of all ages.
investment and staff training. Moreover, these salad bars have the
City meals sites, like schools and hospi- potential to bring regional produce
tals that serve a high volume of meals, Having a fully equipped and staffed in season to the school food pro-
face infrastructural issues and a short- kitchen in every school or hospital gram. The city should therefore
age of trained staff to prepare whole is not practical in the short-term. aggressively expand this program to
foods. The DOE has already commit- However, investment in the institu- as many schools as possible in the
ted some new staff and resources over tions that are ready and able to begin coming years.
the past several years to improve the cooking whole foods should be
quality of the meals they serve students. pursued in the coming years. Ad-
They hired a culinary director and estab- ditionally, for those institutions, there GOAl 10
lished a new program to test and plan must be an investment in staff train-
new meals. However, many of their ing. In this way, the city can begin to Increase quantity and
kitchens are not conducive to cooking transform the types of meals it serves quality of opportunities
whole foods. They lack updated equip- to millions of school children, pa- for food, nutrition and
ment and systems required for the safe, tients, seniors, and other New Yorkers cooking knowledge.
efficient, handling of raw ingredients. Of every day. The city should therefore
the approximately 1,500 public schools commit to long-term infrastructural Along with a healthier food environ-
citywide, some of which share buildings, improvement in sites that serve a ment and meal options, consum-
only 300 of them are able to cook meals high volume of meals. ers must also be equipped with

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

knowledge to make choices about of food knowledge over the past Proposal:
what to eat. Currently, education several decades. Better coordina-
about food, nutrition, and cooking tion among these programs and • Maximize SNAP-Education funding.
is delivered in a variety of settings. expanding other innovative, suc-
New and expecting mothers receive cessful models of education will help As a compliment to the SNAP program,
nutrition education through the restore some of this knowledge to the federal government provides fund-
Supplemental Nutrition Program for New Yorkers. For example, school ing for a program called SNAP-Educa-
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). garden programs nationally and tion with the goal of increasing the likeli-
Young children receive education within the city have demonstrated hood that SNAP recipients will make
about where food comes from and immense promise in connecting healthy food choices with their benefits.
what to eat from countless innova- children to their food and encourag- Activities target both potentially eligible
tive programs. Additionally, thou- ing consumption of fresh, healthy and current SNAP recipients. Each year,
sands of Supplemental Nutrition As- foods.211 The city should assess the state SNAP agencies must submit a
sistance Program (SNAP) recipients various services currently available plan for utilizing this federal funding for
receive nutrition education through through SNAP-Education and other nutrition education programming. The
the Food Bank for New York City's programs, their target audience, and programs must target behavior and be
Cookshop program and the Cornell their effectiveness to improve scientifically-based. To maximize the ef-
Cooperative Extension, both pro- nutrition and health outcomes. As fects of this important federal program,
grams funded by the federal SNAP- a first step toward achieving the local organizations and agencies should
Education program. While these goal of improving opportunities partner with state officials to conduct
programs have grown in recent years for nutrition education, the City a review of the program, identify best
and offer valuable services, they Council will work to maximize our practices, and explore future opportuni-
are not enough to confront the loss existing SNAP-Education program. ties for the program.


A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

Post Consumption
Post Consumption
Post-consumption is the phase of the food sys-
tem that manages the by-products of all other
food system phases, such as food scraps and
used cooking oil, water from washing and
other processing, and packaging materials.
Approximately one-fifth of the city’s waste
stream is organic matter from food scraps.
Another 36 percent of the waste stream is
recyclable materials, such as food packaging.
Some waste is recycled and a very small por-
tion is composted. Most of the by-products
generated by New York City’s food system are
sent to a landfill or incinerator.
Post Consumption
As the largest city in the country,
New York City produces an immense GOAl 11: Decrease waste throughout the food system.
amount of waste. We each produce
an average of 5.15 pounds of garbage STrATEGY: Improve the net environmental impact associated
every day, or approximately 1,880 with food procured by city agencies and institutions.
pounds each year.212 In a city expected Proposals:
to reach 9 million residents in the • Reduce packaging on food procured by city agencies.
next 20 years, the problem of what • Identify alternatives to polystyrene foam in city food programs.
to do with all of this waste is stagger- • Discourage bottled water consumption.
ing. Our Department of Sanitation
spends nearly $530 million each year GOAl 12: Increase resource recapture in the food system.
collecting materials in the municipal
STrATEGY: Increase residential, commercial, and governmental
waste stream.213 For decades, the city composting.
avoided higher sanitation costs by
unfairly placing much of the burden of Proposals:
handling our waste stream on the resi- • Establish a voluntary household composting program.
dents of Staten Island. But since the • Explore citywide composting of food waste.
long overdue closure of the Fresh Kills
Landfill in 2001, costs have increased
STrATEGY: Increase recycling of waste related to food process-
ing and packaging.
as we have exported more of our
waste. For example, in 1999, the City Proposals:
spent $110 million dollars on waste dis- • Encourage restaurant grease recycling.
posal.214 This year, the City will spend • Increase citywide recycling of food-related packaging.
almost three times that amount, $310
million, to export our waste to landfills
68 and facilities in other jurisdictions.215 residential, commercial and institu- like used containers, packaging on
tional waste stream. For example, soil, and water run-off. In processing,
A considerable portion of our waste agricultural production in the city waste is generated from washing,
stream comes from waste generated generates organic waste resulting packaging, and preparing foods. Dis-
by the food system.216 At each phase from planting, trimming, weeding, tribution of food requires additional
in the food system, there are different and other growing activities. In addi- packaging and produces waste as
types of by-products that enter the tion, there are ancillary by-products some food perishes before reaching
its destination. Even after reaching
Source: NYC Dept. of Sanitation
consumers, as much as 27 percent of
food is discarded before consump-
Annual Waste Export Costs in New York City
tion.217 As consumers, we also gener-
ate waste in the form of discarded
food scraps and packaging.

The consequences of the waste we

generate from food consumption are
not limited to the city’s budget – they
also impact our health and environ-
Millions of Dollars

ment. Waste disposal practices,

particularly involving food waste, cause
significant impacts on greenhouse gas
(GHG) emissions and therefore climate
change, and truck traffic associated
with waste hauling negatively impacts
air quality in certain neighborhoods.
Despite the significant effort put to-
wards recycling, roughly 84 percent of
our residential waste is sent to landfills

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

Post Consumption
Source: NYC Dept. of Sanitation. Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling

making by private sector producers

Composition of Residential Waste in New York City 2004-2005
and distributors, and encouraging
Composition of residential Waste in New York City 2004 - 2005
better consumer choice. Our main
Textiles and Carpets, 7.0%
Organic, Compostable, strategy for reducing food system
Electronic Waste, 0.7% Non-Recyclable Paper, 7.2%
waste upstream will be to improve
Household Hazadous Waste, 0.3%

Construction Debris, 6.3%

Organic Yard Trimmings, 5.2%
the environmental impact associat-
ed with agencies’ and institutions’
food procurement.

Other Materials, 15.1%
Food Scraps, 21.4% Improve the net environmental
impact associated with food
procured by city agencies and

Just as the city has immense power

Other Plastic, 13.4%
to affect the regional food system
through its purchasing policies, it
Recyclable Beverage Cartons, Recyclable Paper & Cardboard, can, through various policy changes,
0.4% 15.0%
significantly reduce the waste stream.
Recyclable Plastic Bottles, 1.5% Recyclable Glass Containers,
Recyclable Metal, 4.1% 2.4% The city procures significant amounts
of food and beverages for meal
programs, vending machines, events,
and other venues. Over the past 20
or incineration facilities.218 Much of this This fact demonstrates that the years, the city has made significant
waste is comprised of organic material, composition of the waste stream is strides toward diverting recyclable
such as food scraps, that break down not dictated solely by our individual materials in the waste stream. To fur-
and produce methane.219 Methane is consumption patterns, but also by ther these efforts, the city should also 69
23 times more potent than CO2 and the decisions made by product and reduce its impact upstream by reduc-
methane specifically resulting from packaging manufacturers in the pri- ing its use of packaging overall, while
landfills represents 1.8 percent of vate sector. Our plan below there- also transitioning away from materials
GHG emissions nationally.220 Similarly, fore includes a series of proposals to like polystyrene foam that cannot be
municipal solid waste comprises 3.8 of change institutional, private sector, easily recycled and toward recyclable
New York’s statewide GHG emissions, and individual practices to decrease and reusable materials.
which is second only to fuel consump- waste throughout the food system
tion as a single-source of emissions.221 and increase recapture of the sys- Proposals:
tem’s by-products as a resource.
The decisions institutions and con- • Reduce packaging on food
sumers make about what we buy can procured by city agencies.
have a great effect on these trends GOAl 11
over time. Over the 20 years since The City Council will be introducing
New York City began its recycling Decrease waste through- legislation requiring the Mayor to es-
program, our diversion of recyclable out the food system. tablish guidelines for city agencies to
materials has increased measur- reduce packaging for the food they
ably.222 But despite the success of To reduce the costs and environ- procure. The guidelines will outline
our residential recycling program mental impacts of handling food preferred methods businesses may
during that time, the composition of system waste, we must decrease use to package their products. Com-
the city’s waste stream has changed. the amount of waste we generate panies will be encouraged to follow
A comparison of the waste stream upstream. By making choices about these guidelines, and those that con-
from 1990 to 2004 reveals that we what we purchase, how we use it, sistently comply will be recognized.
discard more plastics, particularly and what we discard, we can begin The City Council will also introduce
those that that are not currently to decrease the volume and weight a resolution calling on the state to
recyclable in the City, while materials of our waste. However, doing so authorize us to regulate the amount
like glass and metal, which are more will require changes to our govern- and type of material used to package
easily recycled, have decreased.223 ment purchases, better decision- goods that the city purchases.

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

Post Consumption
• Identify alternatives to polysty- the New York City Department of Edu- tion of polystyrene trays. They tend to
rene foam in city food programs. cation’s (DOE) school lunch program, be less expensive than available alterna-
which serves meals on polystyrene trays. tives and the paper products used for
Reducing the city’s impact on the waste Each day, the school meal program uses Trayless Tuesdays are not conducive to
stream will also require gradual elimina- 830,000 of these polystyrene trays.226 As serving different types of foods. Working
tion of non-recyclable materials. One one parent organization contends, if you with the DOE and the Pratt Institute for
material that is very difficult to recycle stack all of these trays they would be Design, the City Council will launch a de-
is polystyrene foam, also known as 8 times the height of the Empire State sign challenge for students nationally to
Styrofoam.224 This foam material is light- Building.227 The DOE has taken steps to create an alternative to the DOE’s poly-
weight, but still contributes approximate- eliminate these trays one day per week, styrene trays. The challenge will include
ly 16,500 tons of waste to the city’s waste on “Trayless Tuesdays,” instead using a material, design, and cost parameters to
stream annually.225 Currently, the city is paper-based product. There are several encourage viable alternatives.
a large consumer of polystyrene due to challenges that prevent broader elimina-
• Discourage bottled water

Over the past decade, consumption of

bottled water nationally has increased
ten-fold from 3 billion bottles annually
in 1997 to 31 billion as of just a few
years ago.228 Even though many plastic
water bottles are recyclable, significant
resources are needed to manufacture,
transport and dispose of or recycle
those plastic bottles. By switching
from disposable single-use bottles to
reusable drinking containers, consum-
70 ers can significantly decrease our solid
waste stream. In an effort to lead by
example, the City Council stopped
purchasing bottled water for its central
offices and events in 2008. To further
discourage unnecessary reliance on
single-use bottled water consumption,
the City Council has passed new legis-
lation to change a section of the city’s
Building Code requiring building own-
ers to provide potable water. The new
law also discourages the reliance on
bottled water by eliminating bottled
water as a permissible option to satisfy
the water availability requirements.
Additionally, the legislation requires
new water fountains installed as part
of this requirement to be designed
to allow for the use of reusable water
containers. Since the city operates and
maintains water fountains in parks and
Collage Illustration by Omany Luna

other outdoor public areas, we should

encourage the installation of similarly
designed drinking fountains at city
water fountains. Together, these new
policies will encourage broader transi-
tion from consuming bottled water to
reusable water bottles.

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

Post Consumption
Source: Photo Credit: Mandi Nadel

GOAl 12
Increase resource recap-
ture in the food system.
Much of our food system can now
be categorized as an open system,
with byproducts at each phase being
diverted to various waste streams.
Our goal is to close this system where
possible and treat these byproducts as STrATEGY: are working to increase composting.
resources to be reinvested. Packaging, Increase residential, The following initiatives intend to build
whether plastic, paper, glass, or metal, commercial, and governmental on and support those efforts.
used in the processing and transport composting.
of food can be recycled and reused as • Establish a voluntary
other materials. Additionally, organic The city currently disposes of approxi- household composting program.
scraps from growing, manufacturing, mately 3.3 million tons of residential
household cooking, and institutional waste per year, 21 percent of which is Through grassroots efforts, a few farm-
kitchens, can be recaptured for com- food scraps.229 This represents a larger ers markets in the city accept compost
posting and reused as inputs into the portion of the overall waste stream than hand-delivered by residents who source
production of food. The advent of new all designated recyclable metals, glass, separate at home. The largest of these
technologies is helping to close this and plastics and non-recyclable plastics programs occurs at the Union Square
system nationally, and we must con- combined.230 Additionally, the com- Farmers Market with the assistance of the
tinue to explore their adoption here. mercial waste stream is an estimated Lower East Side Ecology Center. This
The strategies listed outline our plan 3.2 million tons each year, 18 percent program accepts approximately 12,000
to increase resource capture by ex- of which is food waste.231 Currently, pounds each week, or 312 tons each
panding composting, ensuring that very little of this organic matter is col- year. While an admirable program, this 71
more of the materials we consume lected for composting, although some represents only approximately .04 percent
are recyclable, and recycling as much not-for-profit organizations, individual of all residential compostable materials.
of these materials as possible. households, and commercial carters Due to the popularity of this program,
the City Council will be expanding it in
partnership with Green Markets to three
Compostable and Compostable
Non-Compostable Fractions of NYC'sPortion
and Non-Compostable Residential Waste additional farmers markets throughout
of NYC's Waste Stream the city. In the first year, the program
will increase household composting by
225 tons. While still a small portion of
the potential waste stream, the program
capitalizes on the support for composting
Compostable (e.g. food, in the city and, where possible, immedi-
tissues, napkins, waxed
paper, soiled paper ately begins to implement new programs.
napkins, cups, yard By recapturing these source-separated
organic materials, we are also diverting
this byproduct from consumers into a
stream to use the materials as a resource
for growing food.

• Explore citywide composting of

food waste.

In addition to the household com-

Recyclable (e.g. cartons,
bottles, cans, metal, foil, posting program, the City Council will
paper, cardboard) continue to explore future policies to
encourage composting of organic waste
throughout the food system. This year,
Source: NYC Dept. of Sanitation. Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

Post Consumption
the City Council passed Local Law 42, food system. Additionally, because New • Increase citywide recycling of
requiring the city to conduct a study of Yorkers rely on the over 20,000 restau- food-related packaging.
various options for increasing residential, rants in our city for many of our meals,
commercial, and governmental com- the commercial waste stream is consid- Since the City Council enacted Local Law
posting. These include exploring the erable. In particular, restaurants produce 19 in 1989 to launch a comprehensive
viability of curbside organic waste collec- kitchen grease that can be transformed curbside recycling program, our recycling
tion, development of new composting into biofuel rather than being discarded rate increased from 1 percent to 20 percent
facilities within the city, and utilization – another way to close the food system in 2000.232 This remarkable increase over
of local transfer stations to consolidate loop and improve sustainability. The time illustrated the impact government
source-separated organics for delivery to following proposals outline our strategy policies can have on residents and our
composting facilities outside of the city. for encouraging more recycling of food citywide environmental impact. Unfortu-
Additionally, the city is exploring new waste in the city. nately, the city temporarily suspended the
technologies to transform our waste into recycling program for budgetary reasons
compostable materials while capturing • Encourage restaurant grease in 2002 and since its reinstatement, our
and reusing the energy from that pro- recycling. diversion rate has climbed back to just over
cess. Two particular technologies under 16 percent.233
consideration are anaerobic digestion New York City’s restaurants and other
and thermal processing. Anaerobic commercial kitchens produce used To encourage an even greater recycling
digestion breaks down municipal solid grease and oil, which by law, they are rate, the City Council recently passed leg-
waste to remove inorganic components. prohibited from disposing of through islation to amend Local Law 19. Although
Recyclable materials can be recovered, the city’s sewer system. Instead, res- not specifically focused on food waste, this
while organic materials are converted taurants and commercial kitchens have new legislation has several key approaches
either to gas that can then be used to historically been encouraged either to to increasing recycling that will positively
generate electricity or to a solid product dispose of waste oil and grease with impact waste associated with the food
that can be used as fertilizer. Although their regular solid waste or through system. It will require the New York City
some inorganic materials are still sent waste oil reprocessing to make feed- Department of Sanitation to recycle all
to landfill, the volume is significantly stock for materials such as soaps. Today, rigid plastics, such as yogurt containers and
72 reduced and much of the byproduct is thanks to developments in reprocessing, take-out food containers, once a new facil-
converted to a new resource. In thermal much of this used cooking grease can ity opens in 2012. This component alone
processing, organic components of be transformed into a biofuel to heat will divert 8,000 tons of plastics every year
municipal solid waste are also converted buildings or run vehicles. Restaurants from landfills and incinerators. The legisla-
to gas that can be used to generate are now partnering with organizations tion also requires an additional 300 public
electricity. Other materials may also be like Ready, Willing, and Able to pick recycling bins be placed in public places
produced, such as reusable mixed met- up the grease and transform it into over the next three years and that an
als, industrial salts and chemicals that can biofuel. Already one plant is opening in additional 700 public bins be sited within
then be sold or recycled. the city to process this grease, creating the next 10 years. These changes, along
jobs within the five boroughs. The City with programmatic improvements to
STrATEGY: Council also recently passed legislation agencies’ recycling efforts, public outreach
Increase recycling of waste that requires heating oil sold in the city and education, and additional research
related to food processing and to contain at least two percent bio- on our citywide recycling performance will
packaging. fuel, which will broaden the market for significantly recapture materials from the
recycled restaurant grease. food system waste stream.
Much of the energy flow increases in the
Photo Credit: Shira Golding

U.S. over the past several years are due

to changes in our food system. These
changes have included an increase in
the meals we eat outside the home and
a greater reliance on packaged conve-
nience foods. This produces waste in
the form of added food packaging from
items like pre-packed salad mixes and
pre-cut fruit. To address this waste, recy-
cling of food related packaging such as
plastic boxes, paper cartons, and cans
will be a vital strategy for improving our

FoodWorks • A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System

Next Steps
Next Steps


FoodWorks is the result of over a year of research and
ESTABLISHING A FOOD POLICY COUNCIL more than 100 meetings with New Yorkers involved
in every phase of the food system: gardeners, chefs,
In designing this blueprint, we consulted with small business owners, researchers and academic ex-
experts and stakeholders from around the city. In perts, not-for-profits, emergency food providers, and
the same way, implementing these new ideas and manufacturers, as well as officials at every level of gov-
policies will require input beyond that of govern- ernment. We also conducted surveys and reviewed
ment officials. Cities throughout the U.S. have studies from across the country and around the world.
adopted Food Policy Councils to track their prog-
ress toward achieving food system goals. These The 59 proposals in our report outline a strategy for a
councils provide valuable insight and accountability. healthier, greener, and more productive food system. It
They also give a voice to the constituencies af- contains ideas that the City Council can begin imple-
fected by the very food system issues we intend to menting immediately, and ideas that will require a com-
address. The Mayor’s Office has already created a mitment from our state and federal colleagues. Some
Food Policy Coordinator and inter-agency task force will help us create new jobs and keep more of our food
at the request of the City Council. It should also dollars in the local economy. Some will improve public
be noted that as the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term health in the five boroughs or help keep our air, water
Planning and Sustainability drafts its update to the and soil from becoming polluted. Others will strength-
PlaNYC report, it has taken heed of our and others’ en our city’s infrastructure for decades to come.
calls to include food in its new proposals. However,
community and industry input has been noticeably We’ll use government resources in smarter ways and
absent from previous food policy efforts by the help more families take advantage of existing pro-
city. The City Council therefore calls on the Mayor grams. We’ll empower farmers and business owners
70 to create a New York City Food Policy Council. This to drive economic activity in sustainable ways. We’ll 75
Council will elicit non-governmental input on policy give communities better options and depend on
changes and institutionalize the work embodied in them to make good choices. We’ll respond to the
this report. needs of New Yorkers today while planning for the
city of tomorrow.

REPORTING ON CITY FOOD SYSTEM DATA Our report identifies initiatives and best practices with
The more we explored our food system for this real potential to strengthen our food system at this
report, the more gaps we discovered in basic data moment in our city’s history. But this report is far from
about food the city buys and serves and the im- the final word on food system development in the
pacts of various food-related programs. Until we city. Rather, it is the beginning of a conversation with
have more comprehensive information about our New Yorkers. The story of our food system is a story of
food system, our attempts to improve it can only change, and like any blueprint, FoodWorks must con-
be partial solutions. Therefore, the City Council tinue to evolve and incorporate new ideas and realities.
will introduce legislation that will allow us to better
understand the current state of our food system, Changing any large-scale system takes time and
monitor changes, and provide a foundation for fu- commitment. The effects of these efforts will not be
ture work. This reporting bill will establish metrics at felt overnight. But we can no longer afford to ignore
each phase of the food system to determine where growing problems with our food system. We must
city purchased food comes from, whether our local seize opportunities to build a system that truly serves
processors are benefiting from city programs, the our changing needs – just as generations of New York-
reach and quality of our agency meal programs, our ers and Americans have done so many times before.
progress toward eliminating hunger, and the envi-
ronmental sustainability of our Hunts Point markets. We already have the tools in place; now we have a
By passing this legislation, we will be better able plan. All we need is the will to see these changes
to measure the effectiveness of current efforts and through, to make smart decisions, and to leave a
target future initiatives. system that is stronger, healthier, and more sustainable
for future generations.

A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System • FoodWorks

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