Skip to content
Know Your Rights
Source: RaceWire
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Edible equity

New York City Council is considering a resolution to promote environmental and
social justice in the city’s food system through a “foodprint” initiative. The
goal is to “encourage the maximum local food production, maximum sustainability
and to involve the citizenry in the process,” said Council Member Bill de
Blasio on the local WBAI news.

The idea stems from
a report, “Food in the Public Interest,” issued earlier this year by the
Manhattan Borough President’s office. While environmentalists have been
discussing the concept of a community’s “food print” for a while now, New York City may be among
the first municipalities in the country to try to implement a coherent food
policy that tackles climate change, economic development and public health
together. It’s far from a done deal, but the recommendations of the report
center on key themes of local self-reliance, racial equity and food justice:

Urban agriculture:

A food policy that
harnesses regional agriculture for urban consumption and encourages local
farming would address three of the most pressing challenges facing the city and
the nation – the environment, public health, and the economy.

• The environment:
Common commercial farm practices, such as using chemicals and raising large
numbers of livestock in confined spaces, can contribute to air pollution.
Further, food that travels extraordinarily long distances from farm to plate
requires more fuel, storage and refrigeration, all of which consume energy.

• Public health:
Locally grown and distributed food is likely to be fresher, more nutritious,
less subject to intensive pesticide use, and less processed….

The city and state
must work together to promote greater urban and regional food production. …In
addition to creating necessary manufacturing and distribution infrastructure,
this means supporting urban farms, community
greenhouses, and backyard and rooftop gardens.

Equitable food
distribution in marginalized communities:

Many residents in
low-income neighborhoods are suffering from diet-related illnesses. In
response, community leaders and health advocates have demanded that fresh
produce be available throughout the city, either through traditional outlets
like grocery stores and bodegas or new models such as green carts.

workers’ rights and food justice:

…there is a
shortage of healthy food outlets in low-income communities and communities of
color. Some three million New Yorkers are caught in ‘food deserts’ – areas with
limited access to fresh produce….

The benefits of
healthy food outlets should prompt government intervention, and like most
market failures, there must be ways to correct these problems in order to
ensure that healthy food is available in every neighborhood. At the least, food
outlets funded by the government, must accept food stamps and WIC….

Many of the
policies needed to strengthen the local food economy require government
investment and regulation. To maximize government subsidies, private companies
must consult with and be held accountable to the local community…. In
addition, community benefits agreements should be required for new food retail
developments of a certain size, to address the need for living wage jobs,
benefits, and local hiring practices.

grassroots initiatives are already working to encourage local food
sustainability. The city is dotted with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
programs, which create partnerships between responsible farmers and
neighborhoods, ensuring a steady supply of quality food and stable business for

**Bushwick CSA, community members
pool money on a sliding scale to purchase food from the farm of Sergio Nolasco.
With roots in Puebla and Queens, the father of
four graduated from a local program to help immigrants start-up small farms,
and he brings his family’s long farming tradition to Latino communities in the
Bronx and Brooklyn.

sustainable urban food system may sound radical, but the basic idea is pretty
simple: you are what you eat.

**Make the Road New York (MRNY) founded the
Bushwick CSA in 2008.