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Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Food and Farm Bill: Why New York City Cares

For organizations, clergy, and chefs: please consider signing on to the NYC Food and Farm Bill Principles and Why We Care document! Go to

We will have a sign-on opportunity for individuals shortly.

Text versions of the two above PDFs are below, followed by a black and white version of the PDFs:

Why New York City Cares

The Food and Farm Bill is the single greatest influence on what we eat. It determines how billions are spent shaping our food system, from producer to consumer. We, in New York City (NYC), have an enormous stake in the Food and Farm Bill. Eight million of us spend $30 billion annually on food.[i]
Yet, hunger persists in NYC. An all-time high of 1.84 million NYC residents rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as Food Stamps, and 1.4 million of us rely on emergency food.[ii] One in six of us, including more than 400,000 of our children live in households facing food insecurity.[iii]Many of us find unhealthy food far more accessible than healthy food. The nutrition safety net does not meet the needs of our hungry neighbors.
Past Food and Farm Bills inadequately promote healthy food choices, like fruits and vegetables. America needs 13 million more acres in fruit and vegetable production for each of us to meet USDA healthful dietary guidelines.[iv] Yet, the Food and Farm Bill provides incentives for the production of processed foods that are high in added sugars (from federally subsidized corn) and added fats (from federally subsidized soy). The least healthful calories in the supermarket are the cheapest, in part, because of federal financing.
Past bills perpetuate the paradox of chronic hunger and widespread overweight and obesity. Overweight and obesity are significant risk factors for adult diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions. Nearly 25 percent of our children and 67 percent of our adults are overweight or obese.[v] In New York State, $6.1 billion is spent annually fighting diet-related diseases.[vi]
Food is also connected to the health of our environment and our economy. Our current food system is unsustainable. It accounts for about 20 percent of our national energy consumption and relies heavily on inputs including chemicals, fossil fuels, and a staggering amount of water.[vii]Unchecked, such practices can degrade our natural resources, eroding our soil and polluting our air and water.
While we are dependent on national and international food production, the relationship between NYC and our regional food shed, particularly in New York State, is significant. New York State is home to more than 36,000 farms - most of which are small, family farms ranging from one to 99-acres - that generate $5 billion in annual revenue.[viii] However, this valuable resource is threatened as we lose farmland to development, especially near cities, and it is difficult to find new farmers to replace retiring farmers.
A relatively small number of corporations increasingly control food production, availability, and cost. Unsound public policies have resulted in corporate consolidation of the food chain, making it increasingly difficult for small and mid-sized farms to continue operation.
Our federal policies put national food sovereignty at risk: we are losing farmland and our farmers are fewer and older; our system of production and distribution is unsustainable; our fruits and vegetables are grown on land in danger of development; and we import almost as many agricultural products as we export, all this while our population is growing. Not only is our own food sovereignty at risk, our policies risk the food sovereignty of other nations. Around the world, particularly in the global south, family farmers and local food self-sufficiency are disappearing, in part, because of their inability to compete with our subsidized commodity crops.
With the 2012 Food and Farm Bill, there is an opportunity to re-evaluate our farm and food policies, maintaining the most beneficial and, when it makes good sense, changing others. As a matter of social justice and our core values, a decided majority of Americans believe that we must provide an equitable food safety net.[ix] Despite this, our food safety net is unraveling. While we consider the role of our federal government, including its relationship to our farms and our food, we must determine what in the Food and Farm Bill can best serve the common good.
To these ends, the New York City Food and Farm Bill Working Group has developed five Principles that we hold must be embodied in our nation’s next Food and Farm Bill: A Health-Focused Food System; An End to Hunger and Access to Healthy Food; A Level “Plowing” Field; Good Environmental Stewardship; and Vibrant Regional Farm and Food Economies.

[i] Chittenden, Jessica. “ Survey Says Wholesale Market Good for Farmers, Consumers.” Department of Agriculture& Markets News. Feb. 9. 2005. <>
[ii] New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. “Temporary and Disability Assistance Statistic. Table 16. July 2011. <>
[iii] New York City Coalition Against Hunger. “NYC Hunger Catastrophe Avoided (For Now).” November 2009. <>
[iv] American Farmland Trust. “American Farmland Trust Says—The United States Needs 13 Million More Acres of Fruits and Vegetables to Meet the RDA”. 2010. <>
[v] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overweight and Obesity/New York. <>
[vi] New York State Department of Health. “Prevention of Childhood Overweight and Obesity - Activ8Kids!”. Request for Applications Number 0601261256:4. 2006. <>
[vii] Center for Sustainable Systems: University of Michigan. “Life Cycle-Based Sustainability Indicators for Assessment of the U.S. Food System”. Report No. CSS00-04. December 2006 <>
[viii] United States Department of Agriculture. Agriculture in the Classroom, “A Look at New York Agriculture”. July 2010 <>
[ix] Food Research and Action Center. "FRAC Releases New Polling Data Showing Overwhelming Support for Federal Efforts to End Hunger." Press Release. December 2010. <>

New York CityFOOD and FARM BILL Principles

1 A Health-Focused Food System

Obesity and diet-related diseases have reached epidemic proportions. A food system that focuses on increasing the production and distribution of healthy foods - including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains - for consumption in our communities, homes, schools, and institutions will support the health and well being of us all.

2 An End to Hunger and Access to Healthy Food

While hunger is a large and growing problem in our communities, our food system also contributes to a national obesity epidemic. In accord with our core American values and our principles of social justice, we must provide food security for all, including our most vulnerable, the disadvantaged, the young, and the aged. Ending food insecurity and hunger by protecting our nation’s nutrition programs and ensuring equitable access to healthful, sustainably produced food is of paramount importance. Also of great importance are consumers’ abilities to make informed, healthy food choices and to access healthy food.

3 A Level “Plowing” Field

The face of farming in our nation is changing. Small- and mid-scale family farms are increasingly struggling against anti-competitive practices, industry consolidation, and subsidies that tilt the playing field. Meanwhile, extensive outbreaks of food-borne illnesses are becoming increasingly common. While the productive capacity of large-scale agriculture is considerable, so is its capacity to negatively impact our health, our environment, and the diversity and competitiveness of agricultural enterprise. Conservation, risk management, access to credit, and food safety programs often are calibrated to the scales of “production” agriculture. Restoring competition, promoting fairness, encouraging decentralization, and developing scale-appropriate programs will contribute to the future vitality of small- and mid–scale regional, rural, and urban farm and food enterprises.

4 GoodEnvironmental Stewardship

Our present agricultural system, which relies heavily on chemicals, fossil fuels, and a staggering amount of water, is damaging our environment and our ability to feed ourselves in the future. Conservation priorities must align with our best interests. To ensure a secure food system today and well into the future, we must preserve our vital agricultural soil and water resources, reduce farm and other food-system energy consumption, and practice sustainable agricultural production methods that minimize air and water pollution.

5 Vibrant Regional Farm and Food Economies

High unemployment and a sluggish economy compound challenges facing those who labor in the food system, including small- and mid-scale farmers. Opportunities that create fair wage jobs are key to a strong economy. We must look to innovative methods to strengthen our regional food systems as a means to regain economic vitality. We must provide entrepreneurial opportunities and foster business growth and job creation in rural and urban production, processing, and distribution. Farm and food strategies must support beginning and disadvantaged urban and rural farmers, as well as established farmers facing the challenges of feeding America. By doing so, we will increase the amount of regionally produced, healthy food that is available in our communities while we strengthen our economy.

 Food and Farm Bill - Why NYC Cares & NYC Principles_B&W.pdf

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