NYC Enacts New Local Food Laws

While the latest poll numbers show popular support for Mayor Mike Bloomberg cooling off, the Mayor took action today on one the hottest issues in New York City – local food.

Earlier today at City Hall, Bloomberg signed a package of laws that will help increase the amount of fresh, local food available in the city.

This package of legislation is a key component of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's highly praised "FoodWorks" plan, which is designed to significantly overhaul our regional food system.

One bill requires the city to collect and publish "metrics" on how food is produced, processed, distributed, and consumed in the region. These metrics include everything from counting the number of restaurants in the city, to tracking the number of vendors at greenmarkets, to recording how much food is transported by truck or by rail. Having this baseline information can help officials make better decisions about how we get our food and how to improve its impact on public health and the environment.

Another bill calls for the creation of procurement guidelines to encourage city agencies to buy food grown or processed in New York State. (Without a change of state procurement law, which the City Council is also calling for in an official Resolution, NYC is currently hindered in encouraging the purchase of food from farmers in neighboring states.)

Two other bills in the package promote urban agriculture and rooftop farming. By helping urban farming to flourish, New York may someday serve as a model for the benefits of truly sustainable, local agriculture.

I had the opportunity to testify on these food bills this past Spring, and now that they've passed, the sentiment is the same: New York has enormous potential to become a national leader in providing sustainable, local food, and these bills are a good first step in reforming our food system.  At the same time, as we testified, ultimately the city will need to put in place concrete purchasing targets for buying regional food and define what constitutes "sustainable" food (just because it is local doesn't necessarily mean it is healthy or better for the environment).

Today, Speaker Quinn, the Council, and the Mayor set in motion a long-overdue effort to improve our food system. As one of the largest food buyers in the nation - and second only to the U.S. military in meals served every day – the City has an incredible opportunity to leverage its purchasing to boost access to healthy food, preserve the state's disappearing farmland, and create much needed regional jobs.

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