The NYC Food Charter – a City-wide Food Sustainability Plan

Goodlifer: The NYC Food Charter - a City-wide Food Sustainability Plan

Problems associated with obesity have reached epidemic proportions in the United States, and at such an alarming pace that the Surgeon General has urged communities to address the problems through a formal ‘call to action.’ The centralization of the food system has contributed to the lack of food security and access in regions such as New York (and New England at large), that were traditionally self-sustaining producers of food.

The view is killer, but the produce healthy and organic. Rooftop Farms at Eagle Street in Greenpoint set out to prove that it is possible to grow food in New York City.

The view is killer, but the produce healthy and organic. Rooftop Farms at Eagle Street in Greenpoint set out to prove that it is possible to grow food in New York City.

New York City is outpacing the nation in obesity and its related health issues. Both obesity and diabetes rates rose by 17% between 2002 and 2004 among city residents. It is estimated that New Yorkers gained more than 10 million pounds collectively during this same period. A rise in the risk of heart disease, hypertension, depression, type II diabetes, among other health problems, often accompanies a rise in obesity. Residents of low-income neighborhoods and Black and Latino adults are disproportionately affected, thus overburdened by the related health, social, and economic problems.

The New York Botanical Garden's Edible Garden exhibit this past summer showed many different ways that edible plants can be grown on every scale. Here, Martha Stewart's herb garden.

The New York Botanical Garden’s Edible Garden exhibit this past summer showed many different ways that edible plants can be grown on every scale. Here, Martha Stewart’s herb garden.

My own Edible Garden-inspired windowbox garden.

My own Edible Garden-inspired windowbox garden.

The causes for this trend are generally oversimplified, often described as the result of changing lifestyles or overeating. The scope of the problem, however, is much more complicated. Highly processed, fatty, and sugary foods are easily accessible, both by proximity and price, whereas fresh produce is not. This is particularly true in many low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. The Department of City Planning recently found that three-quarters of a million New Yorkers live in areas sometimes referred to as Food Deserts because of their lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Many of these same neighborhoods have an overabundance of fast food options: one in six restaurants in East and Central Harlem serves fast food compared to one in 25 on the more affluent Upper East Side. These unhealthy options often cost less calorie-to-calorie, but the true cost once health problems are figured in far exceed that of healthy food. It is a vicious circle, but public health advocates believe the trend may be reversed through increased availability of healthy food, nutrition education, physical exercise, and healthcare.

The Queens County Farm Museum's history dates back to 1697; it occupies New York City's largest remaining tract of undisturbed farmland and is the only working historical farm in the City.

The Queens County Farm Museum’s history dates back to 1697; it occupies New York City’s largest remaining tract of undisturbed farmland and is the only working historical farm in the City.

Traditionally, food policy has largely been determined by decision-makers in the federal government and private sector. Yet, the food system – the continuum of activities ranging from production, processing, distribution, consumption, and disposal – is in the middle of an attempt at decentralizing. Local government  leadership is needed in order to create a paradigm shift that will empowering each and every city.

The Fort Greene farmers market caters to a wide variety of socioeconomic groups and, like most other farmers markets now, accepts food stamps.

The Fort Greene farmers market caters to a wide variety of socioeconomic groups and, like most other NYC farmers markets, accepts food stamps.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s Office released the New York City Food Pledge and Food Charter and signing campaign on Friday, December 4th, coinciding with the NYC Food and Climate Change Summit. Over the past year, a committee of food advocates from around the City has worked closely with the Borough President’s Food Policy team to draft a framework for this City-wide food sustainability plan. The Charter addresses food access, health, economic and environmental issues, and defines the values and principles from which the City government and individual City Agencies can draft their long-term food sustainability plans. Read the NYC Food Charter (PDF download), sign the NYC Food Pledge, and ask your friends and family to do the same.

I hope this will turn into a movement, encouraging other cities to draft their own food charters and encouraging the creation of local food sheds. New Your City is a great place to start; the city schools feed more people than any other school system in the nation, and the city is also know for it’s abundance of restaurants. There is also a budding urban farming movement, the growth of which will enable New Yorkers to eat food that was grown right in our midst.

Top photo: You can choose to pay the farmer and buy healthy food, or but cheap food and pay the guy across the street (the pharmacy). The second option is always more expensive, any way you look at it. We need to design our food system to reflect that.

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
Submit your comment

Please enter your name

Your name is required

Please enter a valid email address

An email address is required

Please enter your message

About

What constitutes the good life? It’s a question we’ve asked ourselves since the dawn of time and something we all strive for. To us, the good life is not a destination but a journey. We want to see more positivity in the world. Thinking happy thoughts makes for happy people, and happy people are more productive, innovative and at peace with the world. We believe in the transformative power of good news.

Goodlifer © 2020 All Rights Reserved

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress