The Boston Green Awards will now include the Sustainable Food Leadership Award, which will honor local businesses that demonstrate an extraordinary effort to provide Boston residents and visitors the “freshest, local food in the most sustainable manner.” The Boston Green Awards recognize residents and businesses for exemplary sustainability practices. Nominations for the 2011 awards close in March.
The addition of the Sustainable Food Leadership Award reflects the growth of Boston’s sustainable food movement. Between 2004 and 2010, the number of farmers markets in the city more than doubled from 13 to 28. Additionally, Mayor Menino’s Bounty Bucks Program allows Boston residents participating in the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to use their EBT card at participating farmers markets, and receive a 50% discount for the first $20 in goods they purchase. Last summer, Mayor Menino also officially unveiled an organic chicken farm located on Long Island in Boston Harbor. For more information about all of Boston’s food initiatives visit the Food section on the City of Boston website.
Like Boston, New York City is working to develop a more sustainable food system to reduce the system’s impacts on the environment. In November 2010, NYC Councilwoman Christine Quinn announced the creation of FoodWorks, a program designed to bolster upstate New York farms, increase local food production, reduce dietary diseases like obesity, and promote a greener food system. Councilwoman Quinn explained that FoodWorks will not only improve NYC’s food system, but also put New Yorkers to work.
The FoodWorks blueprint is a “ground to garbage approach,” which includes 59 proposals relating to food production, processing, distribution, consumption, and post consumption. Proposals include expanding farmers markets for small farmers (Union Sqaure GreenMarket seen right), building a permanent space for a wholesale farmers market for medium and large local farmers, and ensuring urban farms are counted in the census to gain more federal resources. Also, the NYC Council will work to identify city-owned buildings for roof gardens and institute guidelines requiring city agencies to purchase food from local producers. To improve the city’s food processing and distribution, recommendations include helping food manufacturers gain access to energy efficiency programs and also creating a wash, cut, and bag facility to process local produce to be used by the NYC Department of Education. Finally, to further reduce environmental damage from the food system, the city will promote residential and commercial composting, and try to increase the use of rail to transport food within the city. The next steps for FoodWorks will be to establish a NYC Food Council to track progress and elicit nongovernmental input.
While we applaud these efforts to support local farmers, the movement has a tough row to hoe. In a recent American Prospect article “Slowed Food Revolution”, Heather Rogers identifies hurdles facing organic farmers including higher production costs, higher retail prices, and a smaller infrastructure to process and sell their products. Also, with government agricultural subsidies, loans, and research funding going largely to conventional farming, non-conventional farmers must climb an even steeper hill to gain market share and compete. Under the Obama Administration, small steps are being made to support organic farmers. Rogers reports that the USDA is reforming the National Organic Program to end corruption and is also providing the program more funding. Time will tell if the sustainable food movement reaches the wider masses.