City Farms Markets Shape City Policy

Just Food celebrates the April release of two major policy documents by the Mayor and Manhattan Borough President on the achievements and challenges of New York City’s community-run farmers markets. Currently half of NYC’s approximately 120 farmers markets are run by independent operators, including community-based organizations and volunteers. 18 of these are City Farms Markets, a network of community-run markets coordinated by Just Food that grows and sells urban produce and brings regional farm-fresh produce to underserved communities throughout NYC. Just Food worked with both offices to provide a long-overdue spotlight on the issues these markets continue to face and to lift barriers to communities needing greater access to fresh, healthy food.

In April, Mayor Bloomberg’s office released an update to PlaNYC 2030, the 2007 sustainability plan initially criticized by food systems advocates because it omitted the role of food production, processing, distribution, and disposal. The update, however, incorporates a number of policy recommendations championed by Just Food and its community partners, including a commitment to work with Just Food’s City Farms Program to establish 5 additional markets at community garden sites. The updated plan also provides a commitment to increase support for urban food production.

Just Food and the City Farms Market Managers also played an important role in shaping a report issued by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer last month. According to the report, Red Tape, Green Vegetables, “Community-based farmers markets are created by community members to address the lack of healthy and affordable food at the neighborhood-level….these markets represent a critical pipeline for bringing fresh fruit and vegetables into some of the City’s most under-served neighborhoods.”  At the same time that it recognizes community-run markets as a vital resource for New York City to combat its rising epidemic of diet-related diseases, the report highlights the exorbitant costs and bureaucratic challenges that stymie the growth of these markets.

“At a time when the City faces a food and health crisis—with more than three million people obese or overweight and 700,000 suffering from diabetes—we simply can’t afford to put obstacles in the way of markets that bring healthy food to New Yorkers who need it the most, in communities that are not well-served by large grocery stores,” said Scott Stringer.

“These policy papers show that our efforts to coordinate City Farms Market programming with policy and advocacy initiatives are already having an impact,” said Just Food’s Executive Director, Jacquie Berger. “That’s good news, because as delighted as we are that these grassroots projects are getting the attention they deserve, now comes the real push to make sure these recommendations are adopted and promises are kept to ensure real changes in the food access landscape of New York City.”