Food Forward NYC: A 10-Year Policy Plan

The Lempert Report
March 29, 2021

New York City has released a comprehensive and groundbreaking food policy document

Food Forward NYC is a sweeping overhaul of goals, strategies and operational considerations to ensure that New York City has an equitable, sustainable and healthy food system.  Kate Mackenzie, NYC’s Director of Food Policy, who was tasked with coordinating efforts from over 300 organizations and agencies, the Food Forward plan acknowledges the complexity and enormous scope of New York City’s food system. The city has over 500,000 food sector employees and 40,000 food businesses. And that does not include the hundreds of dairy, meat and produce operations just outside the city’s boarders. Here’s why this is important: nineteen billion pounds of food enters the city annually.

New York City’s food system has no central hub or authority governing the supply, quality and availability of food, although there is already significant regulation around permitting, zoning, and other oversight areas. The city is a major distributor of food, such as where I got my start selling ham and cheese in the Hunts Point Terminal Market. It’s also important to note that there are supply chains developed by ethnic food purveyors including Chinese, Caribbean and other immigrant communities who could not convince conventional distributors to carry their products or serve their stores – so they created their own. New York City has approximately  14,000 bodegas and supermarket chains, to over 24,000 restaurants and bars. The food system plan has 5 overarching goals: food access for all New Yorkers, worker protection, good jobs and economic opportunities; modern, efficient infrastructure and supply chains; sustainability from production to disposal; and education, communication and administrative support to implement the plan. It’s time to fix the critical distribution infrastructure in New York City (as well as the rest of the country) including storage, packing, processing and production investment. 

The program also includes a commitment to the Good Food Purchasing Program; a comprehensive sourcing and supply chain framework developed by multiple stakeholder groups. Its built on 5 values: local economies, nutrition, valued workforce, environmental sustainability. Topline it translates to food purchases by enrolled institutions must take into account the treatment of workers, the use of pesticides and GMO’s, the nutrient content and density, how animal proteins are raised and sourced, and many other metrics relating to the environment and climate.

It’s a great program that we urge supermarkets and all food retailers to support.