This report was presented to Asheville City Council at their April 24th meeting. Clusters submitted policy proposals, and Council Member Gordon Smith synthesized them into a single document. The policy areas are broken down along the city departments that might best implement them. The report was very well-received, and the next step is to have FPC members meet with the City’s Sustainable Advisory Committee in order to determine the best strategy to transform these ideas into a comprehensive, actionable plan via a partnership between A/B FPC and the City of Asheville. See the accompanying Powerpoint presentation here.
TO: Mayor Bellamy, Members of City Council, Gary Jackson
DATE: April 9, 2012
FROM: Gordon Smith
RE: Potential Food Policy Initiatives
SUMMARY STATEMENT: The Asheville MSA has been identified as one of the most food insecure in the nation. Many organizations are working to alleviate these challenges, and recently an Asheville Buncombe Food Policy Council was convened to improve food security. This paper summarizes potential policy initiatives coming forward from the ABFPC.
REVIEW: Food security is defined as “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”. The Food Research and Action Council (FRAC) have twice listed the Asheville MSA as having a high degree of “food hardship”. Multiple organizations in various sectors exist to address and improve food systems in Asheville, Buncombe County, and western North Carolina.
Food Security is viewed by the ABFPC as addressing poverty, public health, local commerce, and broad goals of sustainability. Policy strategies addressing food security work best when addressing all of these areas, and only a systemic view can lead Asheville to a more food secure future. The City of Asheville recently amended the UDO to allow fruit and vegetable markets in residential areas. This policy change will allow for more neighborhood-level efforts to produce and distribute food.
The ABFPC is made up of stakeholders from across the community. Following three large community meetings held at the UNC-Asheville Health and Wellness Center, the ABFPC began meeting in small groups, called Clusters. The Cluster groups are identified as follows: Access; Asset Mapping; Communications; Emergency Food Security; Health, Wellness and Education; Land Use Policy; Local Food Flow; and Legislation, Policy and Advocacy.
These Cluster groups are working diligently, and there is broad recognition that the work of the ABFPC will complement existing organizations’ efforts while offering productive, innovative ways forward in the policy arena. City Manager Gary Jackson asked that ideas coming forward from the ABFPC be presented in order to promote cooperation and collaboration with the City of Asheville. City Council Member Gordon Smith asked each Cluster to submit their policy ideas. That information was collected and synthesized into the following. The information is broken down into departments to organize this broad array of potential policy initiatives.
Improved food security will decrease poverty, improve public health, accelerate local commerce, and move Asheville closer to its sustainability goals.
POTENTIAL POLICY APPROACHES TO IMPROVING FOOD SECURITY:
- Identify arable city-owned land and issue an RFP for organic, GMO-free food production, with a focus on Permaculture.
- Adopt zoning policies that will encourage urban agriculture.
- Modify zoning rules to allow increased food production – greenhouses, gardens.
- Modify zoning rules to allow for more food processing uses – micro mills, canning, packaging.
- Home-based cottage industries allowance for small-scale, value-added products.
- UDO allowances for innovative methods of production (aquaculture, vertical farming, rooftop gardens, etc.).
- Property tax incentives for home food production, disincentives for landscaping devoted to grass and ornamentals without food value.
- Identify barriers to food production in residential neighborhoods and seek remedies.
- Work with Progress/Duke energy to allow use of their rights-of-way for food production.
- Utilize parks to grow food and have community programming regarding health, nutrition, and gardening.
- Festivals in the city, such as Bele Chere, could incentivize vendors to provide healthy and local food options.
- Edible and medicinal landscaping in all public parks and rights of way.
- Partnership with gleaning organizations to distribute produce from edible trees, plants in parks and rights of way.
- Liability waiver for volunteers helping to tend food production in parks. Make it easier for grassroots efforts to happen.
- Utilize community centers for farmers’ markets and CSA distribution.
- Encourage food distribution in underserved communities by establishing market areas in each neighborhood, based on neighborhood preferences.
- Seek incentives for food distributors in food deserts.
- Declare a local and healthy food day. Encourage interactive educational events.
- Allocate funds to non-profits involved in food security efforts.
- Encourage mobile markets for low-income communities, especially those in food deserts.
- Identifying qualifying students who aren’t enrolled in free and reduced lunch.
- Prioritize local, fresh foods in cafeterias.
- For qualifying students – identifying needs outside of school for food, expand on “summer feeding sites”.
- Partner with Parks/Rec to provide feeding sites (would also increase participation with Parks/Rec initiatives). Other partners might include AB Tech, AIR DINER, GO, MANNA, Salvation Army, and Meals on Wheels.
- Seek grant opportunities for food production, processing, and distribution.
- Recruit businesses focused on food processing and distribution in identified food deserts.
- Incentivize food system development particularly in regard to processing.
- Encourage home-based cottage industries for small-scale, value-added products.
- Incent innovative methods of production (aquaculture, vertical farming, rooftop gardens, etc.).
- Provide incentives for local restaurants and food trucks to participate in the NC Cooperative Extension’s 10% campaign. Ideas include the city providing advertising on public transit for participating businesses.
- Consider a poster campaign policy to promote local food and healthy eating.
- Initiate a “Resilient Neighborhoods” program, i.e. assist neighbors in putting together knowledge and goods that would help them in the event of a shortage of food.
- Ensure fuel availability to food producers, processors, and distributors in the event of an extended fuel shortage.
- Replace contents of city vending machines with healthy food choices.
- Implement CSA program for City Employees.
- Utilize local, healthy foods in city commissary.
- Investigate the potential for a citywide composting program alongside trash and recycling with a central point for community access to compost.
- Support community gardens and urban agriculture through resolutions.
- Explore Food “sin tax” (sodas, fast food) to fund food security efforts.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND INFORMATION: The Asheville Buncombe Food Policy Council website is here: http://abfoodpolicy.com/
Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project has a great deal of research and information at their website: http://www.asapconnections.org/
MANNA Food Bank has hunger facts here: http://mannafoodbank.org/hunger-in-western-north-carolina/
In June 2010, the American Dietetic Association, American Nurses Association, American Planning Association, and American Public Health Association food system principles – http://www.planning.org/nationalcenters/health/pdf/HealthySustainableFoodSystemsPrinciples.pdf
The Food Research and Action Center produced a paper and listed key goals of President Obama’s effort to reduce childhood hunger – http://frac.org/newsite/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/endingchildhunger_2015paper.pdf