Department of City Planning and Mayor’s Office of Food Policy Collaborate with Urban Design Forum Fellows on Food Equity in New York City

Video from Mayor Eric Adams invites the public to get involved in bringing better-quality food to neighborhoods and help us get stuff done for New Yorkers’ health

NEW YORK – Department of City Planning (DCP) Director Dan Garodnick, the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy (MOFP), and not-for-profit Urban Design Forum (UDF) today announced an important collaboration aimed at improving local food infrastructure and availability – the Neighborhood Fare toolkit.

To highlight the importance of community engagement in the discussion of healthy food and food security, the mayor made a video speaking to the toolkit and collaboration. All New Yorkers are encouraged to visit the website and get involved in this vital topic.

“If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, then think about the benefits of a city where every community has equitable access to fresh produce. This toolkit looks at ways to increase the supply of local food and jobs that suit the needs of New York City’s many diverse communities,” said DCP Director Dan Garodnick.

“As the city moves towards a more equitable and sustainable food environment, it is vital to understand how infrastructure and local food systems operate. The research and recommendations outlined in Neighborhood Fare are an invaluable resource to City agencies, businesses, community organizations, and residents to help ensure every New Yorker has access to fresh, hearty, and culturally appropriate food,” said Kate MacKenzie, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy.

“With the mayor’s endorsement, we are excited to share these tools with neighborhood leaders and elected officials across the city,” said Daniel McPhee, Executive Director of the Urban Design Forum. “New York City can support communities to shape their own food systems, invest in thriving small food businesses, and ensure every neighborhood has access to healthy and affordable food.”

Urban Design Forum’s annual Forefront Fellowship brings together leaders with different backgrounds and experiences to investigate how design can address a critical challenge facing New York City. This year, the fellows partnered with DCP and MOFP to strategize how New York City can build a healthier, more resilient, and more equitable urban food system.

The fellows spent three months interviewing over 75 community leaders, nonprofit staff, business owners, food researchers, and city officials, primarily in the three neighborhoods of Mott Haven, The Bronx; East New York, Brooklyn; and Elmhurst, Queens, seeking to understand how local food systems and food infrastructure operate across different contexts.

Around 19 billion pounds of food flow through New York City every year, with this supply chain relying on a complex network of physical infrastructure and people power.

UDF’s fellows examined eight different kinds of food infrastructure and provided recommendations on improvements to create food-forward neighborhoods where all New Yorkers can access the food they need and want.

Their research takes a deep dive on eight aspects of a food-forward neighborhood:

  • Bodegas – hyper-local, mostly owner-operated, and ubiquitous sources of healthy, fresh food, local produce, and household essentials
  • Commercial Urban Agriculture – a growing sector of for-profit food operations that primarily serve urban residents
  • Community Gardens & Farms – protected spaces for food production, community convening, and wealth-building
  • Food Pantries & Soup Kitchens – sources that support emergency food needs for New Yorkers experiencing food insecurity
  • Food Waste & Composting – a primary means of turning food waste into a productive use rather than ending up in a landfill
  • Regional Farms – connections that shorten the distance between food producers and consumers
  • Small-Scale Processing – facilities that transform raw agricultural products into readily consumable food items
  • Transportation – a system of trucks, railways, water vessels, cars, and cargo bikes that move food supplies to every neighborhood

UDF’s recommendations offer potential paths forward to improve food equity in the city and will be a key part of conversations with our sister agencies and New York City communities. In addition to deep research on the infrastructure topics above, the UDF fellows also developed visualizations that help articulate the ideal “Food Forward Neighborhood” and built a Food-Forward Assessment Tool, which helps city and community leaders strengthen investments in the food system through greater community ownership and decision-making.

Food access and food quality have long been a part of DCP’s focus on equity. The agency is responsible for the creation of the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) program, which brings convenient, accessible grocery stores to underserved New York neighborhoods. Created in 2009, this zoning incentive gives property owners the right to construct slightly larger buildings in mixed residential and commercial districts if they included a FRESH supermarket. It also allows grocery stores as-of-right in light manufacturing districts, increasing the locations where they can be built.

Right now, the FRESH zoning incentive is applicable in 30 lower-income community districts in all five boroughs:

Bronx Community Districts 1 through 9
Brooklyn Community Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 12, 13, 16, and 17
Manhattan Community Districts 9 through 12
Queens Community Districts 1, 3, 4, 12, and 14
Staten Island Community District 1

DCP staff also worked with the NYC Food Czar to ensure the integrity of the city’s food supply chains early in the COVID-19 pandemic and had a key role in developing the City’s first ten-year food policy plan, Food Forward NYC.

Food equity will play a key role in DCP’s “City of Yes” text amendments, with Zoning for Zero Carbon looking at how zoning can encourage the reduction of food waste, and Zoning for Economic Opportunity aiming to help small food businesses thrive by reducing unnecessary barriers to where they can locate and grow.

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Department of City Planning
The Department of City Planning (DCP) plans for the strategic growth and development of the City through ground-up planning with communities, the development of land use policies and zoning regulations applicable citywide, and its contribution to the preparation of the City’s 10-year Capital Strategy. DCP promotes housing production and affordability, fosters economic development and coordinated investments in infrastructure and services, and supports resilient, sustainable communities across the five boroughs for a more equitable New York City.

In addition, DCP supports the City Planning Commission in its annual review of approximately 450 land use applications for a variety of discretionary approvals. The Department also assists both government agencies and the public by advising on strategic and capital planning and providing policy analysis, technical assistance and data relating to housing, transportation, community facilities, demography, zoning, urban design, waterfront areas and public open space.

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