SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Boosting public spending on fresh foods grown on New York State farms and served in schools, childcare centers, older adult centers, food pantries and other institutions, has the potential to improve health for more than six million New Yorkers, while increasing economic opportunities across the state. The findings are part of a new report, ‘The Public Plate in New York State: Growing Health, Farms and Jobs with Local Food,’ by The New York Academy of Medicine and American Farmland Trust.
Informing policy makers and institutions about the potential health benefits of increasing the amount of farm-fresh, local fare served and consumed in the state’s public and publicly funded venues is part of the Academy’s effort to support policies—across sectors—that improve health. The Academy, and its Public Plate report partners, advise that adding more fresh food to the “public plate” offers an often-overlooked opportunity to help millions of New Yorkers reduce their risk of chronic disease.
“Increased procurement of farm-fresh healthy foods is one way that state agencies in New York can implement Governor Cuomo’s Health in All Policies charge to make ours the healthiest state in the nation. As our report highlights, several agencies are already working to buy more of the food they serve from in-state sources. Increasing the proportion of public spending dedicated to fresh and minimally-processed food grown and raised in New York would achieve three important goals: promoting health equity, environmental sustainability, and economic growth,” said Kimberly Libman, PhD, MPH, lead report author and the Academy’s Director of Prevention and Community Development.
The report indicates that achieving these all-important health and economic benefits requires only a partial increase in the amount of public funds spent on fresh foods from New York farms to serve in state schools, the emergency food system and other institutions. Now, only 10 percent of the $957 million the state spends each year on food for its institutions goes to NYS-grown foods. The report recommends that this percentage be increased 15 percent to 25 percent.
“Money spent on buying food by schools, colleges and other institutions has the potential to drive real economic opportunities for farmers,” said David Haight, New York State director for American Farmland Trust. “As this report has found, if even 25 percent of these food dollars were spent on buying food grown in New York, it would add another $200 million to the state’s economy. But, this won’t happen by accident. Institutions must look at where their food comes from and take action to buy more that is grown in New York.”
The action called for in the report is an excellent first step towards improving New Yorker’s health and the state’s economy. Next, the Academy and its public plate partners would like to see improvements in the tracking of progress toward this goal achieved through a strengthening of the NYS Food Metrics Bill. The Academy supported this legislation in 2013 to stablish a framework for monitoring food spending by state agencies and the origin of the food they procure. The bill should now be improved by adding a requirement that agencies distinguish between fresh foods grown and raised in New York and those that are only processed in the state.
“Overall, ensuring that fresh, healthy, locally grown food has a permanent place on the public plate will greatly advance New York State’s Prevention Agenda and economic goals, a critical element of the work of the Academy’s Institute for Urban Health,” said Judith A. Salerno, MD, MS, president of the Academy.
–American Farmland Trust
New York Academy of Medicine
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