Saturday, April 25, 2009

Zoning for Food Access

City planners are increasingly applying the tools of their trade to fixing the failures of the urban food system. In the next few weeks, according to a report in the NY Observer, New York City’s Department of City Planning is poised to certify zoning changes to make it easier for supermarkets to be built as part of new developments and in light manufacturing districts. The Bloomberg administration hopes the new rules will stimulate the growth of supermarkets in low-income neighborhoods, and in so doing, promote more equitable access to food, healthier eating, and reduced incidence of diet-related diseases.

Ensuring that a city’s zoning encourages the development of supermarkets and mid-size grocers is a step in the right direction that is likely to improve access to healthy, fresh, and fairly-priced food for a larger number of residents, particularly those living in poor neighborhoods that supermarkets have abandoned. But this particular strategy needs to be part of a much broader food planning effort that includes regional transportation planning to make the movement of food from surrounding farms more efficient and sustainable, the development of a wholesale farmers market, to make selling local food to restaurants and supermarkets logistically feasible, and a plan to carve out the space for urban and suburban food production, processing, and distribution.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Consumption of Fresh Produce Drops

Efforts to increase the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables among poor Americans, who consume far below the USDA recommended nine servings a day, will be more difficult thanks to rising costs. A just-released report on fresh fruit and vegetable consumption (posted on Food Politics) suggests that, over the past year, fruit and vegetable prices have risen while consumption of fruits and vegetables has decreased. The study, conducted by the United Fresh Research and Education Foundation, found that average produce retail prices rose 6.1% between the fourth quarter of 2008 and the fourth quarter of 2007, while total produce consumption declined 3.6% over the same period.

Americans Cutting Food Spending

Eighty-one percent of Americans report limiting their spending on groceries, with 40% reporting that they are eating less nutritious food since cutting back, according to a February 2009 survey of a representative sample of 1,008 US adults by market research firm Multi-Sponsor Surveys. Respondents reported cutting back a variety of foods, including organic foods and beverages (56%), bottled water (52%), cold cereal (51%), cheese (49%), and seafood (47%). Nearly half (45%) said they were making strong efforts to cut back dining out.

For more information, see MediaPost