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December 2013 | Grants Newsletter

Linking Local Food to the City

There’s nothing like the crunch of a just-harvested Gala apple or the sweetness of a fresh-picked grape tomato. The City’s 50-plus farmers markets are wonderful for families, but what if nonprofits, schools, and restaurants had their own wholesale source?

The demand is there, but less than five percent of produce sold at Hunts Point wholesale market—the largest food distribution center in the world—is local.Trusts grants totaling $200,000 to the Natural Resources Defense Council and GrowNYC are helping suppliers push for a wholesale market featuring regionally grown produce in the renovation plans for Hunts Point.

Better access would help small and mid-sized regional produce growers cut transportation costs, boost production and plan next year’s crop—creating jobs in rural areas. “Economic benefits radiate outward in all directions from this project,” says Mark Izeman, a senior attorney at the Council. “Part of our job is to tell decision-makers that preserving food production and keeping farms is good for our State, and good for everyone’s pocketbook.” The grant also helps send fresh and healthful produce to low-income communities.

With last year’s grant, the Council and GrowNYC set up a temporary wholesale farmers market next to Hunts Point; helped organize a standing-room-only mayoral forum on food; and enlisted the support of restaurants, schools, and local government, along with farm, health, and hunger organizations. Three New York governors have endorsed such a market and advocates will keep up the pressure when negotiations resume.

At the National Dinner Table

  • Federal policies that encourage consumption of fruits and vegetables “could save taxpayers billions and save lives,” says Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food & Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, in Cambridge, Mass. “But current farm policies favor unhealthy, processed food and they’re making Americans sick.” A $75,000 grant allows the organization to promote reforms.
  • A $75,000 grant to the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation trains grassroots leaders—including New Jersey farmworkers and Louisiana fishermen—to advocate for sustainable food and farming legislation.
  • Decomposed food makes rich soil that eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers. A $75,000 grant to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, based in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., promotes composting biodegradable household waste in New York and three other cities.

Photo: Cows grazing in the Hudson Valley on land conserved by the Agricultural Stewardship Association, by Lawrence White.

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