Healthy Food Access in Urban Areas: Barriers and Solutions Part 2


HOLLY FREISHTAT: Thanks, Anne. You set me up very well
for this next presentation. So I’m going to talk about
the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative, food deserts,
and food access solutions. So I want to first give you a
quick overview of the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative. So to start, Baltimore City has
an Office of Sustainability, but we also have a
Sustainability Plan. In our Sustainability
Plan, we have a goal– Greening Goal number
two, I refer to it– establish Baltimore as a leader
in sustainable local food systems. To me, that alone is quite
innovative, in that here in a city in an
urban environment, we have a goal to have a
sustainable local food system. My favorite slide
I like to use– food system is a word that many
people are starting to use. It has some jargon
to it, but I really want to define it
for the context of today’s presentation. This is from the Mott Group
from Michigan State University. It’s still my favorite diagram. And I would like to use Great
Kids Farm as an example. Great Kids Farm is a farm owned
by the Baltimore City School District. And it’s around a 30 acre farm
with around five or six acres in production right now. And I’m going to explain the
food system through this farm. So the kids grow
organic produce. So you’re looking at that
inner circle right now. And then it creates jobs. Kids are learning
how to grow food. They’re learning how to then
sell at the Waverly Farmers Market, where they accept
SNAP benefits or Food Stamps, which is creating
healthier individuals. So in this model, we’re
looking at one example of how a farm and kids are
creating a local, sustainable food system. OK, so within this plan, our
goal related to food access is to improve health
outcomes by increasing access to healthy, affordable
food in food deserts. I want to spend a moment
to define food deserts. And the work that we’re using in
Baltimore City on food deserts is really because of Johns
Hopkins School of Public Health and Center for a
Livable Future and Anne and all the folks in her shop. Around three years ago
was the first definition of a food desert and
the first level of maps. Since then, we’ve
been working together to come up with a food desert
map and definition that really resonates and takes into
consideration the food environment. Now, as Anne was
mentioning earlier, there’s different studies
saying that this is good or this is bad. You may have seen in
The New York Times several times now about food
deserts and some thoughts and questions on those issues. What we have found with our
work is the initial definition that Johns Hopkins had was
really a binary approach, which is how far away
is a grocery store and it’s in a low income area. And that is currently the
USDA food desert definition, is that they’re saying
one mile from a grocery store and a low income. Now what we’ve decided
in a Baltimore City that that indicator will
not work well for us. And that we have four key
components to our definition. For Baltimore, a quarter
mile from a grocery store because that is the most
people are likely to walk. And if it was New
York City, you might have a different definition
as far as distance. Our public
transportation, I think there’s more to be
desired and that we need to take into consideration
walking and how long buses take and so forth. So we included low vehicle
availability, low income, at or below 185
federal poverty level. But this is the most interesting
piece and Anne already alluded to this– low healthy food
availability score– so Center for
Livable Future, they went through and scored and
did a healthy food availability score for every food retail
establishment in Baltimore City and gave it a score. So just so you understand,
it is an index score. But a corner store
or convenience store will have a low score somewhere
between one and seven. A full service grocery store,
somewhere in the high 20s is your range. And so the reason why this
measurement was very important in our new definition
is that we want to understand that the food
environment impacts health. So what Anne was
already talking about– there’s 164 corner
stores and convenience stores in Baltimore
City’s food deserts. By definition of a
food desert, there’s not a grocery store
within a quarter mile. So where are people
going to eat? What’s convenient
and close to them? With not having a lot
of time on their hands, making that assumption, they’re
going eat where the food is. And so that was another
piece that we really wanted to think about. And so we’re working with USDA
in their revisions and drafts for the next definition of food
deserts because big cities– and Baltimore has a
population of 625,000 people. Boston, LA, New York, Chicago,
some of these bigger cities as well, are having
the same findings as we are when we look at
the USDA food desert locator. We don’t really have
any food deserts according to that map because
density isn’t always taken into account. And so we’re working
with USDA to really look at how can these cities that
have a lot of food deserts and food access issues be
represented on their USDA map. And they’ve been a
great partner as we’ve been developing and working
through those issues. So as far as what does
food deserts really mean to Baltimore, 20%
of the city residents live in food deserts,
120,000 people. That’s one in three. No, sorry, excuse me, one in
four kids live in food deserts. What I thought was
interesting in the most recent analysis of this map– approximately 83% of the
residents are employed. I thought that was interesting. You know, being
in a food desert, and by definition
of food desert, we’re talking low income
and poverty areas, meaning that we really need to
be taking into consideration under-employment
and the fact that we need to create more job
opportunities in this area as well. And it’s maybe that
people are already working two or three jobs,
so higher paying jobs. And this last number
is something– I need to continue researching
with Johns Hopkins on this one. Our numbers for SNAP benefits
in food deserts was 24.5%. I really expected
to see those numbers in food deserts much higher. So that’s a new
figure we just started to unravel a few weeks ago. And we’re going to dig
deeper into that one of why. So the Baltimore food
policy initiative as far as the organizational
structure goes– as we know, food intersects
many government agencies. It’s not like there’s just
one agency in city government, state government, or
federally, for that matter, that all food is related to. It is in transportation, it’s
in health, it’s in planning, it’s in economic development. It intersects so many agencies. So that’s why we have
the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative, which is
really four agencies. It’s the Baltimore City
Planning, Health Department, Office of Sustainability, and
also the Baltimore Development Corporation. They’re the four
key lead agencies. But we understand that
government alone cannot solve the issue of food access
and so we have Food PAC, Food Policy Advisory Committee. It’s Baltimore’s equivalent
to a food policy council. And it is growing. It has 60 members currently. It’s 35 organizations
represented. My goal is that
every organization in Baltimore City
that has anything to do with food access,
nutrition, gardening, cooking, health will be a
part of Food PAC. They are not a
decision making body. The goal of this is to be able
to help implement the 10 Food Policy Task Force
recommendations, which I’ll talk about in just one second. And one thing I realized– I was born and raised
here in Baltimore, but I was out in Washington
state for 15 years and just moved back around
two and 1/2 years ago. I realized coming
back to Baltimore that there was a
lot of silo work. There was a lot of great
work happening here and a lot of great
work happening here, but they didn’t know about
what each other was doing. And everyone’s trying to work
on bare bone budgets here. And so one of the
goals with Food PAC is really increasing
collaboration among Food PAC members. OK, here are the 10 Food Policy
Task Force recommendations. Prior to my hiring
in my position, so it was three years ago, the
mayor at the time, Sheila Dixon said we need to establish
a Food Policy Task Force, so the Planning Department
and the Health Department became the co-chairs. Anne Palmer is actually one
of the key leads on this task force as well. And developed out with
18 key stakeholders the 10 key priorities
for Baltimore City as it relates to food
access and food issues. And so when I came
into this role, this was sort of my world view. I came in not needing to
figure out what to do, but here are the 10 and sort
of the timing and the details related to these 10 issues. OK, so now I’m going to move
into more details related to the Food Policy Task
Force recommendations. So I have three
key areas I’m going to talk about related to this. The first one is around healthy
food retail and food deserts. OK. So the Virtual Supermarket. One of the goals with the
First Lady and the Let’s Move! is to eliminate food deserts
in five years from now. And we know that
building grocery stores is very important,
the brick and mortar grocery stores. But we also understand that
it takes, if you’re lucky, five to 10 years to
get a good grocery store into a neighborhood. There’s a lot of costs, a lot
of loans, a lot of logistics and expenses to do so. And we need to do those. But there needs to be
things we can do now. We need to be able to bring food
access into communities now, not 10 years from now. So the Virtual Supermarket is
a really innovative solution to that. The health department
runs this program. Its history started in libraries
located in food deserts. It’s a private-public
partnership between Santoni’s, an
independent grocery store and the health department. And so Santoni’s already had
an online ordering system, a web based system
for ordering food. And so what the goal
here was that you could go to a library
at first and then there should be a health
department coordinator there who would help you order your
food online on the provided computer. They would put the food
in, order the food. Or over time, they
realized that there was a lot of people who
had their own computers and they wanted to order their
food whenever they wanted to and not have to come to the
library to order the food. So they got a promotional
code and then, now today, if you’re anywhere– a public
computer or a private computer, you could go online
and order your food, and then once a
week, pick it up. And so that was the
really the beginning origins was starting
with libraries. As of probably around
five or six months ago, they’ve expanded that
model and I really believe that this
is the model that has national ramifications– right now, they have
expanded into senior and disabled public housing. And by the end of
the summer, they will also be in family public
housing, which is great because our public
housing could have from 100 units to
several thousand units. And the convenience
of just being able to go into your
lobby, order your food, and then pick it up down in your
lobby is way more convenient. It’s really hard,
as Anne already mentioned, to change food
purchasing habits and food behavior. People have a hard time
thinking of going to the library to order food. It was innovative because
the libraries are all throughout food deserts. They’re very easy to
access it walking. It was a really
innovative solution and we’re continuing
with the libraries. But I think public housing
and really understanding convenience is key here. And that we know
with this strategy, it needs to be pooled ordering. So it’s not a matter of
like a peapod or a model just going from door
to door to door. We’ll be able to bring in
the right amount of money. But when you have the
pooled ordering at one site and there is 10, 20,
30 orders per week, it can be a very viable
option for grocery stores. With this being
said, Baltimore is the only city in the country
right now that has this model. And there is a reason for it. Santoni’s, our
independent grocery store, is willing to take payment
at the time of pickup. Because there’s 26 federal
policy barriers prohibiting online use of SNAP benefits. So a large grocery
chain is not going to be able to take
your order, go get all the food together,
and then bring it to a site and then take payment. What if people don’t show up? Now we like to use analogy here
in Baltimore, how many of you go to a grocery store, fill
your cart full of groceries, and walk out? You’ve already invested so
much time, you don’t do that. And that’s what we
have found in Baltimore with the virtual supermarkets. It’s not really an
issue for Santoni’s. But if we’re really going
to address food deserts nationally, that the
virtual supermarket has a national implication
for it, but we need to and we are working with USDA. Actually, I think it’s in
the language for the Senate for the farm bill. They mentioned online
SNAP pilot projects through FNS, Food
Nutrition Services, which we’re hoping
that Baltimore could be one of those. So we really do want to see
this become a national model. OK, public markets– we’re
one of the only cities in the country that still
has many public markets, a whole public market chain. And when I mean
public markets, I’m talking about covered
historic markets. We have six of them
in Baltimore City. I’m not referring
to farmers markets. I’ll get to that
in a few minutes. So these were our
historic markets. Before the times
the grocery stores, they were where everyone came
to sell their foods and goods and where everyone shopped. Over time, the public markets
reflect their neighborhoods that they are housed in. And so we have six public
markets in Baltimore. Lexington Market is the largest
and most well-known market. And what we have found– we
did a healthy food assessment of these public markets
around a year ago. And there’s two key
findings we found. One, four out of the six public
markets are in food deserts. Two, 70% of the food in the
public markets are carryouts. In Baltimore, we use
the word carryout. We don’t need the
word fast food. Carryouts are more
independently owned restaurants, whereas fast food we refer to
as more a chain restaurant. But they could be
interchangeable if you think about
it nationally. So anyway, it’s prepared foods. So 70% of the food in the public
markets are prepared food. And so what does
that really mean? It means that our
public markets, where we’re in food deserts,
is contributing to the density of prepared
foods and unhealthy food choices in our food deserts,
where there’s an absence of grocery stores. So we took this really
seriously and want to see how could we
figure out a solution for our public markets. And so working very closely with
Joel Gittelsohn and Seung Hee Lee, with Johns Hopkins
School of Public Health, they’ve been doing prolific
research on healthy carryouts and healthy corner stores. And we took their research,
their research tools, and their researchers,
for that matter. I’ve been working very closely
with them to take their model and apply it to
the public markets. And so we developed out
a healthy carryout model where we currently have piloted
10 carryouts in Lexington Market. With our more recent funding
from Kaiser and Abell, we are now expanding into 22
carryout vendors at Lexington Market, eight carryout
vendors at Northeast, and it looks like we’ll be going
into Hollins Market as well. And the goal here is to work
with the current retailers. That’s very important
to start with– is that there’s two strategies. The first strategy is we
already have carry out vendors in the public markets. We want to work with
our current vendors and help them sell
healthier foods and make money selling
healthier foods. If they can make money
selling healthier foods, they will sell healthier foods. And what our assessment
showed is that over 50% of them on their menu
or in their contract said they were going to
sell healthier food choices, but they were not
currently selling them. And so we asked them,
on your contract, it says that you’re
going to sell these foods and why aren’t you? They said, well, I
tried selling them. No one would buy them. And so it’s not a matter of
just one carryout at a time, trying to figure out
the demand issues and trying the new foods. But if we can have
many carryouts at the same time
working on the issues, we could really start to
move the needle on the issue. So we have these 10 carryouts. We’ve done an analysis
of their menus. We actually gave
them menus where we’re highlighting
the healthiest foods relative to their menu. We’re making an assumption here. The assumption is you’re
standing in front of a carryout and you are buying food. You’re eating lunch here. And if you’re eating
lunch here, how can you choose the healthiest
food on that menu. And so that we launched with
the mayor and Dr. Perman in a press conference
this past spring. And we’ve been getting
some really good feedback on those issues. But we understand that a
carryout strategy alone is not going to be enough. We really need to increase
demand for healthy food purchasing. We’re looking at doing that. One is through cooking demos and
nutrition education, of course. But it’s also looking
at financial incentives, meal deals. And Reading Terminal
in Philadelphia has a great model for meal
deals, its $7 meal deals. And the goal here, remember,
is to drive more people to buy the healthier food
choices at the carryout vendors that we’re working with so
that they can start to see they can make money off of this. And so the meal deals will
help increase incentives towards that. And the third part is really
to increase more local farms and local vendors in the public
markets who are preparing– whether they’re making their own
food, growing their own food, or making their own
crafts and arts– to have that represented
into our public markets. Right now, they’re not
really well represented and we want to see
a change on that. And the third area,
which is really the one you hear the most about
nationally around addressing food desert issues is
bringing in grocery stores. So Howard Park grocery
store is a grocery store that we’ve been wanting
to see a grocery store in Howard Park for a long
time, for over 10 years now. We received Healthy
Food Financing Funds, federal funds for
around $760,000 to help make this
grocery store happen. It is going to be a ShopRite. It’s actually Jeff
Brown’s ShopRite with Klein Family Markets. He’s done quite a few
of the grocery stores in Philadelphia in food deserts. It’s a really successful model. We’re looking forward to
seeing it here in Baltimore. And what makes it
successful is one key thing is that they invest a lot
of money in job training. And they really try to employ
people from their neighborhood, train them well,
and have them be working in their neighborhood
through the grocery store. This specific proposal will
have a commercial kitchen. There’s an elementary
school across the street. And Chef Connie– and she has
been doing catering with her kids– it’s an elementary school. And the kids just
actually catered an event for the mayor and the governor
a few weeks ago on the launch of the HBO Salad Bar program. And it was amazing. But they really do need to
kitchen, a larger kitchen. And so there’s going to
be a commercial kitchen in this grocery store for
them and for other food entrepreneurs. OK, so I just talked about
the healthy food retail piece. Now I’m moving on to
Homegrown Baltimore, Grow Local, Buy Local, Eat Local. The mayor actually
titled this herself. And the goal really
is how to grow farmers and how can farmers
sell their food and create a local food
system here in Baltimore. So to start, the
first part is around supporting urban agriculture. This is one of the Food Policy
Task Force recommendations. We’re a city that will
be growing very soon. But for the last decade or
so, we have been more of one of those shrinking cities. So as a result of that, we
have a lot of vacant land. And so we did a vacant land
assessment and looked at can any of this land
be used or conducive for urban agriculture. I need to take a
moment to define urban agriculture because
everyone defines it differently. And I think we in Baltimore
City are defining it very specifically, so I
should define it for you. So when I’m talking
about urban agriculture specifically in
Baltimore City, we’re talking about farmers who are
trying to sell for production purposes for sales. I’m not referring
to community gardens right now for the sake
of this conversation. It’s really those who are
trying to be full time farmers or trying to make a
livelihood off of farming. And so we looked at this
vacant land assessment, saw probably around
20 acres or so that would be conducive
for urban farming or that we thought would be
conducive for urban farming. We did a national lit
review around the country, if I remember correctly. Central for a Livable
Future was very instrumental in helping us do
that lit review to figure out all of the other cities
and entities that have done requests for qualifications
for urban farms on publicly owned land. So then we put
together a request. We had 10 farmers apply,
five farmers prequalified, which was important
for me for two things. One, it made me realize that we
have to have a farmer training program in the city. So we partnered
with Future Harvest. And they’re doing an urban
farmer training program so that we pretty
much we would like every farmer who wants
land to have land and they need to qualify. So we want to make sure
they’re trained and are able to qualify. That was number one. Number two is so now we have
these five farmers and we we’re working with them on finding the
most appropriate land for them to farm. And through this
process, this 20 acres or so, what we realized
is that the farmers who are trying to make a full
time livelihood on this needs the very
best land possible. As we know nationally, it’s
hard to make a livelihood off of farming. And add it into a
city and they really need to have the very
best start possible. So we’re working with them
to find the best land. And in the meantime,
we realized that we need to develop out
a new kind of farming in the city– the
market gardener. So it’s the person who has
had their own community garden or they had their
own plot of land. They really like
growing food, they’re growing more and more and more. And suddenly, their family
and friends can no longer eat all their food
they’re growing and they want to
sell some of it. And so we’re really looking
at creating that opportunity in the city through some
of these smaller plots that we have, less than an
acre, for our market gardeners. And then obviously, we have
well over 100 community gardens in the city and we want
to support their efforts. And one of the ways that we’re
supporting their efforts is– up until around a year ago,
they were pretty much– I think it was a one
year lease, and they had to keep renewing every year. And now we’re moving many of
those into five year leases to give them a little
more stability. So that’s one area
around urban farming. Another piece is that
we have our proposed land use zoning code that
we’ve been working on. And in our current
code, it made it so that farming was not
permissible in the city. And that’s why we
didn’t see any farms. We saw an example of Great
Kids Farm and Real Food Farm because they were
on school land. And that was OK. So in our proposed zoning code
we made it permissible one, to farm and two, if you
have a community garden and you want to put a farm stand
out to sell your extra produce, you can now. So we’re trying
to make it easier for farmers to grow and
sell their food in the city. And then there is sort
of the whole high tunnels that you see. Here is an example
from the hoop houses– we call hoop houses
or high tunnels– is that we started to see
more and more and more hoop houses popping up literally
overnight in Baltimore City. And realized uh-oh, we better
change our building code, because you know the building
code hasn’t been revised and it has no language to
high tunnels or hoop houses. So we changed the
building code so that it’s permissible to
have hoop houses in the city as well. The last point I
want to talk about is animal husbandry regulations. In all honesty, this was just– we were really
fortunate on this one. We’ve seen and watched cities
all over the country struggle with sort of the
changing of animal regs, how many chickens
can you have, can you have chickens in
the city, can you have more than four chickens. And it could go on forever. In Baltimore, it was
a week because what happened was that the
health department was, it’s a regulation,
it’s not a health code. Because they had an animal
regulation that they’re reviewing every so often, every
so many years, that we realized that they were going to
be reviewing and said hey, you know what, can we
look at this regulation and see what’s in here? And can we put some
recommendations of what we would like to see? And so we looked at it and it
had four chickens to start. And we were able to change that
regulation from four chickens to 10, space dependent. Same with bees. We went from– I can’t remember the
details of how many beehives we could have, but it went
from maybe two up to more, depending on the
amount of space. And then we also were able to
include rabbits and miniature goats into the animal regs. And it was really just
a very nice quick one. It’s always nice to have
some nice low hanging fruit. So that’s really the
support urban agriculture piece of Homegrown Baltimore. Moving on to the market share
piece of buying and eating local food, Baltimore City
has 20 farmers markets. As with the national trends,
we have actually eight machines that have EBT machines
at farmers markets. It’s seven but I’m counting– July 1 is coming up so soon,
I’m counting it in my number. Our largest farmers market,
Baltimore Farmers Market and Bazaar has received
funding from Kaiser Permanente to have SNAP benefits
offered this summer. And we have received Baltimore
Bonus Bucks or double incentive dollars to incentivize those
who are on SNAP benefits that come to the market. And for every $10
they spend, up to $10, they can get $10 more in
produce or in food eligible for SNAP benefits. What we realized– we did a
farmer’s market assessment. And pretty much my conclusion
of this lengthy assessment was if you want to set up a
farmers market in Baltimore, good luck, because
the regulations that we were putting
forth in the city– it wasn’t that
they were any more than anywhere else
in the country, but there was no guide. No one was saying
anything consistent of, OK, you want to set up a farmers
market, here’s your guide. This is who you need talk to,
this is what you need to do. It should take you
x amount of months. You just need to get
this in by this time. Pretty much. It took me a long
time to figure it out because I talked
to so many people and go so many
different answers. And realized that all we
really needed in the city was a guide and to simplify
some of the permits and how the permits
were organized. So we’re trying to make
it easier to set up a farmers market in Baltimore. And I think those are really
the key pieces related to farmers markets. And the last area that
I want to talk about is about Healthy Eating
Marketing Campaign. As Anne was talking
to you about marketing and how marketing of
foods really influence our food behavior habits– we had a one year
grant in collaboration with Associated Black
Charities and Fox 45, and Kaiser was the key funder
for Get Fresh Baltimore. And the initial goal
for Get Fresh Baltimore was really around public
service announcements. And we had these great five
public service announcements. And by the way, this whole
PowerPoint is hyperlinked. So if you click on the
top of every slide, you will then go
into more detail and you can see the five
public service announcements. So these great
five public service announcements on where to
eat and get fresh fruits and vegetables, whether
that’s the Virtual Supermarket, farmers
market, Great Kids Farm. But we realized that we could
do so much more than just public service announcements. So we collaborated
with the University of Maryland Extension
and the school district, and we had 2,000 elementary kids
create fruit and vegetable ads. We then took those ads,
and with the support of the mayor’s office and
free ad space on the buses, we had 250 of the kids’ ad’s
individual, original artwork in the buses. It would have been way cheaper
if I just took one of the best pieces and make
it an art contest and take that and
multiply by 250. But that wasn’t the goal. This goal was not
about an art contest. It wasn’t about one kid having
the best piece of artwork. This is about having 250
kids influence and be proud of creating an ad that
can influence people’s behavior choices. And that’s really the goal. And that’s how we had 250
individual ads in the buses. So they were in the
inside of the bus, they were on the
outside of the bus, they were on the light rail,
the metro rail, and so forth. And we have seven key messages. You can see three colors–
each color is a message. Get fruits and vegetables
at your virtual supermarket, get fruits and vegetables
at your farmers market, goes onto grocery
store, schools, public markets, and so forth. And this was such a
great successful campaign that, as a city, we’re now using
their artwork and the Get Fresh Baltimore message for all
our healthy eating campaigns in the city. And then moving on to
Baltimore City schools. We’re working with
the school district around healthy foods
in the schools. We established a
Green Schools Network. It was called Sustainable
Food System Action Team. And the goal there was to
have everyone– once again, it was around a
collaboration issue. We realized that there were
so many different partners in the school district– that one school had this
organization doing gardening. Another school on the
other side of the city had this great nutrition
education class, had Extension coming in. But there really was not much
coordination or collaboration of what strategies
are being used in the school
districts and everyone knowing what everyone
else is doing. So that this team is really
about increasing collaboration of nutrition, gardening, cooking
education in the schools. In addition, we had the
Healthy Food Challenge Grant, where we had 11 schools
write mini grants for $1,000 for a healthy food
initiative in their school district. We’re going to be having a
celebration of their work in the next month. Let’s Move Salad
Bars, as you guys saw– hopefully all of
you guys saw last night on HBO, Weight of the Nation. As a part of The Weight
of the Nation, HBO, I think it was on May
1, gave Salad Bars– I think it was 20
school districts. I can’t remember the
exact number of 20, but I know we’re one of them. And so Baltimore City school
district received 10 salad bars. And that’s really helping
to launch our Salad Bar initiative. That brings it up to 20 salad
bars in Baltimore City school district. Our goal is to have a
salad bar in every school. In addition to that, we have
the Fruit and Vegetable Program. Last year, we had approximately
20 to 25 schools participating. Now we have 86 schools. And we really wanted to create
a farm to school movement within that. So Great Kids Farm actually
grew the microgreens and carrots for the Fruit and
Vegetable Program. I want to set very quickly,
before I conclude here, the national perspective
on food policy. So when I came in, I was
probably one of several, definitely less than a
handful, of food policy– the positions may have different
titles– director, adviser, coordinator– but anyway, the key person in
the city related food access. And so with the assistance
of Wholesome Wave, we developed out the Food
Policy Director Network. To date, there’s 10 cities with
the equivalent, me included. So there’s nine other cities. So that’s grown quite a bit
in the last couple of years. And the goal really is
that– what we found is that even though we’re
all in different cities and our cities look
very different, we’re dealing with
the same issues. So there’s a lot of
collaboration happening. But personally what I
think is most exciting is the United States Conference
of the Mayors established a Food Policy Task Force. Mayor Menino in
Boston is the chair, mayor Rawlings-Blake in
Baltimore is the vice chair. This was just established
this past January in DC. And since then, we’ve
had a meeting in Boston a few weeks ago for
our food policy. And we have already
tackled quite a few issues. There’s been several
letters that they’ve written for the farm bill. And we’ve been working on
the food desert locator definition, online SNAP
benefits, and that this has been a really– this is really one
of the first times the mayors have taken a voice
and a stance on the farm bill. And this task force
had a lot to do with the mayors coming
with a collective voice to talk about the farm bill. With that being
said, when we started to think about
cities and farm bill, I was wanting to make sure
that this city was really thinking about the farm bill. And so someone in
the policy shop said, well, you know how much
money does Baltimore receive from the farm bill? I said boy, that’s a
really good question. Let me figure that out. So Baltimore City, a
population of 620,000 people– so just imagine New York, OK– but Baltimore City,
620,000 people, we receive over a billion
dollars on the farm bill. And that is for SNAP benefits. That’s also, though, has been
very important for our ag issues, for our community
food projects in the city. And when you hear and think
about SNAP benefits in the farm bill, you immediately
go and think about those people
on SNAP benefits who need to go to a grocery
store to use the SNAP benefits. What we forget to realize
are how much money our grocery stores are getting
income from SNAP benefits. So if we’re seeing huge
reductions in SNAP benefits, it’s not only impacting
the individual using their SNAP benefits,
it’s impacting the retailers as well. And we did interviews
with grocery stores. In one of our grocery stores
located near a food desert, 80% of their sales come
from SNAP benefits. So it’s just a very
interesting perspective to think about on both
sides of the coin related to SNAP benefits. And that wraps up
my presentation. Thanks so much.

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