For Immediate Release
January 20, 2012
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Mayor's Press Office
Mayor Menino today hosted his first official meeting as chair of the US Conference of Mayors (USCM) Food Policy Task Force, held at the annual USCM event in Washington, DC. Mayor Menino was asked to lead the new Task Force due to the successful food and nutrition initiatives he has spearheaded in Boston, from starting Boston’s first farmers’ market 25 years ago to his most recent initiative inviting Bostonians to work together to lose one million pounds in 2012. The Task Force meeting was also attended by Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of the USDA, and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake, who will serve as the vice-chair of the Food Policy Task Force.
“All across our cities, a local food revolution is taking place – we see it at our farmer’s markets, in community gardens, in our schools and in small and growing businesses – from food trucks to incubators for new food producers and caterers,” Mayor Menino said. “I see this revolution in Boston every day and I see how these initiatives bring people together to build stronger, healthier communities. As mayors, we must ensure that all of our residents take part in this revolution.”
The Food Policy Task Force will focus on a number of food policy programs and initiatives expected to impact the nation’s cities this year, including the upcoming 2012 Farm Bill, growing local food economies, school meals, and nutrition policies.
The Federal Farm Bill
More than $960 million federal farm bill dollars have been spent in Boston over the last 5 years, representing nearly $1.5 billion in economic activity. The Farm Bill impacts major food programs including food access in schools, the food bank and pantry system, and food stamp benefits. The Farm Bill has the opportunity to play a major role in the economic health of the city, not only in terms of jobs, but in terms of health-related costs.
“As the President develops his budget plan and the Congress looks at funding levels for the Farm Bill, we want to make sure that this legislation is also a ‘Food Bill’ that will enhance the health, the economy and the well-being of America’s cities,” Mayor Menino said.
In Boston, $35 billion is spent on food annually. This year, Boston also launched its first official Food Truck program, adding more than 30 locally owned and operated food trucks to Boston’s streets and setting up a Food Truck committee of cross-departmental city employees to help these business owners navigate the city’s permitting process.
Local food sourcing
As consumers are increasingly paying attention to where the food comes from, Boston too is shifting how it sources food to a more local approach. In the Boston Public Schools, 41% of the food used to feed students comes from Massachusetts or a state bordering Massachusetts, and the city’s two major convention centers have committed to sourcing 50% of their food products from Massachusetts. Boston also recently approved zoning changes that will allow for an Urban Agriculture Pilot Program to move forward in 2012, bringing freshly grown produce to Boston’s urban neighborhoods. The Task Force will continue to explore local food sourcing as a means to increase access to healthy food, while supporting the local economy.
In Boston, Mayor Menino has enacted a number of policies to promote health and nutrition. In 2004, he banned sugary beverages from Boston Public Schools and as a result, fewer youths report regular soda consumption. Mayor Menino also launched the Boston Bounty Bucks program to double the value of food stamp money at Boston’s network of farmer’s markets. Last year, Boston launched the “Re-think Your Drink” campaign, removing sugar-sweetened beverages from city properties, including police and fire stations, libraries, municipal buildings, and food trucks on city streets.
Over the past 20 years, the Menino administration has added 26 supermarkets to make sure that there is a supermarket in every neighborhood in the city. Still, many urban areas lack adequate access to fresh, nutritious, and affordable food. The Task Force will discuss how to promote more community gardens (Boston has 165) and develop an urban agriculture strategy, a process currently underway in Boston.
“In the inner city, obesity is too high and the availability of fresh, affordable foods is too low. So we must work hard to ensure that necessary and vital nutrition programs such as the supplemental food assistance program (SNAP) receive the necessary funding,” Mayor Menino said. “Every person should have access to healthy, affordable food, regardless of their neighborhood or income.”