(Hauppauge, NY) Today, the Suffolk County Food Policy Council (SCFPC) released its annual report to the Suffolk County Legislature and to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. This report summarizes the actions and steps taken by the Council over the course of 2013. It also identifies future steps and actions to be investigated in 2014.
The SCFPC is made up of members of the Department of Health Services, the Department of Economic Development & Planning, the Department of Social Services, food equity advocates, community-based groups, food growers, retailers, and distributors, and Legislator Kara Hahn, the Chair of the Suffolk County Legislature’s Environment, Planning, and Agriculture Committee.
The mission of the Food Policy Council is to:
- Promote the production, distribution, and awareness of locally grown food.
- Strengthen and prioritize policies that will improve food access, health, and nutrition.
- Enhance the regional food system by utilizing local agriculture and farming.
“Access to fresh, healthy foods is absolutely essential to the continued success and growth of our local communities, said County Executive Bellone. “Suffolk County has a rich, vibrant agricultural industry and we must continue to do better to ensure that all citizens, regardless of income status, are able to purchase healthy, affordable food. I applaud the Suffolk County Food Policy Council in their efforts to encourage local food production and to improve local fresh food accessibility.”
Some of the Council’s 2013 successes include:
- The creation of a position on the Suffolk County Food Policy Council for a “local public school district administrator, to be selected by the Legislature” who can assist and offer expertise on “farm-to-school” initiatives.
- The production of a “How to Guide” describing the process of beginning a community garden.
- The update of a 2010 map created by the Long Island Victory Garden Task Force identifying parcels of County-owned land that could potentially be used for community gardens.
- The Council helped advocate for the successful passage of legislative changes to Chapter 8 of the Suffolk County Administrative code, the code that governs Suffolk County’s Purchase of Development Rights program. These changes will help expand direct marketing and processing activities on preserved Suffolk County farmland and will help bring fallow, uncultivated preserved farmland back into agriculture production.
The Council expects to see exciting completion of recent initiatives in the near future including:
- The identification of a corner store owner in a “food desert” in Gordon Heights who will host an event featuring educational materials and displays, food sampling and cooking demonstrations, and opportunities to eligible attendees to enroll in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance (SNAP) Program. The event is planned to be held in March. It is hoped the event can serve as a pilot project for future efforts.
- The Council is working on developing a community gardens website. The website, though still under construction, will serve as a comprehensive resource for people and organizations that want to begin or participate in community gardens on Long Island, including information on how to organize, how to grow or start a garden, possible funding opportunities, and a calendar of events coordinated or hosted by local gardens.
- The creation of an online presence for the Suffolk County Food Policy Council. The SCFPC should serve as a resource for Long Islanders seeking information about healthy foods, news about proposed policies, and notification of relevant workshops and events. The first step is to create a Facebook and Twitter feed to serve those needs.
“The Suffolk County Food Policy Council is committed to developing practical and actionable policies and programs that will help support our local farmers and fishermen and ensure local food security as we work to alleviate food access inequities in our communities” said Suffolk County Food Policy Council Chair, August Ruckdeschel, Farmlands Administrator in the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development & Planning.
“I commend the Suffolk County Food Policy Council for its work thus far in identifying ways to promote access to healthy, locally grown, food for all of our 1.5 million residents,” said Legislator Kara Hahn, Chairwoman of the Legislature’s Environment, Planning and Agriculture committee. “As I continue to look toward ways of curbing the national epidemic of obesity and heart disease here in Suffolk County, I welcome their informed judgment of nutritional disparities that are commonplace throughout our culture.”
“Now is the time to strengthen Long Island’s local food sector,” said Amy Engel, Executive Director of Sustainable Long Island. “Sustainable Long Island is proud to serve on the Suffolk County Food Policy Council and looks forward to the continued collaboration that will advance our food system in a more equitable, environmentally just way.”
“Island Harvest is proud to be joining with our colleagues in different fields as a member of the Suffolk Food Policy Council, all working together to move important issues like food safety, food equity/access to healthy foods, and buying local from simply ideas and concepts to real action and direct benefits to the people of Suffolk County,” said Randi Shubin Dresner, President & CEO of Island Harvest.
“Cornell University Cooperative Extension is committed to boosting food security by promoting healthy lifestyles, improving access to fresh, local, nutritious foods and striving for food sustainability. Together with the Food Policy Council we strive to decrease the burden of obesity in Suffolk.” Vito Minei, Executive Director, Cornell Cooperative Extension.
“In the spirit of the mission of the Food Policy Council, community gardens offer food access with the aim of improving health, all while emphasizing local eating. This locavore philosophy results in utmost nutrient consumption, and a gentler carbon footprint,” said Iman Marghoob, the Community Gardens Coordinator at Stony Brook University Medical Center and the Chairwoman of the SCFPC Subcommittee on Community Gardens.
The Suffolk County Food Policy Council meets every two months. The next meeting will be held Today, February 11th at 9a.m. at the W.H. Rogers Legislature Building, 725 Veterans Memorial Highway, Smithtown, NY 11787. All meetings are open to the public and interested parties.