In April 2019, the Office of the Mayor of New York City released OneNYC 2050 – a nine-volume strategic plan to “confront our climate crisis, achieve equity, and strengthen our democracy” in New York City. The plan is a continuation of the first OneNYC plan published in 2015. It also build on PlaNYC, the long-term sustainability plan for the city released under the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2007.

According to the report, New York City is making promising progress toward some of its sustainability and resiliency goals. Since 2005, greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 19%, 300 miles of bike lanes have been built, and coastal resiliency initiatives have been expanded. Yet, to have a durable and positive effect on current and future generations of New Yorkers, additional efforts will be needed to sustain these initiatives and to bring the voices of the communities most affected by deficiencies of current rules and infrastructures into the planning and assessment process. Another needed contribution to the report is a more explicit acknowledgement of the role of the city’s food system in achieving its long-term public health and environmental goals.

Overall, OneNYC 2050 outlines thirty strategic initiatives organized around eight overarching goals:

  1. A Vibrant Democracy;
  2. An Inclusive Economy;
  3. Thriving Neighborhoods;
  4. Healthy Lives;
  5. Equity and Excellence in Education;
  6. A Livable Climate;
  7. Efficient Mobility;
  8. Modern Infrastructure.

To highlight some of the specific ways in which OneNYC 2050 weaves food systems objectives across its different chapters, CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute researchers examined the plan through the prism of the six broad food policy goals – nutritional well-being, food security, economic development, environmental sustainability, food workers, and food democracy – the policy goals outlined in the Institute’s Food Policy in New York City Since 2008: Lessons for the Next Decade.

Improve Nutritional Well-Being

OneNYC 2050 reports that only 13.3% of New Yorkers now eat the daily recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables. The plan’s Initiative #15 aims to make healthy lifestyles easier in all neighborhoods by expanding healthy food choice and creating a built environment that encourages physical activity, community building and mental health. In its effort to expand healthy food choices and promote the health of New Yorkers, the City is working to make final targets for reducing added sugar in packaged food and beverages. It has also pledged to reduce its purchases of beef by half and phase out processed meat by 2050. The city will also continue the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) program. Additionally, meatless meal offerings have been expanded to all 11 of the City’s public hospitals and all New York City DOE schools will begin serving meatless meals on Mondays. Progress toward healthy nutrition goals will be measured using fruit and vegetable consumption with the aim of increasing the number of New Yorkers who eat the daily recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables from 2.4 to 3 servings.

The De Blasio administration has also committed to increasing the number of four-year-old kids enrolled in full-day Pre-K and expanding access to 3-K for All, which latest data reports at ~5,000 enrolled children. By improving access to early child education, the City will ensure that more 3-and-4-year old’s also have access to nutritious meals and snacks that meet federal and local nutrition standards and that municipal institutions continue to fulfill their role of providing for vulnerable populations.

Promote Food Security

OneNYC 2050 includes measures to address the policy goal of reducing hunger and food insecurity and providing quality and quantity of food needed to maintain health. The City’s 2018 Food Metrics Report shows that 14.4% of New Yorkers are food insecure, a figure that OneNYC 2050 aims to decrease by building an inclusive economy. To do this, the City commits to enforce fair wages and working conditions, guarantee access to lifeline benefits, and address high living costs and debt loads. Through an inclusive economy, the De Blasio Administration also aims to lift 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty or near poverty by 2025. Between 2013 and 2017, OneNYC reports there has been a reduction of 236,500 New Yorkers living in or near poverty.

Another indicator of an inclusive economy is the decrease in income disparity by race. Food insecurity data from the USDA continues to show that black and latinx New Yorkers experience food security at a higher rate than whites and therefore decreasing this disparity can help more people of all races afford healthy and nutritious foods. Increasing the purchasing power of food insecure New Yorkers is one concrete strategy to address persistent inequities in the food environment. In the coming years, the SNAP program will be strengthened by increasing the Health Bucks incentives to a $1-for-$1 match at farmers markets. Currently, SNAP users receive $2 in Health Bucks for each $5 spent. This step has the potential to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among low-income New Yorkers.

Creating Food Systems that Support Economic Development

OneNYC 2050 aims to expand the City’s industrial sector and several plans designated to achieve this goal are related to food processing. The City plans to strengthen the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center and open a regional food hub for locally produced food in 2021. OneNYC 2050 also indicated that the City aims to implement a Good Food Purchasing Policy in order to leverage the power of the public food dollar to promote environmental integrity, public health, vibrant economies, fair jobs, and animal rights. It is, however, not clear whether the City will adopt the Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP), created by the Center for Good Food Purchasing, which is built on five core values— local economies, environmental sustainability, valued workforce, animal welfare and nutrition – and, on the East Coast, was recently adopted by Boston and Washington DC’s School District.

Ensuring Sustainable Food Systems

In FY 2018, the curbside organics diversion rate in the city was 18.0%. The OneNYC 2050 goal is to increase this rate and transition to mandatory residential organics collection citywide. The organics management program will be, therefore, expanded to increase the availability of curbside pickups, food scraps drop-off sites and support for community composting opportunities. The capacity of regional organics processing will also be increased to handle 1 million tons of food and yard waste per year.

Support Food Workers

In order to create a just food system, food workers should be provided with decent wages, safe working conditions, and the right to organize. The city is already working to ensure predictable schedules for fast food and retail employees and has pledged to implement and begin enforcing paid personal time protection for workers by December 2020 (OneNYC 2050, Inclusive Economy Indicators).

Strengthen Food Governance and Food Democracy

Two goals for improving democracy in the city are to launch citywide participatory budgeting and to register 20,000 students during the annual Student Voter Registration, both of which are anticipated to be met by 2020 (OneNYC 2050, Vibrant Democracy Indicators). Participatory Budgeting has successfully funded several food systems-related projects, including the development of a community garden in District 10 and a hydroponic farm in District 34. More voters and more voter participation could translate to more votes for food systems-related projects in participatory funding.

Some of the Items to Follow

Given the unparalleled scale of the New York City’s public food procurement, a formal commitment to a holistic good food procurement policy, such as the Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP), will help the city to move not only more effectively but also more rapidly toward multiple of the OneNYC 2050 goals and targets. The continuation of the FRESH program and how its next iteration may ensure that OneNYC 2050’s health and equity goals are advanced in tandem is another initiative that may be of interest to food advocates. Additionally, as the City prepares for mandatory organics diversion for all residents, it will be key to increase efforts and investment in education and outreach and find strategies to overcome the low participation rates recorded in some of the pilot curbside food scraps collection neighborhoods. Finally, leveraging the city’s participatory budgeting processes to elicit community input on key food policy and programming priorities – from food growing to food distribution, retail, consumption, and waste prevention – through 2050 is another key planning strategy that should not be overlooked.