AuthorFreudenberg, Nicholas
PositionColloquium: Taking a Bite out of the Big Apple: A Conversation About Urban Food Policy

Introduction 952 I. Food Policy Governance Standards 955 II. Food Policy in New York City Since 2008 959 A. Food Standards and Food Policy Coordinator 969 B. Food Retail Expansion to Support Health ("FRESH") 972 C. Changes in SNAP Enrollment and Outreach 975 D. Universal Free Lunch 976 E. Portion Cap Limitation 977 III. An Assessment of Food Policy Governance in New York City 979 A. Promotes Equity 980 B. Encourages Accountability 982 C. Ensures Sustainability 985 D. Fosters Inclusion and Participation 986 E. Uses Data and Evidence to Inform Decisions 987 F. Advances Intersectoral Action 988 IV. Recommendations 989 A. Develop a New York City Food Plan 990 B. Create a Central Interactive Repository of City Food Data 991 C. Strengthen the Public Sector in Food 992 D. Create New Democracy and Governance Processes to Expand Local Control of Our Food System 993 Conclusion 994 INTRODUCTION

In this century, cities around the world have embarked on ambitious efforts to modify food policies to improve health, reduce hunger and food insecurity, and to create more sustainable community development and environmental protection, while decreasing economic inequality. (1) In the last decade, New York City has played a leading role in charting the path of new urban food governance by creating dozens of new food policies and programs to improve nutritional well-being, promote food security, create food systems that support community and economic development, and encourage more sustainable food production, distribution, and consumption practices. (2) These initiatives built on the City's prior efforts to create healthier food environments (3) and used existing and new governance mechanisms to consider, enact, and implement changes in how New York City manages its food system.

Food policy means more than laws and regulations that govern food; it includes all public decisions affecting food. Thus, this Article uses the term "food policy" to refer to legislation, executive orders, rule changes, demonstration projects, program expansion or elimination, capital investments and budget allocations, grant programs, reporting requirements, certifications and enforcement, programs, and government agency rules and regulations. Together these decisions and their implementation constitute the food policy landscape in New York. Businesses and trade associations also shape food policy, both through their influence on government and through their own organizational practices such as marketing, retail distribution, pricing, and product design. (4) As this Article will demonstrate, businesses and civil society groups have played an important role in food policy governance in New York City.

As city governments around the world took on new responsibilities for food, municipalities also expanded their role in health, transportation, education, environmental protection, and housing. (5) Analyzing these experiences, scholars from several disciplines began exploring what distinguishes governance from the institution of government, and furthermore, what constitutes good urban governance. (6) In this discourse, government describes a more static structure while governance conveys the dynamic interactive processes that influence policy. (7) UN-HABITAT, the United Nations agency for human settlements, asserts that "good urban governance" provides residents with "the platform which will allow them to use their talents to the full to improve their social and economic conditions." (8) Another United Nations agency, UNESCO, has defined governance as "the structures and processes that are designed to ensure accountability, transparency, responsiveness, rule of law, stability, equity and inclusiveness, empowerment, and broad-based participation." (9) Governance allocates power, resources, and services. It safeguards justice and fairness, sets the rules for markets, enables participation and democracy, and reinforces or disrupts hierarchies. More broadly, governance describes how citizens, government, civil society groups, and businesses interact to achieve public goals and participate in public affairs. In 2015, acknowledging the growing global interest in governance, world leaders endorsed the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, (10) which recognized the development and strengthening of good governance at the local level as a key goal. (11) In the food sector, food governance describes the complex systems and processes through which global, national, and local decisions shape food environments and food choices; (12) urban food governance, specifically, describes how these dynamic processes operate at the municipal level to achieve--or fail to achieve--food goals. (13) To focus our assessment of food governance in New York City, we identified six broad goals of city food policy, as shown in Table 1. Our assessment asks: how effective was food policy governance in New York City in the last decade in making progress towards achieving these six goals?

This Article examines to what extent and in what ways New York City's food policy governance since 2008 reflects these six values. The Article proposes these six values as standards by which to judge the effectiveness and fairness of urban food governance. The goal of this Article is to identify lessons for improving food governance in New York and other cities in the decade to come. Part I briefly describes the rationale for these six standards for food governance. Part II presents five short profiles of food policies enacted in New York City since 2008, and Part III assesses how current governance practices contributed to the implementation and impact of the policies. Finally, the Article concludes by suggesting lessons from this analysis that could inform modifications in food policy governance in New York and other cities in the next decade.


    Effective urban food governance enables cities to identify and solve food problems such as food insecurity, diet-related diseases, an underpaid food workforce, or unsustainable food production and distribution practices. (15) As urban governance attracted scholarly attention, new bodies of literature from public health, urban planning, geography, political science, and other fields emerged that analyzed key characteristics of effective urban governance addressing food and health. (16) An analysis of recent literature on urban food governance (17) recognized six recurring key characteristics of food policy-making, each described briefly here, that scholars identified as contributing to improved processes and outcomes. These include food governance that promotes equity, encourages accountability, ensures sustainability, fosters inclusion and participation, uses data and evidence to inform decisions, and advances intersectoral action.

    (1) Promotes equity. Many cities in high, middle, and low-income countries are characterized by food systems that allocate access to food inequitably. (18) In effective food governance, these cities use their formal and informal power to promote more equitable outcomes. (19) Additionally, food systems can reduce or exacerbate urban food inequities at different stages of urbanization, and accordingly, municipalities should pursue intersectoral policies that make improving equity a priority. (20) Therefore, effective urban food governance monitors the impact of food systems on health and economic equity and takes action to reduce identified gaps in food access allocation.

    (2) Encourages accountability. In practice, urban governance regimes can either reinforce or undermine the accountability of public and private actors in the food system. Effective food governance encourages decision makers to make stable commitments to provide the resources and political support needed to implement food policies over time. (21) It provides all constituencies with the information they need to judge the effectiveness of policies, a practice sometimes termed "transparency," (22) and it provides for consequences for players who fail to keep commitments. (23)

    (3) Ensures sustainability. Effective food governance protects future as well as current generations. It considers the environmental consequences of all stages of food supply chains (24) and assesses the global consequences of local food practices and the local impact of regional, national, and global food practices. (25) Given these concerns, many cities have prioritized the development of policies that protect the long-term viability of the regional foodshed. (26)

    (4) Fosters inclusion and participation. Effective food governance can also foster inclusion and participation from a diverse population, especially those communities often excluded from food policymaking. Governments should seek this inclusion for two reasons. First, those who bear the heaviest burden of inequitable food environments have unique insights into what needs to change. (27) Second, including all affected constituencies in making policy decisions increases the likelihood that they will have a stake in achieving desired food policy goals. (28) Governance systems that invite participation and promote inclusion of disadvantaged sectors of the population also contribute to more democratic decisions, a value goal in itself.

    (5) Uses data and evidence to inform decisions. Effective food governance uses public data, research evidence, and practice-based evidence to guide and modify food policies and programs. (29) New technologies enable more participatory data gathering, contributing to the goal of inclusion and participation. (30) Governments can, in turn, use this organized data to monitor progress towards goals, promote accountability, and identify problems affecting vulnerable communities before they become entrenched. (31) These data capabilities, therefore, can make governments more responsive and effective in resolving food policy issues.

    (6) Advances intersectoral action. Food...

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