Mayor Receives Final Report From Food Policy Task Force

~Addressing food deserts in the city a major focus of groups work~

Mayor Dwight C. Jones today received the final report of the Food Policy Task Force; a task force charged with providing the Administration advice on food policy and land use planning issues in the City of Richmond to include urban agriculture, development of markets for locally-grown food, food education, child nutrition, and the development of inner-city supermarkets.

Mayor Dwight C. Jones established the Task Force in July of 2011 as part of his multi-pronged approach to finding ways to address concentrated poverty in the city of Richmond and advance the quality of life. A number of “food deserts” exist (areas where low-income residents have no access to grocery stores) in the city’s lower income neighborhoods, which can contribute to a continuing cycle of poor health and poor outcomes for segments of the city’s population.

“I want to express my thanks to the many individuals who devoted their time and energies into researching the food system issues that exist in Richmond,” said Mayor Jones. “This document will help us chart a course to augment many of the efforts that we have already seen get underway, like the new Get Fresh East End corner story healthy food initiative that was launched last week or the food shuttle service that the city has been providing.”

The Mayor’s Food Policy Task Force was comprised of community food advocates representing local government, non-profits, community advocates, urban planners, urban farmers, community gardeners, chefs, public health officials, and others with interests and expertise in the local food system. Focus area work groups were organized around the following topics:

  • Food Security – examining the  availability and access to of nutritious food
  • Education and Awareness – promoting healthy eating and its impact on individual and community health and well-being
  • Health and Nutrition – examining the relationships between diet, health and disease
  • School and Community Gardens –reviewing existing initiatives that support the  City’s food system
  • Quality of School Food – assessing the quality and nutritious value of school breakfast and lunch
  • Community Assessment-  developing an assessment of the City’s food system

A series of community meetings were held and citizen priorities were documented. Top recommendations coming out of the Task Force where there has already been some movement include:

  • Create a Food Policy Coordinator Position – As a first step, the City is in the final stages of signing an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission for part-time staff support in the role of a Food Policy Coordinator who will be responsible for coordinating food related initiatives in the City and pursuing grant funds to implement other recommendations from the Task Force.
  • Revise zoning laws for raising fowl – The City has already acted on revisions to the zoning laws to permit the raising of chickens in the City.
  • Establish mobile farmers markets/bus routes to markets – The City has been working to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables through the RVA Shoppers’ Shuttle which provides transportation from food deserts to local shopping destinations.
  • Create edible landscapes on city owned properties - Over 300 edible trees have been planted in Chimborazo Park.
The total of 17 recommendations follows:

Proposed Recommendation                                                           Priority           Time to Implement
1.    Create Food Policy Coordinator position                                            1                      Short Term
2.    Revise zoning laws to facilitate urban agriculture                                 2                      Short Term
3.    Revise zoning laws for raising fowl                                                         1                      Short Term
4.    Reduce/eliminate irrigation fees for community gardens                     2                      Mid Term
5.    Create edible landscapes on city owned properties                            3                      Mid Term
6.    Establish policy regarding use of pesticides, herbicides, etc.            2                      Mid Term
7.    Establish grant program for food-related businesses                          3                      Mid Term
8.    Create “green” career development program                                       3                      Long Term     
9.    Use of vacant properties for food-oriented projects                             2                      Mid Term
10.  Establish community kitchens/food hubs w/ educational                     1                      Long Term
11.  Establish mobile farmers markets/bus routes to markets                    3                      Mid Term
12.  Expand use of SNAP benefits at Farmers Markets                              2                      Short Term
13.  Implement moratorium on establishment of fast food restaurants        2                      Long Term
14.  Implement city-wide marketing campaign promoting healthy eating    3                      Mid Term
15.  Provide funds to upgrade kitchens in RPS to meet new standards      2                      Long Term
16.  Expand use of local fresh foods in RPS to minimum of 10 percent      1                      Long Term
17.  Increase nutrition education with Healthier School Food Groups          1                      Mid Term

“I look forward to drilling down into all of the recommendations the Task Force has provided,” continued Mayor Jones.  “All of our efforts are ultimately going to empower Richmond City residents and that is how we are going to be able to Build the Best Richmond.”

Click here to view the entire report.