City food plan revealed

The city’s Food Policy Council released a first draft of its food policy plan.
The city’s Food Policy Council released a first draft of its food policy plan. Photo by Phillipp Arndt.

New Haven’s food culture could soon see some improvements.

The New Haven Food Policy Council, an organization that develops food policy within the city, unveiled the first draft of its New Haven Food Action Plan earlier this month, which aims to create an overarching vision of New Haven’s food administration. While the food council cannot implement any of the recommendations itself, the plan provides guidance to city and local non-profits in crafting a successful city-wide food policy.

“We wanted to create a plan which would help the city take a look at the entire food system — from production all the way to composting,” said Roberta Friedman, a member of the Food Policy Council and director of public policy at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale.

The plan presents three main goals: to increase access to healthy foods, strengthen the city’s food economy and encourage healthy eating through education and marketing. It also includes 16 strategies to achieve these goals, such as creating more “healthy food zones” in schools and providing more support to mothers who breast feed their children.

Monique Stefani, a member of the council, said the plan focuses on economic development along with health policy. The plan emphasizes local food production and the creation of urban farm businesses to strengthen the local economy

“It’s not just about restaurants,” she added.

As part of its community education and outreach effort, the council held 15 meetings in different New Haven neighborhoods to receive feedback from residents across the city. Last week, the council celebrated National Food Day and presented its plan for the first time at the Yale Peabody Museum. Key local players in the fight to change New Haven’s food policy — including New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and Jeannette Ickovics, director of the Community Alliance for Research & Education (CARE) at the Yale School of Public Health — were present at the event.

The council’s plan places the responsibility for implementing its recommendations, which carry no legislative weight, on local business and non-profit organizations. The Women’s Initiative of the United Way of New Haven has pledged $20,000 to expand local cooking education programs such as Cooking Matters, a program sponsored by Share Our Strength — a national non-profit that seeks to end childhood hunger. Casavina Hall, senior director of Income and Health Initiatives at the Women’s Initiative, said the organization has been committed to changing local food policy since its creation in June 2011.

“The knowledge of cooking, which was once handed down from parent to parent, has been lost, and people want to recapture that,” Hall said.

Along with local non-profits, the Yale community has devoted resources to food policy as well. Alycia Santilli, a member of the Food Council and Director of Community Initiatives at CARE, said in an email that CARE collaborated closely with the Food Policy Council in developing the plan. CARE has also been awarded $100,000 from the Newman’s Own Foundation to fund SNAP, the federal program that gives financial help to low-income citizens who need food.

Santilli added that the action plan is “an unprecedented attempt to coordinate multiple players who ‘touch’ issues related to food policy in New Haven,” including figures in government, nonprofit organizations and local businesses.

The final draft of the Food Policy plan, which incorporates community input, will be released at the end of November.

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