In a recent presentation to the Cincinnati City Council's Climate, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee, our Food Policy Council Director, Maddie Chera, addressed the crucial topic of urban agriculture and its role in transforming the city's food landscape.
Maddie began by highlighting the urgency of our mission, given the alarming statistics on food insecurity and land use change. Over 30% of adults in Cincinnati struggle with food insecurity, while the region has lost more than 70% of its farms in the past century. These pressing challenges demand comprehensive attention and action.
Since 2010, the Food Policy Council has been working to improve the local food system, collaborating with City agencies and partners on initiatives like the Green Cincinnati Plan and Community Health Improvement Plans (see our Reports and Research page).
One of our region's significant achievements is the Urban Agriculture program, launched by the City's Office of Environment and Sustainability (OES). The program provides funding and technical assistance to community-driven projects across Cincinnati, including community gardens, market gardens, and food businesses. Recently, OES has made concerted efforts to support organizations with BIPOC leadership and that serve low-income populations. The FPC was commissioned to evaluate and report on the City's Urban Agriculture program and on the state of urban agriculture locally as of 2022, and this report served as a major focus of the City Council presentation.
Maddie stressed that urban agriculture goes beyond food production; it fosters connections among diverse communities. For example, in Carthage, new Americans share their food traditions and experiences through gardening. Urban agriculture also creates educational and workforce development opportunities, evident in Cincinnati Public Schools' Agriculture Career Tech program.
Maddie made several recommendations, using the six workstreams outlined in the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact that Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval signed in 2022: governance, sustainable diets and nutrition, social and economic equity, food production, food supply and distribution, and food waste. Recommendations included allocating more resources to food systems planning, prioritizing training for small and marginalized food producers, and investing in local infrastructure for better food distribution.
Maddie encouraged City Council to consider integrating food issues with other aspects of quality of life, such as housing and transportation. The Food Policy Council stands ready to collaborate and to assist others in building a resilient regional food system together.
In conclusion, the presentation emphasized the vital role of urban agriculture in creating a resilient food system for Cincinnati. By addressing food insecurity, fostering community connections, and promoting education and workforce development, urban agriculture can drive positive change in the region. It is essential for the City Council and other stakeholders to support this critical initiative, working together to ensure a sustainable and thriving future for all residents.
As the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council continues its efforts, we hope the City Council and the community will come together to make urban agriculture a central component of Cincinnati's response to challenges like the climate crisis, supply chain disruptions, and nutritional insecurity. Through collaboration and collective action, we can empower the city and its residents through urban agriculture.
The meeting was recorded via CitiCable.
Representatives from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) also presented at the meeting, discussing their work on food waste reduction with the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (OH) through the NRDC Food Matters program. NRDC staff Madeline Keating, City Strategist, and Yvette Cabrera, Director of Food Waste, also shared policy opportunities that would support food waste diversion and reduction, highlighting examples from across the country. Robin Henderson, OES's expert on Urban Agriculture, Food Waste, and Food Policy and the Office's representative on the Food Policy Council as a Consulting Member organization, participates in the Food Matters program with NRDC and attended the meeting presentations.
🗣️ Have you made a presentation about food issues in our region recently? We'd love to hear about it. Reach out to us so we can amplify that impact.