Healthy Food Access in Urban Areas

Last week, on Friday, May 18, I watched the webcast of a talk given at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health entitled Healthy Food Access in Urban Areas: Barriers and Solutions.

The two presenters were:

  • Holly Freishtat, Food Policy Director for Baltimore City and
  • Anne Palmer, Program Director for the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

Though legal issues were not the main focus of the talk, I will highlight below a few topics the presenters covered that have legal implications.

Guide to Setting up a Farmer’s Market:

Ms. Freishtat mentioned that there is no guide to setting up a farmer’s market in Baltimore City. Such a guide would include all relevant regulations for setting up a market and a list of the various permits needed. [Perhaps this is a project that the Urban Agriculture Law Project can take up.] There are several large farmer’s markets in Baltimore City, but there is a market for many smaller markets throughout the week and scattered throughout various underserved neighborhoods.

Here is a general, short, practical (not legal) overview of how to set up a farmer’s market, written by the USDA: How to Start a Farmer’s Market.

Baltimore City food policy coalitions:

Two local government organizations that Ms. Freishtat mentioned that are working on food policy issues are the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative (BFPI) and the Baltimore Food Policy Advisory Committee (FoodPAC). The Baltimore Food Policy Initiative consists of (1) the City Office of Sustainability, (2) City Planning, (3) the City Health Department, and (4) the City Development Corporation. FoodPAC’s members, on the other hand, can include any individual or organization (including community gardens and urban farms) who are interested in food policy in Baltimore City.

Earlier this year, the US Conference of Mayors started a Food Policy Taskforce, of which Tom Menino, mayor of Boston, is the chair, and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the mayor of Baltimore, is the vice-chair.

“The food policy task force will focus on issues including reducing obesity, increasing access to healthy affordable food in low-income communities, and increasing local food procurement and entrepreneurship in cities. The task force will review issues and policy barriers to addressing food access, food security issues in urban areas including recommendations on increasing SNAP (Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program) participation via recommendations on best policies and practices, 2012 Farm Bill, support for farmer’s markets, food desert mapping and healthy food retail.”

US Conference of Mayors 2012 Winter Meeting Agenda, p16.

Urban Agriculture Training Program:

The Baltimore Food Policy Initiative and the Baltimore City Office of Sustainability are developing an Urban Agriculture Training Program in collaboration with Future Harvest. The program aims to help farmers actually make a sustainable living by farming on larger plots of land in the city.

Rewrite Baltimore: 

The City has been undertaking a large-scale overhaul of its regulations, a project it is calling Rewrite Baltimore. The Office of Sustainability worked with the City Planning office in rewriting its animal husbandry ordinances to make it easier for Baltimore City residents to raise miniature goats, bees, rabbits, and chickens.

The Office of Sustainability also worked with the Planning Department to update the city building code to permit hoop house construction and to encourage community gardens.

Posted on by Kristine Dunkerton

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