Community service organization Capital Roots announced the launch of the Greater Capital Region Food System Assessment Wednesday at its headquarters and regional food hub, the Urban Grow Center, in Troy.
The assessment is a two-part, two-year project that will evaluate production, processing, distribution and consumption of local food. The goal: identify methods to increase equity and economic resilience in the Capital Region food system.
It calls for a community food security assessment based on four counties of consumption (Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady) and a local food economy assessment based on the 11-county regional foodshed (Albany, Columbia, Fulton, Greene, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren, Washington). The organizations wants to understand the capacity for locally produced food to fill gaps in urban markets, and identify local food processing opportunities.
Capital Roots’ CEO Amy Klein says the Capital Region will join communities across the country that have committed to the local food movement by providing data-driven information for those working to increase support for local producers and food insecure consumers. "The state Department of Agriculture and Markets estimates that the food New York residents purchase in grocery stores travels an average of 1,500 miles from farms to consumers' plates. We know that with more than 4,500 farms in our region, there's great capacity within our agricultural community to fill our stomachs with quality food, while also pumping more money into our local economy."
New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Deputy Executive Director Barbara Guinn says information the project gathers will educate food producers as well as the providers who connect low-income individuals and families to food programs. "The research provided by the Food System Assessment will certainly enable all of us to identify new approaches to help increase the consumption of healthy food, so that we can continue to build stronger families in our communities, and to do so through data-driven best practices.
Lifelong Schoharie farmer and Commissioner of New York State Agriculture and Markets Richard Ball says considering New York’s 36,000 farmers, agriculture is the key to growing the upstate economy. "This comes at such a perfect time, because, you know, as we look around, New Yorkers and consumers in general are becoming more interested in local. But they also want to know something about transparency. They wanna know something about food safety. They wanna know something about environmental stewardship on our farms."
Ball says the project echoes Governor Andrew Cuomo’s efforts to address hunger, including the New York State Grown & Certified program. Funding for the project includes a 2016 Conservation Catalyst Grant from the New York State Conservation Partnership Program.