Take a look at your meal. I’m looking at mushroom ravioli, parsley, olive oil, Italian bread, and parmesan cheese. But I can’t accurately tell you where these tasty food items come from, how far or wide reaching their impact. I do not know my meal’s “foodprint,” a concept discussed at last weekend’s NYC Food and Climate Summit.
What is a foodprint? A foodprint is our food system’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change, according to Jacquie Berger, Executive Director of Just Food, one of the conference’s organizers. The impact of your food may be far greater than those incandescent light bulbs you replaced with fluorescents, or even your hybrid or gasoline-powered car. It is estimated that one-third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions globally derive from our food system, the way we cultivate, process, package, transport, and dispose of our food.
San Francisco residents have a longer history and deeper connection to the land that surrounds them. Order a steak at one of San Francisco’s foodie establishments and you will be told a story about how the cow was raised, the farm where it lived, and what combination of grasses was fed to your cow for optimum health and happiness. Even SF’s recent composting initiative focuses on fertilizing farms within a known radius of the city, “to make the food taste better.”
How will New Yorkers, the largest, most populated, and densest city in the US, ever conceive of a sustainable food system? Professors, chefs, nutritionists, students, gardeners, community organizers, farmers, designers, and sustainability activists are collaborating locally to envision a prosperous and healthy regional food system. Local politician Scott Stringer, the Manhattan Borough President, launched a The NYC Sustainable Food Charter in advance of the summit. Christine Quinn, NY City’s Council Speaker has followed suit with a program called “FoodWorks New York,” turning NYC’s Department of Education and its immense buying power (over 860,000 meals a day, second largest to the US Military) into an opportunity to create fresher, healthier meals, and jobs along the way. Lettuce would be bought in New York state, shipped and packed to the city to a retrofitted industrial space used as a fresher processing facility.
Meanwhile grassroots projects are being prototyped by creative, curious, and concerned citizens: projects like urban windowfarms, rooftop farms,vertical farms, and brownfield reclamation through composting are popping up all over the city as demonstration ideas of a sustainable future. How is your region rethinking the food system?