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Food Policy

Food Policy Background

In the District, there are many options when it comes to food; grocery stores, restaurants, farmers’ markets, community gardens, corner stores, and food trucks keep District residents fed and pantries stocked. In conjunction with the city’s Sustainable DC Plan, the Office of Planning researches and plans for land use policy around food systems and urban agriculture issues. Major topics of research include food access and affordability, health, economic development, and food security. The city’s goals for food policy are established in Sustainable DC to focus on increasing the amount of land in the District under agricultural use by 20 acres; ensuring that 75% of District residents live within a quarter mile of a community garden; farmers’ market, or a health corner store; and to develop the food industry to produce or obtain 25% of food within a 100 mile radius of the District.

Unfortunately, this bounty is more available in some areas of the city than in others. Some neighborhoods do not have easy access to a convenient grocery store and must rely too heavily on fast food restaurants or convenience stores. To make sure our city has equitable access to healthy foods, the District needs to build culture around local, fresh, and healthy food and a local supply chain that starts with cultivation and continues through processing, transporting, distributing, cooking, eating, and eventually disposing of food. Each stage in the process has economic, social, and environmental implications for the District’s future: untapped economic opportunities; public health issues associated with poor access to high quality and nutritious produce; and long-term security of food supplies due to threats from climate change. Including food as a cornerstone of sustainability policy is part of ensuring our health, security, and prosperity now and in the future. To aid in this, several pieces of legislation have been passed by the DC Council to set policy for better access to health food for all DC residents. They include legislation and policy around agriculture, food access and the local food economy

  1. Food Policy Council and Director Establishment Act of 2014 - To establish a Food Policy Director in District Government to promote food policy in the District, attract new participants to the local food economy, assist individuals already participating in the local food economy, and achieve the food goals identified in the Sustainable DC plan, and to establish a Food Policy Council to identify regulatory burdens on the local food economy, collect and analyze data on the food economy and food equity, promote positive food policies, and guide organizations and individuals involved in the food economy. – Official Law
  2. D.C. Urban Farming and Food Security Amendment Act of 2015 - To amend the Food Production and Urban Gardens Program Act of 1986 to establish an urban farming land leasing initiative; to establish a nonrefundable tax credit for food commodity donations made to a District of Columbia food bank or shelter; and to establish a real property tax abatement for unimproved real property leased for the purpose of small-scale urban farming. – Under Review Now
  3. COTTAGE FOOD ACT OF 2013 – To amend the DOH Functions Clarification Act of 2001 to permit cottage food businesses in the District to operate without a license from the Department of Health if the specific laws concerning cottage food businesses are followed, to authorize DOH to define food products to be sold by cottage food businesses, to authorize inspections of cottage food businesses if a complaint is received by DOH, and to authorize the DOH to issue regulations concerning cottage food businesses. – Official Law
  4. Healthy Schools Act of 2010, Amended in 2012 - The Act addresses the following areas: Breakfast/Lunch Access; School Nutrition; Farm to School; Physical Activity & Education; Health Education; School Environment; Competitive Foods/Snacks; Health & Wellness setting nutrition guidelines for food available on school campuses. – Official Law
  5. FOOD, ENVIRONMENTAL, AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ACT OF 2010 (FEED DC Act) - To establish a program to attract grocery stores and renovate grocery stores in low-income areas in the District; to require participating grocery stores to employ District residents and provide them with quality jobs, accept SNAP benefits, and accept WIC benefits; to designate a grocery ambassador to assist grocery retailers; to amend Chapter 38 of Title 47 of the District of Columbia Official Code to modify the tax exemption provisions for supermarkets; to establish a program to expand access to healthy foods in low-income areas in the District by providing assistance to corner stores, farmers markets and other small food retailers; to develop a plan for establishing a commercial distribution system for fresh produce and healthy foods to corner stores; and to assist corner stores in becoming more energy efficient. – Official Law
  6. The DC Food Finder is an interactive map of fresh, healthy, and affordable food resources in DC.
  7. Sustainable DC Mayor’s Order Food Access & Security Report - This is the Sustainable DC Mayor’s Order Food Access and Security Task Force, led by the Office of Planning’s study of the accessibility of healthy food in neighborhoods by evaluating existing conditions for food access, urban agriculture, and agricultural economy in the District. The report provides recommendations to increase the accessibility of healthy affordable foods and the reduction of food insecurity of District residents consistent with the goals identified in the Sustainable DC Plan