Thank you Chairman Mendelson and Councilmember Evans for holding this joint hearing on B20-677 the D.C. Urban Farming and Food Security Act of 2014 and thank you to the witnesses here to testify today.
In the District of Columbia 1 out of 3 residents are at risk of hunger, while 1 in 3 District children are at risk of becoming overweight or obese. As obesity and diet-related chronic disease rates continue to rise, the need to create a sustainable food system that provides healthy food which meets all of the city’s current needs and maintains a healthy ecosystem is imperative.
The District, through the Healthy Schools Act and the Healthy Corner Store program is working diligently to reduce food insecurity and improve the health and wellness of District residents, particularly those in neighborhoods without adequate supermarkets and other sources of affordable healthy food; however, more can and should be done.
I introduced this legislation because all District residents, at all times, should have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life. Food security is built on three pillars: food availability; food access; and food use.
This legislation instructs the Mayor to first identify and then lease certain District-owned vacant lots to independent farmers and farm cooperatives to be used for successful urban farming ventures. This bill also creates tax incentives to encourage more individuals and businesses to farm locally and donate locally farmed vegetables, fruits, and grains to D.C. food banks or shelters.
By the District leasing its unused vacant property throughout the city to independent farmers and community farm cooperatives, it allows our residents to claim direct access to healthy food by growing, harvesting and processing it themselves.
By incentivizing more individuals and businesses to proactively donate to local food banks or homeless shelters we can support organizations like Miriam’s Kitchen and the Capital Area Food Bank that manage to make wonderful meals for our most vulnerable residents, day-in and day-out.
My goal is to foster a robust conversation around food security and sustainability, which is why I have partnered with the Open Government Foundation to promote transparency. Using the Madison platform, this bill, as well as others has been uploaded to spur community engagement and allow District residents to comment and offer input.
We have received feedback already, which I will be incorporating today and I encourage anyone watching from home to log in and join the conversation. We will be accepting questions throughout today’s hearing and while I will not be able to ask them all, I do encourage everyone to utilize this platform and continue to stay engaged on the issues.
A truly sustainable food system encourages local food production and distribution opportunities that make nutritious food accessible and affordable to all District residents. With this legislation we will continue to improve food availability, food access and food use and I am eager to hear from and engage with all of the witnesses in the discussion to follow.