Making Progress in Food Policy

Obesity, hunger, and food insecurity all affect Seattle residents. How we grow food has an impact on the environment, and food-related businesses are a key sector of our economy. Given the many benefits of creating a healthy food system, Seattle adopted a Food Action Plan in 2012. Last week, the Office of Sustainability & Environment’s Food Policy Advisor, Sharon Lerman, updated City Council on the progress the City has made so far (full presentation file here). Some highlights include:

Healthy Food for All

One of the ways we’ve made healthy food more accessible and affordable in Seattle is through the Fresh Bucks program. Fresh Bucks provides a bonus for federal food benefits (through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps) when they are spent at farmers markets. The City piloted the program in 2012 at seven farmers markets, and it has quickly grown to all farmers markets in Seattle. In 2013, 3,000 residents took advantage of the program, with 90% saying that they had eaten more fresh fruits and veggies as a result. Fresh Bucks also benefits farmers and the local economy, with an estimated $270,000 economic impact in 2013.

In addition to the Fresh Bucks program, from 2012-2014 there has also been a 117% increase in Seattle early learning centers and senior sites purchasing healthy food from local farmers (from 29 sites to 63 sites).

Grow Local

Based on our Moving the Needle report, Seattle has seen a 104% increase in publicly accessible land for growing food from 1990 to 2013. Between 2010 and 2013, there was a 33% increase in P-Patch community gardeners to over 6,300. Gardeners also grow food to donate to local food banks – about 28,000 pounds in 2013!

The City also launched the “Seattle Farms” pilot project in late 2013 to lease City-owned land for farming. There are 3 plots being cultivated by new entrepreneurs testing out three different models of urban agriculture.

Strengthen the Local Economy

In addition to the Fresh Bucks impact mentioned earlier, there’s been a $1 million increase in farmers market sales between 2010 & 2012.

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