The word “data” may not be the zestiest conversation starter when it comes to food. But numbers are actually quite important to telling the story of–and ultimately improving–our regional food system.
During development of the 2011 and 2012 Regional Food System Assessment for South Central NY, the lack of available regional food system data became (painfully) clear. Limited by tight human and financial resources (as we imagine many local and regional food coalitions and organizations are), collecting data ourselves was (and still is) rarely an option. Publicly available agricultural census data help us tell some of the story, but certainly not all of it. Especially desired for our report–and ultimately unavailable–was information on current purchasing patterns among retailers, institutions, and individual consumers. Without an accurate illustration of current food purchasing, it’s difficult to set reasonable goals and guidelines for improvement. As assessments and planning play an increasingly bigger role in regional food system development, the accessibility of readily available, easy-to-use, accurate data is relevant for the health of food systems at the local, regional, and state levels.
So we’re excited to hear that New York State Senator Patty Richie and Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes have sponsored the Food Metrics Bill (S.4061/A.5102). The bill would require state agencies to track and report on food purchasing, illustrating the amount of money spent on and the geographic source of food available in such agencies. Additionally, the bill would assist state agencies in using and purchasing more New York State food product by requiring the development of procurement guidelines at the state level.
As aptly stated by our friends at the American Farmland Trust, “When state institutions buy more food grown in New York it will help our farmers turn a profit as well as feed healthy, nutritious, locally-grown food to people who need it – like students, hospital patients and senior citizens. It just makes sense.”