A Central Brooklyn Food Hub would increase vulnerable populations' access to nutritious food, generate $7 million in annual revenue, create 31 local jobs, produce 3,000 tons of produce and support nearly 500 minority farmers in New York State, a new study has found.
This week, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation released the Central Brooklyn Food Hub Feasibility Study highlighting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Brooklyn's local food systems and outlining recommendations for a new hub that would support current community needs and ongoing food justice efforts.
The hub would follow a "hub and spoke" model, in which the local Food Hub would serve as the anchor and vehicle for increasing food access throughout the community. The model involves a commitment to deep community engagement, supportive economic development and increased community involvement in policy initiatives, Restoration said in a statement,
Restoration EVP and Chief Program Officer Tracey Capers said the community-driven recommendations in the study gave a framework for wealth creation, prioritizing community ownership and addressing the social determinants of health.
"Alongside community partners, we have been working for years to support a community vision of a local food system that provides dignified jobs, creates opportunities for ownership along the supply chain, and increases community access to affordable and quality local produce and value added items," Capers said.
"As Central Brooklyn recovers from the economic and health devastation exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, necessary investments into a racial equity-centered food system will catapult hyper-local and regional benefits, meeting the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors."
The study was first submitted to the New York State Dept. of Agriculture in 2019, and the subsequent COVID-19 pandemic has only reaffirmed the need for the hub. Restoration found the existing food and agricultural system does not adequately support the borough's most vulnerable populations, specifically Black, Latinx, immigrant and low-income communities, and there is an urgent need to invest in community assets for a locally controlled food system.
COVID-19 further exposed disparities that leave many Brooklyn residents without access to healthy foods. Restoration said what was now clear was that the only solution was an "extensive community development effort, one that seeks to achieve lasting racial, health and economic equity within the neighborhoods it serves by addressing systemic injustices at their core."
The study sets out six recommendations, which include:
- Supporting the development of the Central Brooklyn Food Hub to address the racial and economic inequities within the food and economic systems that are impacting Central Brooklyn residents.
- Investing in community and cooperatively owned food retail to increase the availability of food retailers committed to community ownership, food sovereignty, and healthy retail in under-served areas.
- Developing a food business incubator and community kitchen to train community members on front or back of house food service skills and provide business and technical assistance to community-owned small food businesses.
- Providing technical assistance to Central Brooklyn growers to build the capacity and increasing access to markets in the local supply chain for hyper-local growers.
- Investing in value chain coordination and community initiatives to ensure affordability and continued success of a community-owned food economy that increases food access, job development, and wealth creation
- Formalizing the Food Hub Advisory Committee to operate as a governing committee to the Governor as decisions are made about the Central Brooklyn Food Hub, including reviewing, commenting, and being involved in decision making for investments into the Food Hub and proposed spokes, as well as is a diverse representation of key stakeholders.
It finds that with an investment of $36 million across 5 years, the hub would provide 31 living wage jobs; shorten the supply chain and localize the distribution of local goods, supporting local growers and value-added producers; support long standing organizing efforts to develop community owned retail; and develop community owned infrastructure that supports community-based food entrepreneurs.
New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said the State was committed to both supporting farmers and improving the health and economic wellbeing of low-income Central Brooklyn residents through the Vital Brooklyn initiative.
"As we continue to build back better from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Central Brooklyn Food Hub Feasibility Study released today offers a robust framework to strengthen Central Brooklyn's food system moving forward," he said.
Restoration received a $750,000 grant from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation that it said will lay the groundwork for the larger facility and develop a proof of concept. The grant will be used with specific focus on providing healthy food options to Bed-Stuy and Brownsville. Restoration said the neighborhoods represented food deserts and communities of highest health disparities, and will be target locations for early roll out of the Central Food Hub study recommendations.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said it was imperative the city holistically rethink the food system to prioritize health and equity when rebuilding from the pandemic.
"A Central Brooklyn food hub would help to streamline the local food system in an area that has long suffered from the effects of food apartheid, and it should be part of a broader network of food hubs across the borough that can meet the needs of our most underserved populations," he said.