Planning an Equitable Food System in Central New York
Healthy Food, Healthy Lives
June 9, 2023
Food systems planning is a collaborative process among farmers, retailers, consumers, nonprofits, health systems, and government to develop priorities and implement policies and practices that shape how local or regional food systems operate.
NYHealth currently supports eight a cohort of food planning groups in New York State that develop tailored food systems plans designed to meet local and regional food needs. Syracuse Onondaga Food Systems Alliance’s (SOFSA’s) service area—the city of Syracuse, Onondaga County, and the Onondaga Nation—is home to communities experiencing concentrated poverty in the urban center and a large refugee population, as well as both urban and rural agricultural producers and other food businesses. Central New York is one of the most productive farming areas in the Northeast, and Syracuse has a long history of food processing and distribution, yet residents report poor access to healthy foods. Moreover, residents looking to pursue farming—including new immigrants with farming skills—struggle to access land. In 2023, NYHealth awarded SOFSA, through fiscal sponsor Syracuse Grows, a grant to add Central New York to the food policy planning cohort to advocate for policy changes that make healthy, local food more available across the region.
Under this grant, SOFSA will develop a five-year strategic plan that expands upon existing projects and goals. SOFSA will deepen its local partnerships and cultivate relationships with influential statewide organizations to implement a campaign to bring back a grocery store and establish a farmers market in the lowest income neighborhood of Syracuse; convene school food service workers from across Onondaga County to share successes and identify ways to fill gaps; support schools to serve more locally produced food; and create a communications plan to educate stakeholders, policymakers, and the public about benefits of participation in the food system. SOFSA will implement a mini-grants program to support community-identified solutions to food access issues. In addition, SOFSA will convene food policy councils from across the State to share strategies and strengthen capacity, forging a coordinated statewide network.