Tompkins County Food Policy Council Addresses The City of Ithaca’s Food Systems Goals and Food Waste Across the County
Category: The Big Picture

Tompkins County Food Policy Council Addresses The City of Ithaca’s Food Systems Goals and Food Waste Across the County

From the Tompkins County Food Policy Council:

The Tompkins County Food Policy Council (Food Policy Council), formed in January 2016 after a multi-year community-planning process, has spent the second half of 2017 focusing in on two key action areas to strengthen and improve Tompkins County’s local food system: helping Ithaca’s city government realize their Comprehensive Plan goals addressing food security, and advocating for a county-wide food waste reduction plan and policy.  

The TCFPC represents a diverse group of food system actors within Tompkins County, including membership from the Friendship Donation Network, Groundswell Center For Local Food and Farming, Cornell Cooperative Extension, The Youth Farm Project, Tompkins County Recycling and Materials Management, New Roots Charter School, GreenStar Community Projects, The Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute, Project Growing Hope (the Ithaca Community Gardens), and two PhD candidates from Development Sociology  and Dyson School for Applied Economics & Management at Cornell.


First Steps

With monthly full-council meetings and smaller working groups, the TCFPC explored a wide range of possible topics to address in its first year of existence, and by early 2017 the council had started to narrow these topics down to two key priority areas. “By focusing in on these two issues – supporting Ithaca’s aspirational food security goals, and strategically addressing food waste in the county – we feel that as a council we can start to have a positive impact on the direction of our local food policy,” said Dan Hoffman, Council founder and chair. “Furthermore, this represents the kind of approach that the Food Policy Council was formed to provide: a needed missing link between civic groups, non-profits, governmental agencies, local employers, and local constituencies.”


Working on Food Systems with the City of Ithaca

On August 30th, a small group of TCFPC members met with Mayor Svante Myrick to discuss the City’s implementation of food system goals outlined on page 129 of the recent Ithaca City Comprehensive Plan, which call to “…transform Ithaca’s food systems into a more community-based food network and economic engine,” and to “make Ithaca’s food systems as energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable — and as accessible to all residents — as possible.” According to Myrick, including food policy in the comprehensive plan was “aspirational”. He also conceded that, “commitment generally means money.” Myrick reiterated the city’s commitment to the plan while acknowledging little progress toward its implementation.

With the City’s recent voter-approved merger of 11 community advisory boards, councils and commissions into four, food systems will fall under the umbrella of the new Community and Quality of Life Commission (although the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources commission will likely cover related issues as well). “What’s essential to the implementation of the city’s food systems goals is the allocation of funds. We are hoping the Mayor will assign the Sustainability Planner for the City and Town of Ithaca to work with TCFPC on strategies to achieve city goals and we hope that a food policy council member will join as a liaison on the new commission,” said Dan Hoffman, former city attorney and founding TCFPC member.


Strategically Addressing Food Waste in Tompkins County

In March, 2017, Ithaca-area state legislators including State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton and New York State Senators James Seward, Tom O’Mara, and Pamela Helming presented a resolution in support of a New York State proposal to increase food waste recycling and edible leftover food recovery. Inspired by the proposed legislation New York State Food Waste Ban Law proposed for 2021, TCFPC members Barbara Eckstrom, from Tompkins County Recycling and Materials Management, and Meaghan Sheehan Rosen, from Friendship Donations Network, are ready to begin drafting a similar policy that would require local food institutions and businesses to rescue food from landfills by either donating it to food pantries or composting it.


Next Steps, Broader Goals

The groundwork initiated by the TCFPC in 2017 to focus on key issues will help set the stage for concrete action in 2018. The council welcomes those involved in our local food systems, whether on a professional or personal level, to engage with it as this work enters the next phase. “Research shows that broad-based networks are really key to making actions like these successful and sustainable,” said TCFPC member Devon Jenkins. “As the council moves forward we’ll continue our collaborative work to build such networks!”

Beyond these two focal areas, the TCFPC is exploring diverse options for study, advocacy and action, from backyard chickens to community gardens, edible landscapes, school food procurement regulations, economic infrastructure for local food systems like certified kitchens, food entrepreneurship, economic development in food systems, and supporting people with barriers to food access. If you are interested in the work of  the Tompkins County Food Policy Council, and would like to get involved, please email Monika Roth at  


Image credit: Photo by Frederic Gleach. Creative Commons: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) 

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