Food policy provides a framework around how the food system impacts and is influenced by individuals, public agencies, businesses, institutions and communities. BFPI works on food policy at all levels that impact Baltimore residents, from changing practices within organizations and institutions, to changing regulations at a city level, to advocating on legislation at a state and federal level.
Created the concept of a Grocery Incentive Area, with a personal property tax credit as the first incentive. This bill grants personal property tax credits to supermarkets that locate or renovate in Grocery Incentive Areas and meet certain requirements for the amount of healthy food they provide. BFPI created 14 food environment maps by city council district to inform Council Members on food deserts, food retail, food assistance and locally grown activities. After enabling language was passed at the state level in 2015, City Council unanimously supported this administrative bill, which went into effect on January 31st, 2016. The tax credit is implemented by the Baltimore Development Corporation.
Incentivizing CSA Participation (2014)
Worked with leadership of the Baltimore City Managerial and Professional Society (MAPS) and the Labor Commissioner to allow CSAs as an approved use of the existing Health Reimbursement Policy. Now, MAPS City employees can be reimbursed up to $250 for participating in a CSA.
Baltimore City School District Wellness, Nutrition, and Physical Activity Policy (2015)
Worked with Food Nutrition Services and provided recommendations specifically to address the sections of the policy on nutrition standards, meal time climate and school gardens.
Healthy Vending Machine Procurement Policy (2015)
Conducted a best practices report on model vending procurement policies and presented to the Health Department’s Cross Agency Taskforce who then identified healthy vending machine policy as a priority, leading to the city’s first healthy vending machine contract in November 2015.
Farmers Market Permit
BFPI worked with partner agencies to simplify the application process for farmers markets in order to promote markets and increase access to fresh farm products. In 2015, The Department of General Services and Housing created a one stop shop for farmers market managers to receive market permits through a streamlined process. This, in conjunction with a simpler format Health Department application adopted in 2013, is intended to make it easier for market managers to apply each season.
Food Truck Legislation
BFPI assisted in drafting the rules and regulations for new mobile food vending legislation in 2014. The rules are intended to create a more structured system, while encouraging entrepreneurship through small food businesses.
Animal Husbandry Regulations
In 2012 and 2013, BFPI and the Office of Sustainability worked with the Health Department and interested citizens to craft regulation that better support urban agriculture. Today, Baltimore residents can keep chickens, bees, rabbits, and dwarf, miniature, and pygmy goats. Read the full regulations.
In 2010, the Baltimore City Building Code was updated to exempt hoop houses (shade cloth or plastic film structures constructed for nursery or agricultural purposes) from the need to acquire building permits before their erection. This aligns Baltimore‘s Building Code with the International Construction Code. Hoop houses are commonly used on urban farms to extend the growing season, and this change to the building code removes one potential barrier to the expansion of urban agricultural activities.
Extending SNAP Issuance Period
Food retailers cite that a primary barrier to doing business in Baltimore is that SNAP benefits are only issued over a ten day period. This creates a highly concentrated business cycle during the first two weeks after issuance, and slow business during the next two weeks each month. BFPI is working closely with the Maryland Department of Human Resources to extend the number of days SNAP is issued from 10 to 20 to smooth retail cycles and ensure that stores that serve SNAP customers can continue to operate effectively.
Grocery Store Tax Credit for Grocery Incentive Areas
In April 2015, SB 541 passed the Maryland State Legislature, granting Baltimore City the authority to provide personal property tax abatements to supermarkets and grocery stores that locate in Grocery Incentive Areas – areas in or near Baltimore City Food Deserts. City Council will consider a bill in 2015.
HB 451- Maryland Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI) Funding State (2014)
Advocated for and participated on the Maryland Fresh Food Retail Task Force that provided the recommendations and leadership for the passing of the Maryland FFFI. The Maryland FFFI was created to provide flexible financing through the Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) Neighborhood BusinessWorks (NBW) program for the start-up, rehabilitation or expansion of businesses and nonprofits offering healthy food options, with a particular emphasis on those retailers that will source fresh food from Maryland farmers.
SNAP Retail Requirements
In 2014, BFPI provided technical assistance to help SNAP retailers transition to paying for their own EBT equipment and service, one of the changes instated in the 2014 Farm Bill. Upcoming changes from the 2014 Farm Bill include increasing stocking requirements and transitioning to scanning or product lookup entry technology for SNAP retailers. BFPI will continue to provide technical assistance to retailers as these changes take place.
Food Safety Modernization Act
BFPI and the Commission on Sustainability advocated for a Food Safety Modernization Act that would support, rather than penalize small-and mid-scale urban and surrounding area farms, while maintaining high standards for food and environment safety.
Farm Bill (passed 2014)
- Advocated for policy recommendation in the 2014 Farm Bill to include language on online SNAP benefits, which was included in the Farm Bill.
- Compiled data and developed a briefing memorandum for the Mayor’s office outlining the financial impact of the Farm Bill on Baltimore City. The funds for these programs during the 2007-2012 Farm Bill total over one billion dollars.
- Created and distributed the Farm Bill Template to food policy directors resulting in NYC, LA and Boston replicating the model to show impact the Farm Bill has on their cities
USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) Food Environment Atlas and Food Desert Locator
- In collaboration with The CLF, created and analyzed Baltimore City and NYC food environment maps in comparison with the federal Food Desert Locator.
- Briefed the USCM Food Policy Taskforce on the issues and potential impact of the food desert locator on densely populated cities.
- Drafted and submitted a letter from the USCM Food Policy Taskforce Chairs providing rationale and recommendations which many of them were adopted and incorporated into future USDA ERS mapping
Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI)
Successfully advocated for the Department of Health and Human Services Healthy Food Financing Initiative Request for Proposals to include cities that do not fall within the federal food desert definition.
Milan Urban Food Policy Pact
- In 2015, Baltimore City signed the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP) on World Food Day. The MUFPP was signed by over 100 countries and was the first time so many nations have collectively engaged specifically on food systems. The six focus areas include: Ensuring an enabling environment for effective action, Sustainable diets and nutrition, Social and economic equity, Food production, Food supply and distribution, and Food waste.
- In 2016, Baltimore City received the highest score for governance related to food policy at the MUFPP convening in Rome on World Food Day. The award commended BFPI for its ability to use intergovernmental collaboration to effectively address food access and food systems issues.