food policy

  • CALL NOW: Support Board Bill 52 on Urban Chickens

    CALL NOW: Support Board Bill 52 on Urban Chickens 

     

    Ask your alderperson to Vote YES on Board Bill 52! 

    The City of St. Louis only allows a household to own four pets. If a person or family has two dogs and one cat, legally that household can only own one chicken. 

    Board Bill 52 will separate chickens from dogs, cats, and other pets by creating a cap on how many pets a household can own as well as how many chickens a family can own. For more information about the bill, check out our FAQ page here. To see the results of our "Growing Food in the City of St. Louis" survey, go here.

    Alderwomen Cara Spencer and Christine Ingrassia introduced the bill, which could come up for a full vote of the board of alderman after passing out of committee unanimously. Please visit the link to find your alderperson and make a call asking them to support Board Bill 52!

    The following aldermen are co-sponors of the bill, so there is no need to contact them unless you want to thank them for their support: Dan Guenther and Scott Ogilvie

    How to Make Phone Calls: 

    1. Find your Alderperson.

    Click here to find your Alderperson's contact information.

    2. Call your Alderperson.

    3. Discuss talking points with contact.

    Talking Points: Please support and pass BB52. It is time to allow for more chickens in the city because:

    • Eggs from chickens provide a nutritious, lean, local source of protein for residents.
    • Chickens are social animals and the number of chickens allowed should not be based on how many dogs and cats are already residing on a given parcel.
    • The number of chickens will be based on land available rather than a general allotment.
    • Raising chickens is beneficial from a public health and racial equity standpoint by providing access to nutrient dense foods in areas of the city that lack access to fresh and healthy foods. 
    • Optional: Personally, I would be interested in having chickens in my backyard to provide fresh eggs for my family. 

     

    Thank you for taking action to support accessibility to raising urban chickens and therefore helping to promote urban agriculture and local food access in the City of St. Louis!

     

     

  • Food and Farm Program

    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Food & Farm Coordinator

    Why is an environmental organization working on food? 

    Our current, industrialized agriculture system threatens the quality of our water, soil, and air - all of which MCE has worked to protect for over 45 years - and has adverse impacts on the health of Missouri residents. 

     

    There is a massive disconnect between people and food. Our current food system is not feeding our children, supporting our communities, or ensuring the protection of our soil and water resources. Missouri is fortunate to have naturally high quality soils capable of producing an array of fruits and vegetables, yet most of our land is dedicated to growing corn and soy - crops used primarily to produce livestock feed, processed food, and ethanol. Much of the fruits and vegetables found in grocery stores comes from far away places - California, Mexico, Chile, and Canada. Our grocery store shelves are lined with cheap sugar-, salt-, and fat-laden processed foods. Federal policies make Hostess Twinkies(R) cheaper than a bag of carrots. Issues of limited food access and no true consumer choice hit home for many families in urban and rural communities across Missouri and the nation. 

    I believe it's time to back control of our food supply.Through our Food and Farm Program, MCE works to ensure that all Missourians have access to affordable, healthy food that is produced by local farmers who care for the land and are paid decent wages.

    MCE works to change the status quo of Missouri’s agriculture industry so that our farmland supports a robust, sustainable, secure, and equitable food production system that preserves the environmental integrity of our air, land, and water.

     

    Read more about the environmental and health effects of our current food system, Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), and the importance of Farm Bill - an omnibus bill that funds an array of federal programs, including programs related to corn production, school lunches, greenhouses, and farmers markets.

    2014 St. Louis Regional Food Study

    We believed that our current food system was threatening all of the resources we seek to protect at MCE, so we wanted to see how the industrialized food system is impacting our health, environment, our farmers, and our local economy here in the St. Louis region. In order to understand these local effects, we compiled data from USDA and Missouri’s Center for Applied Research and Environmental Systems (CARES) and to produce the 2014 St. Louis Regional Food Study. We found that there’s a clear link between our food, our health, and the health of our environment in the St. Louis area. Explore our Food Studypage for more information, including access to the complete abridged report and the executive summary. Read below to find the main points of the seven-chapter Food Study.

    1. The St. Louis Region Foodshed is defined as the 100-mile radius around St. Louis in which we’ve studied the relationship between environment, food, and health.
    2. The types of foods we consume and how they’re produced have plagued our area with disease and negative health consequences.
    3. Creating a more localized food production system will keep money and jobs within the St. Louis region, and empower small farmers.
    4. We have valuable land and soil resources for growing our own food in the region, but these resources need to be protected.
    5. Industrialized farming practices in the St. Louis region are reducing the diversity of crops and harming land quality.
    6. The St. Louis region has a huge investment in the livestock industry, but not an investment in healthy, safe animal farming practices.
    7. Industrialized chemical modifications are currently threatening the safety of our food, environment, and health.
    8. We need to make healthy food available on a local level to St. Louis area residents.

    People throughout Missouri and the nation are questioning our dependence on fossil-fuel based agriculture, high fat, high sugar processed foods, and a food system in which our food travels farther in a week than we do in a year. Increasingly, farmers, gardeners, chefs, consumers, health professionals, grocers, schools, hospitals, and restaurants are seeking foods that are free of chemicals, produced with respect for land, water, and wildlife, locally grown as much as possible, fresh, and that promote good health. We contribute to that effort by identifying policies to promote these aims, targeting obstacles to these aims, connecting communities creating solutions, and sharing information to help inform public decisions.

    Goals for MCE's Food and Farm Program

    1. Reduce pollution from fertilizers (manure and synthetic) and farm chemicals in order to keep waters healthy and safe.

    2. Protect and restore wetlands and floodplains to preserve the flood storage, pollutant-filtering and wildlife habitat capacities of these landforms.

    3. Promote a  healthy, sustainable food system that is independent of fossil fuels and petrochemicals, that uses water wisely, and restores and protects Missouri’s soils.
    4. Promote a food system that maintains a diversified seed stock independent of genetically modified and privately patented seeds.
    5. Promote the preservation of quality agricultural land for farm purposes rather than industrialized use.
    6. Promote strong conservation requirements so that taxpayer funded farm program benefits do not go to producers who fail to protect soil and water.
    Local Food Policy

    One way to mitigate the negative impacts of our industrialized farm system is to support local food movements. For instance, one of our current projects is researching gapsin the current food system. We are convening a multi-stakeholder group to advocate for policies and projects that can close these gaps and support a thriving healthy local food system around St. Louis. Click here to learn more about the other local food initiatives that MCE hopes to support, such as cooking demonstrations, community gardens, and farm-to-school programs. If your organization is interested in being a part of the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition, contact Food and Farm Coordinator, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • Missouri Foundation for Health Funds New Food Policy Coalition

    PRESS RELEASE

    Contact: Melissa Vatterott, Food and Farm Coordinator, (314) 727-0600, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Date: December 8, 2015

    St. Louis, MO: Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH) has awarded Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE) a 23-month $120,000 advocacy grant to lead the new St. Louis Food Policy Coalition (STLFPC).

    Where food comes from, how it is grown, and the relationship between health and the environment are important concepts to MCE. MCE’s Food and Farm Coordinator Melissa Vatterott is raising awareness about the connections between agriculture, public health, and the environment. As the coordinating agency for the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition, MCE will advocate for and advance policies that will address gaps in the St. Louis region’s capacity to deliver healthy, fresh, sustainable, and accessible local food, with a specific emphasis on targeting communities with limited access to such food. Missouri Foundation for Health’s policy portfolio prioritizes “increasing health equity for all Missourians,” which is something Vatterott anticipates the work of STLFPC will foster.

    After the release of MCE’s St. Louis Regional Food Study a year ago, Vatterott conducted outreach to stakeholders for the first four months of 2015, bringing groups together to develop a set of policy initiatives and collaborative projects to address the food system needs of the St. Louis region.

    “To effectively advocate for the health, environmental, social justice, and economic needs of the entire St. Louis region, it’s important to include organizations throughout the 100 mile radius of St. Louis,” Vatterott says.

    Such a group has existed in St. Louis before, the St. Louis Food Policy Council, which began in 2010 and closed in 2012. The new group formed as a coalition in contrast to the former council in order to emphasize the collaboration of new stakeholders and new priorities, such as emphasizing local production within the food system.

    Mary Bolling, Nutrition Program Associate at MU Extension and steering committee member of STLFPC explains, “Supporting our local farmers through STLFPC works to support improved health, lesson the environmental impact, and contribute to the local economy. By eating with the seasons, we are eating foods when they are most flavorful, most abundant, and least expensive. Locally grown food is often tastier and more nutrient dense because it is allowed to ripen longer due to the fact that it doesn't have to travel thousands of miles before arriving at the store.”

    For more information, see the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition webpage (www.moenvironment.org/stlfoodpolicy).

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  • Policy and Agriculture Story Map

  • St. Louis Food Policy Coalition

    Saint Louis Food Policy Coalition

    After releasing the St. Louis Regional Food Study in November 2014, Missouri Coalition for the Environment sought to bring experts and passionate individuals together from diverse interest groups to address the food system needs of the Greater St. Louis area. In St. Louis, there are many great, local efforts addressing hunger, food access, sustainable agriculture, nutrition, social justice, community and economic development. The St. Louis Food Policy Coalition seeks to bridge these efforts to form a coordinated, local food system. We seek to leverage the myriad efforts underway. The work of all of these efforts will be lifted by a strong, connected local food system. Specifically, we shall work to shape public policy and influence decision makers about local food systems and their connections to concerns of health equity, environmental conservation and restoration, social justice, community development, and economic development. Together, Steering Committee members shall build capacity to become a united advocacy bloc. This united advocacy bloc shall work collectively to make changethat will further the goals of all stakeholders involved.​

    Mission Statement

    Vision Statement

    To promote a thriving local food system that supports the health, community, environment, and economy of the Greater St. Louis area.

    A thriving local economy in the Greater St. Louis area where everyone has access to affordable, healthy food from local producers who are stewards of our soil, air, and water resources.

    Core Values

    Our Priorities

    • Community - Relationships, open communication, understanding, and collaboration among diverse stakeholders and between stakeholders and community members

    • Education and Empowerment - Opportunities and support for everyone in the Greater St. Louis area to improve their lives and communities

    • Equity - Geographic Access and Affordability of healthy, culturally relevant food for individuals in all socioeconomic components of the Greater St. Louis area

    • Health and Nutrition - Nutritious food, prioritizing whole foods without chemical or genetic additives

    • Sustainability and Environmental Stewardship - Local farmers and ranchers taking care of their land and policies that support sustainable land use in urban and rural communities. Based on SARE’s definition of “sustainability,” a sustainable food system must prioritize:

      • Stewardship of our region’s soil, air, and water

      • Quality of life for farmers, ranchers and their communities

      • Profit over the long term

      • Shorter supply chains to reduce the ecological footprint of our food system

    • Local - Production and availability of healthy food produced within a 100 mile radius of St. Louis, recognizing that supporting farmers within 150 miles will help to incorporate farms that are outside 100 mile radii of the nearby metropolitan areas, Chicago and Kansas City.

    • Economy - Businesses and individuals seeking to purchase healthy food from local farmers and ranchers, capturing more of our food dollars in the Greater St. Louis area.

    • Expand Food Hub Infrastructure 
    • Community Partnerships for Educational Events 
    • Urban Agriculture Policy 
    • Incorporate Cooking and Gardening into School Curriculum
    • Institutional Local Food Purchasing
    • Expanding SNAP Dollar Matching Programs
    Check out MCE's Interactive Local Foodshed Map! It is a great way to find local and environmentally responsible farmers in the St. Louis Regional Foodshed.

    View the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition Membership page to learn more about the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition structure and the steering committee members.

    For more information about how you or your organization can be involved in the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition, contact MCE Food and Farm Coordinator, Melissa Vatterott, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 314-727-0600, ext. 11. 

  • Survey Results Indicate New Policies Needed to Support Urban Agriculture

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE     

    Date: December 13, 2017

    Contact: Melissa Vatterott, (314) 581-0561This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Survey Results Indicate New Policies Needed to Support Urban Agriculture in St. Louis City

     

    St. Louis, MO: Onsite sales of produce and eggs, allowing for more backyard chickens, and making it easier for city residents to purchase land for food production purposes are some of the recommended policy changes needed to enhance local agriculture according a survey by the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition. The survey was completed by 854 city residents in 75 of the city’s 79 neighborhoods. 

    “We conducted the survey to build a foundation for changing local food policy,” said Melissa Vatterott, director of the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition. “It is clear there are barriers standing in the way of accessing local, nutritious food and we intend to change that.”

    Nearly 100 people surveyed said they would like to sell either their produce or eggs from a stand in their yard or community garden. Of those who indicated encountering obstacles to gardening or farming in the city, 28% reported the inability to sell produce or eggs from their home or community garden as an issue for them.

    The City of St. Louis only allows four total animals on any given lot, including dogs, cats, chickens, and rabbits. 63% of the respondents are in favor of allowing more chickens and rabbits, with another 21% wanting to learn more. 

    “Small towns and big cities are addressing food access in ways that can be repeated here in St. Louis,” said Alderwoman Cara Spencer. “The results from this survey will be valuable for the next mayor and board of alderman to support agriculture policies that are responsive to our constituents.”  

    The most popular recommendation, with 77% support, is that the city needs to make it easier for, and give preference to, residents in the City of St. Louis to purchase land for food production purposes. In addition, of those who reported encountering land use obstacles to gardening or farming, more than half reported land prices are too high for just growing food, a quarter said residential tax rates are too high for just growing food, and nearly half reported LRA’s garden lease program as an obstacle because it does not guarantee the lots will not be purchased by someone else. 

     "Urban agriculture provides numerous benefits, including improving food access, beautifying neighborhoods, and providing economic opportunities for city residents," said Vatterott. "It's a tool we can use to address some of the environmental and social injustices seen in our city and we hope the next mayor will make it a priority." 

    “In most of our projects, the community garden often becomes more than just a place to grow food for the people in the neighborhood,” said Steve Hutchison, President of Revitalization 2000 and cofounder of The Ville Collaborative. “Nutrition education, how to garden, the science of gardening, and beautification help bring hope to distressed neighborhoods.” 

    Results from the survey are being released in the aggregate, by ward, and by region (north, central, south). 

    “The Department of Health looks forward to working with Alderwoman Ingrassia, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, and the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition on the next steps to developing an urban agriculture policy that makes sense for our city,” said Melba Moore, acting director of the city’s Health Department.

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    Click here to view the survey results. 

     

  • Survey: Growing Food in the City of St. Louis

    Growing Food in the City of St. Louis

     

    Thank you to all who participated in the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition's survey about growing food in the city! The survey is now closed. We were able to hear from 854 people from 75 of the city's 79 neighborhoods! Through this survey effort, we sought to learn from city residents: 1) what they and their neighbors are already growing, 2) what types of agriculture activities they would like to see in the city, and 3) how they would like those activities to be regulated. Five participants will receive a gift basket of food and farm swag from STLFPC members! We will use the survey responses to draft an urban agriculture ordinance that meets residents' needs and desires.
     
    We developed this survey with the assistance of Andy Bramman, a St. Louis University student, interning with MCE's Food and Farm Program this summer.
     

    The results are in!

    View results from the entire city here as well as the results for the neighborhoods in North CityCentral Corridor, and South City!
     
    See the survey results by ward below: 
     

    Click here to read our press release about the survey results. 

    Read articles from the St. Louis Post Dispatch and St. Louis Public Radio about the survey results. 

    Maps of the Survey Data

    Click to Zoom

     

    Alderwoman of the 19th Ward, a Champion for Food Access and Community Gardening

    Alderwoman Marlene Davis is committed to the issues expressed in the survey results above. Davis says, 

    "In neighborhoods with limited food access, residents must leave their neighborhood to access nutritious food. Many of these same neighborhoods have vacant lots, littering our neighborhoods with overgrown weeds and costing our taxpayers thousands to maintain. We can start to address both of these issues by organizing strategic plans for our communities, empowering residents to take back their vacant lots, put the land into productive use, and provide themselves and their neighbors with a source of healthy food."

    We thank her for her commitment to address food access and support food growing activities in the City of St. Louis!

     

  • The Farm Bill

    Source of image: ​​Don Keirstead,​​​ Riparian Buffer, ​Water Quality Photos, USDA​ NRCS, http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/nh/newsroom/photos/?cid=stelprdb1254775​.​

     

    Every five years, Congress rewrites the “Farm Bill”, a key piece of legislation that impacts our food, our soil and water quality, our health, and our wallets.

    The “Farm Bill” is a federal omnibus bill that covers a variety of food and farm-related concerns, and provides funding and support for various federal programs. Some of these programs directly affect agriculture, such as crop insurance, crop subsidies, and incentive programs for soil conservation practices. Other programs are indirectly related to agriculture, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (formerly the Food Stamp Program) and various programs related to forestry, rural development, biofuel production, and food safety. The Farm Bill also influences the type of crops farmers produce, whether farmers choose to implement conservation practices on their land, the amount of financial support available to low income families to purchase food, and the type and price of food found on our grocer’s shelves.

    The Missouri Coalition for the Environment wants to help create a better “Farm Bill”, since it influences many aspects of our lives. From our stomachs to our taxes, it defines agricultural, environmental, and governmental practices. We want to create a better system that offers food security, fair markets, environmental stability, and finally, a stronger taxpayer voice.

    The most recent Farm Bill, the “Agricultural Act of 2014,” is composed of the following twelve Titles, listed in order: CommodityConservationTradeNutritionCreditRural DevelopmentResearchForestryEnergyHorticultureCrop Insurance, and Miscellaneous. Some of the programs within each Title are mandatory programs that must be renewed with each Farm Bill; others do not, and are discretionary programs that can be approved or repealed each year. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, of the $145 billion annual federal budget for agricultural-related programs, $125 billion was for mandatory Farm Bill programs, but only $21 billion was for discretionary programs, inside and outside the farm bill.[1] Mandatory programs are those to which dedicating funding is required by Congress each year, while discretionary programs, though dedicating funds is authorized, are not required to receive a certain amount of funding- or any funding at all. Read more about the budget here.

    One important process to consider in relation to the Farm Bill budget is budget reconciliation, explained well here. Budget reconciliation is an optional congressional procedure used primarily as a means of reducing government spending for mandatory programs. It can be used to change current law to bring revenue and spending levels in line with the policies of the budget resolution. When the House and Senate Budget Committees include reconciliation language in their annual budget resolution, this language instructs authorizing committees to cut a certain amount of money from programs with direct spending in their jurisdiction. Budget resolutions can include assumptions about cuts to mandatory programs, but these "only have immediate practical relevance if budget reconciliation directives are included that force changes to be made. Otherwise they are just messaging points."[2]

     

     

    The funding distribution from recent farm bills has consistently prioritized large-scale production of crops used for livestock feed, processed foods, and ethanol- cornerstones of our agro-industrial complex. The Title I Commodity also provides monetary assistance to farmers producing commodity crops, such as corn, wheat, soy, and cotton, among others.  This assistance program creates a financial disincentive to grow healthier and more useful foods, such as fruits and vegetables, which the USDA terms specialty crops.  The differences in classifications of commodity and specialty crops are detailed here. The 2012 U.S Census of Agriculture estimated that 3.5% of the nation’s cropland was used for fruits and vegetables that year, compared to 3.3% in 2007 and 3% in 2002. Missouri has soil that is conducive for the growing of fruits and vegetables, but much of this farmland is not currently being used for fruit and vegetable production or being handled with environmental stewardship.

    “Commodity crops such as corn, soybean, wheat, rice and cotton are subsequently used to mass-produce processed, nutrient-deficient foods like Twinkies, Coca Cola, hot dogs, salad dressings, and even vitamins at lower rates and more availability than fresh foods. Consequently, Americans have faced skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related health problems. These problems are more severe in marginalized communities of color and for low-income vulnerable populations.

    In addition to the disincentives in the Farm Bill to produce fruits and vegetables, the Commodity Title and Crop Insurance Title discourage sustainable agriculture practices. Unless growing on land classes as “highly erodible” or “wetland” farmers are not required to utilize soil conservation practices as a condition for receiving payments under their insurance policies in the event of a natural disaster causing losses in revenue or yield, so they try to maximize their yield of commodity crops by planting “fence row to fence row.” This negatively impacts long-term agricultural productivity by removing natural protections against soil erosion and degradation.

    Shifting agriculture priorities away from commodity crop monocultures and emphasizing conservative farming techniques and fruit and vegetable production would likely provide greater opportunity for many Americans to meet the USDA recommended daily requirements of each food group.

    It is important to note that, while the Farm Bill allocates funds for various programs over a five-year period, the amount allocated for each year does not always remain the same. The FY 2016 budget introduced large cuts to the Conservation Title, reducing the Conservation and Forestry allocation from $11.2 billion to $10.48 billion through measures such as a 23 per cent reduction in funding for EQIP and a 30 percent reduction to the Conservation Stewardship Program.  The FS 2017 budget does not introduce additional cuts, but the Conservation and Forestry allocation holds at $10.57 billion.

    Those and further proposed cuts would weaken our first line of defense in preparing for extreme weather events, translate to more water pollution and less wildlife habitat, and drive up long-term costs for environmental mitigation. Reductions to these vital programs would threaten our nation's food security.

    In May 2015, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, an organization in which MCE is a member, wrote a letter urging the House Agriculture Appropriations Committee not to reopen the Farm Bill and reduce more funding. MCE signed onto this letter in full support of preserving funding for conservation programs. Read the full letter here

    The Farm Bill has potential to be a sustainable and healthy food bill if it prioritizes programs that promote public health, soil conservation practices, and greater access to healthy food. To keep updated on MCE’s work on these issues, subscribe to our food, farm, and water e-alerts. Join MCE in the fight to better our food industry and environment.

     

    [1]Monke, Jim. Budget Issues that Shaped the 2014 Farm Bill.  April 10, 2014. Congressional Research Service.  http://nationalaglawcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/assets/crs/R42484.pdf

    [2] The Farm Bill Reloaded.  March 13, 2015.  National Sustainable Agroculture Coalition.  http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/the-farm-bill-reloaded/

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