ACTION ALERT: East of the River Grocery Access Legislation SAMPLE LETTER

East End Grocery and Retail Incentive Program Tax Abatement Actis under review by DC Council now. This SAMPLE LETTER has been drafted by by the DC Food Policy Council’s Working Group on Equity, Access, Health, and Nutrition Education, please use whatever elements of it are most relevant to you in your testimony or outreach to Councilmembers. 

 SAMPLE LETTER

 

Dear Councilmember [insert your Councilmember’s name here],

 

As the DC Food Policy Council, we applaud the intention behind the East End Health Care Desert, Retail Desert, and Food Desert Elimination Act of 2017. We believe expanding access to healthy food in our city, and specifically in Wards 7 and 8, is essential to improving public health, reducing racial disparities in health and economic outcomes, and building more a vibrant, prosperous communities for all our residents.

 

The Act seeks to allocate District government funds toward the construction of a hospital in Ward 7 and a series of incentives aimed at bringing large anchor grocery stores to Wards 7 and 8. While the hospital question is beyond the scope and expertise of the Food Policy Council, the bill proposes a number of measures aimed at changing the calculus that large, for-profit, grocers and retailers apply when considering new store locations – a calculus that has consistently deemed Wards 7 and 8 as unfavorable destinations and reinforced the status of these communities as ‘food deserts.’ In its current form, the Act:

  • Designates funding to establish incentives for affordable grocers and retailers to locate in specific commercial areas of Wards 7 and 8. This is meant to apply specifically to large, anchor stores that sell both groceries and retail goods.
  • All but eliminates the cost of leasing District-owned land for grocers and retailers and fully pays for store construction costs, which are forgiven by the District over a thirty-year period.
  • Establishes the East End Medical Center Fund, comprised of 50% of the District’s unassigned end-of-year surplus funding in excess of 60 days’ cash on hand, to be applied to the construction of the hospital and to fund the East End Grocery Retail Incentive Program. This bill assigns 50% of that additional, one-time, yearly funding to pay for construction of the hospital and, at the discretion of the Director of Health Care Finance, to be transferred to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) to fund the construction of grocery and retail anchor stores.
  • Exempts participating anchor retail stores from real property, deed recordation and transfer, personal property, and sales taxes so long as 50% of full-time employees are District residents. These tax exemptions improve store profitability and could, contingent on their implementation, lower the price of goods paid by consumers at those locations.

 

Our Analysis

The DC Food Policy Council has reviewed this bill and supports its overriding goal of expanding healthy food access in Wards 7 and 8. In some ways, these are generous benefits to offer national and businesses, but given the tight margins of the grocery store industry, there is a chance they still may not be enough to attract these retailers, or attract them in the near-term. We recommend that you use the opportunity to testify to talk both about your larger vision for healthy food access in DC as well as the provisions of these specific bills. Our city needs to take decisive action to expand healthy food access, and we believe this encouraging first step can become even stronger by adjusting some of the bill’s provisions in the following ways:

 

  • Increase the number of specific sites in Wards 7 and 8 where these anchor facilities can be built and still receive the subsidy. We propose adding Parkside/the DC Promise Neighborhood to the list of sites along with language that states “Sites in Wards 7 and 8 deemed to meet the purposes of this Act” by DMPED. We also recommend updating the language so DMPED has the flexibility to add additional locations as opportunities arise.
  • Shorten the timeframe an anchor store must stay on its site from thirty years to fifteen. Our industry research shows that a thirty-year timeline is unlikely to attract any willing grocery stores, while fifteen years may be sufficient. While we share the concern about excessive “giveaways” to well-resourced, non-local entities, we do not believe this incentive program will work under the current thirty-year timeline.
  • Ensure that eligible projects have sufficient grocery store components, as opposed to other retail focus areas (e.g. household goods, clothing) that, under the current language, could conceivably secure these funds without positively impacting public health. We would suggest stipulating a minimum percentage of annual sales or dedicated square footage (i.e. 30%) at each incentivized site to consist of foodstuffs.
  • Require that a certain percent of the funding be required to go specifically towards grocery uses. Funding for retail and grocery is at the determination of the Director of Healthcare Finance and not guaranteed through the current language. We would suggest setting aside a minimum of 30% of the funding for grocery purposes, as hospital costs may balloon and could use up all the available funding before a grocery store goes in.
  • Expand the definition of eligible projects from exclusively new construction to include “substantial modernization” of existing grocery retailers in Wards 7 and 8 to support improved offerings of healthy, fresh, affordable food at these sites and help retain food businesses that are dramatically needed in these communities.
  • Provide additional construction support through expedited permitting. Delays with construction often add extra costs to projects. Expedited permit review was provided for buildings under the DC Green Building Act, a similar speedy permitting process could be established to help these sites built for communities in need faster than the usual development process.
  • Require the grocery to work with community members about their needs. Healthy Food Financing programs in other cities require that grocers work with the community about their needs (nutrition education, hiring local, tours by dieticians, etc.) in exchange for assistance with construction or renovation costs. We recommend that a similar requirement is included here.
  • Expand the definition of eligible projects from “large anchor stores that sell affordably priced groceries and/or retail goods” to include “operations related to processing, procurement, storage, or production of food, meals, or nutrition services” that also provide substantial retail grocery options in Wards 7 and 8. Ensure that the definition is broad enough for modern grocer y business models to be sustainable. Eligible projects under this definition could include food hubs or community kitchens offering jobs and job training to District residents while operating adjoining mid-size grocery storefronts offering affordable, healthy food products. This change will allow more local DC businesses and organizations to potentially access these benefits, as well as larger nationwide grocers and retailers. Our community of homegrown food-focused businesses, social enterprises, and nonprofit organizations is eager and well-suited to help address our city’s healthy food access needs, and they should have the opportunity to submit their ideas and solutions for the best uses of these local incentives as well.

 

About the DC Food Policy Council

Created by the DC Food Policy Council and Director Establishment Act of 2014, we are an official board and commission of the District of Columbia government. Our members were appointed by Mayor Bowser and confirmed by the District Council. Supported by the Sustainable DC Plan and based on successful models from around the United States, the DC Food Policy Council is a collection of diverse community leaders and stakeholders with special expertise on how food is, and should be, a tool for improving public health, racial equity, and economic opportunity in the District. Our goal is to bring all relevant parties with a stake in food policy and practice – from District government agencies and entrepreneurs to community-based organizations and individual residents – together to identify regulatory gaps, create effective solutions, and promote informed policy in the District.

 

For more information about the DC Food Policy Council’s perspective on the East End Health Care Desert, Retail Desert, and Food Desert Elimination Act of 2017, our proposed amendments to the language of the Act, or the Food Policy Council itself, please contact dcfoodpolicy@dc.gov.

 

What can I do if I can’t testify on May 19th at 11am ?

You can still submit written testimony to Cherita Whiting, Committee Legislative Clerk Assistant at cwhiting@dccouncil.us email or notify the Councilmembers on the Health Committee about your support of the bill through the contact information listed here: http://dccouncil.us/events/committee-of-the-whole-business-and-economic-development-health-joint-publi .

 

ACTION ALERT: East of the River Grocery Access Legislation

East End Grocery and Retail Incentive Program Tax Abatement ActCommunity Action Guide

Prepared by the DC Food Policy Council’s Working Group on Equity, Access, Health, and Nutrition Education

 

What does this bill do?

The East End Health Care Desert, Retail Desert, and Food Desert Elimination Act is a three part bill designed to bring high quality services to the residents of Wards 7 and 8 by funding the construction of a full-service community hospital, urgent care center, and ambulatory care clinic and by offsetting costs and providing tax incentives to attract affordable grocery and retail anchor stores to specific commercial areas. You can read each of the proposed text of the bills here, here, and here.

It designates funding to establish incentives for affordable grocers and retailers to locate in specific commercial areas of Wards 7 and 8.  This is meant to apply specifically to large, anchor stores that sell both groceries and retail goods.

  1. It all but eliminates the cost of leasing District-owned land for grocers and retailers and fully pays for store construction costs, which are forgiven by the District over a thirty year period. If a participating store closes before the end of the thirty year period, the store owes the District for a portion of the construction cost based on the number of years remaining.
  2. It establishes the East End Medical Center Fund, comprised of 50% of the District’s unassigned end-of-year surplus funding in excess of 60 days cash on hand, to be applied to the construction of the hospital and corresponding care centers and to fund the East End Grocery Retail Incentive Program. It is assumed that in one year’s time, the District will have enough reserve funding to exceed 60 days cash on hand. This bill assigns 50% of that additional, one-time, yearly funding to pay for construction of the hospital and, at the discretion of the Director of Health Care Finance, be transferred to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development to fund the construction of grocery and retail anchor stores.
  3. It exempts participating anchor retail stores from real property, deed recordation and transfer, personal property, and sales taxes so long as 50% of full-time employees are District residents. These tax exemptions improve store profitability and could lower the price of goods paid by consumers.

 

How can you help make this bill a real law?

You can tell the Council of the District of Columbia that you want this bill to pass!

On May 19th at 11am, at in Room 500 of the John A. Wilson Building (Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC), the Committee of the Whole, the Committee on Business & Economic Development, & the Committee on Health will hold a Public Hearing on the East End Health Care Desert, Retail Desert, and Food Desert Elimination Act of 2017. In-person testimonies make a big difference to our Councilmembers, so making the time to join this hearing will have a big impact on the bill’s success.

 

What do I have to do if I want to participate in this hearing?

Those who wish to testify should contact Cherita Whiting, Committee Legislative Clerk (202) 727-7774 or cwhiting@dccouncil.us, and provide your name, organizational affiliation (if any), and title with the organization by Wednesday May 17th. You must bring 15 copies of your written testimony to the hearing. Additional written statements are encouraged and will be made part of the official record. Written statements may be submitted by e-mail to cwhiting@dccouncil.us or mailed to: Council of the District of Columbia, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Suite 113, Washington D.C. 20004.

As an individual, you will have 3 minutes to speak, and if you represent an organization or business, you may have up to 5 minutes. Written testimony can be as long as you’d like, but what you say to the Council needs to fit in those timeframes. Remember that one page of double-spaced text (about 250 words) takes about 2 minutes to read aloud, so we recommend planning your remarks accordingly. After you testify, the Council may ask follow-up questions about what you’ve said and why you care about this issue. If you’ve never testified before the DC Council before, we recommend reviewing this brief, helpful guide.

In terms of structuring your testimony, we recommend:

  • Thanking the Councilmembers for convening this hearing and considering this bill;
  • Briefly introducing yourself and/or your organization/business;
  • Explaining why you care about the issue of eliminating food deserts;
  • Explaining how one or more of the pieces of this bill will make a difference to you, your organization, or your community;
  • Expressing any concerns you might have about elements of this bill that might be incomplete or in need of additional clarification;
  • Close by thanking the Councilmembers for listening and re-stating clearly whether you think the Council should support this legislation and make it a law of DC;

Lastly, be sure to practice reading your testimony aloud before the big day, and timing how long it takes you. Practicing will help you stay on time and make your points clearly and succinctly.

 

What can I do if I can’t testify that day?

You can still submit written testimony to Cherita Whiting, Committee Legislative Clerk Assistant at cwhiting@dccouncil.us email or notify the Councilmembers on the Health Committee about your support of the bill through the contact information listed here: http://dccouncil.us/events/committee-of-the-whole-business-and-economic-development-health-joint-publi .

 

Have other questions?

Thank you for being part of the movement to improve food access in your community! Please direct any questions or concerns to paula.reichel@dcbc.dc.gov.

Save Good Food Action Alert

On March 28, 2017 at 11am a public hearing has been scheduled to discuss the Save Good Food Amendment Act of 2017. The proposed Act includes new and innovative strategies for decreasing wasted food in the District including tax credits for donating food to charities, expanded liability protections for donors, streamlined date labels for safety, and a new food donation guide. Please volunteer to send a letter or email or testify in-person at the public hearing.  Details on how to get involved are included in our community action guide below.

Community Action Guide – Prepared by the DC Food Policy Council’s Working Group on Sustainable Food Procurement

What does this bill do? The Save Good Food Amendment Act proposed four common sense actions that will help curb food waste in Washington, DC:

  • It creates a local tax credit up to $5,000 for DC food businesses that donate healthy food to charitable organizations. This is meant to especially help small businesses make the choice to donate excess food to groups serving people in need, rather than throwing it away.
  • It expands liability protections for food donors who give food directly to an individual or family in need, because current protections are focused on covering those who give food to nonprofits serving as a ‘middle man’ of food distribution.
  • It expands liability protection to nonprofits that re-distribute donated food but charge a nominal fee to cover processing or handling costs. Previously, there was concern that liability only protected giving food away for free, but this will help nonprofits offset some of the costs of turning donated food into appealing, useful food products for people in need.
  • It takes on the confusion caused by different date labels (“use by”, “sell by”, “best by”, and so on), and instead requires the District of Columbia government to educate city health inspectors about how these dates actually pertain to food safety so that food retailers do not throw food away unnecessarily.

 

How can you help make this bill a real law?

You can tell the Council of the District of Columbia that you want this bill to pass!

On Tuesday, March 28, 2017 at 11:00AM in Room 500 of the John A. Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC), the Committee on Health & the Committee on Finance & Revenue will hold a Public Hearing on the Save Good Food Amendment Act of 2017. In-person testimonies make a big difference to our Councilmembers, so making the time to join this hearing will have a big impact on the bill’s success!

 

What do I have to do if I want to participate in this hearing?

Those who wish to testify should contact Sarina Loy, Committee Assistant at (202) 724-8058 or sloy@dccouncil.us, and provide your name, organizational affiliation (if any), and title with the organization by 11 :00 a.m. on Monday, March 27, 2017. You must bring 15 copies of your written testimony to the hearing.

As an individual, you will have 3 minutes to speak, and if you represent an organization or business, you may have up to 5 minutes. Written testimony can be as long as you’d like, but what you say to the Council needs to fit in those timeframes. Remember that one page of double-spaced text (about 250 words) takes about 2 minutes to read aloud, so we recommend planning your remarks accordingly. After you testify, the Council may ask follow-up questions about what you’ve said and why you care about this issue. If you’ve never testified before the DC Council before, we recommend reviewing this brief, helpful guide.

In terms of structuring your testimony, we recommend:

  • Thanking the Councilmembers for convening this hearing and considering this bill;
  • Briefly introducing yourself and/or your organization/business;
  • Explaining why you care about the issue of food waste;
  • Explaining how one or more of the four pieces of this bill will make a difference to you, your organization, or your community;
  • Expressing any concerns you might have about elements of this bill that might be incomplete or in need of additional clarification;
  • Close by thanking the Councilmembers for listening and re-stating clearly whether you think the Council should support this legislation and make it a law of DC;

Lastly, be sure to practice reading your testimony aloud before the big day, and timing how long it takes you. Practicing will help you stay on time and make your points clearly and succinctly.

 

What can I do if I can’t testify that day?

You can still submit written testimony to Sarina Loy, Committee Assistant at sloy@dccouncil.us or notify the Councilmembers on the Health Committee about your support of the bill through the contact information listed here: http://dccouncil.us/committees/committee-on-health.

 

Any other questions?

Thank you for being part of the movement to fight food waste in our community! Please direct any questions or concerns to alexander.moore@dcbc.dc.gov.

Urban Agriculture & Food System Education Working Group Meeting Recap

2016-sept1

The Urban Agriculture & Food System Education Working Group met on  Tuesday September 13th from 6-8pm.
Location:Blind Whino, 700 Delaware Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024

Key Questions for Discussion

  1. What process can we expect from District agencies and policymakers to implement the Urban Farm and Food Security Act?
  2. What key amendments are needed to implement the Urban Farm and Food Security Act?
  3. How will key stakeholders at this meeting maintain communication, transparency, and partnership moving forward?
  4. What gaps exist is supporting urban farmers in the District?

Agenda Items

  • Introductions and Opening Statements – (6:00-6:15 pm)
    • Food Policy Director Welcome & Introduction to Working Group
    • Co-chairs Introductions
    • Brief Background on DCFPC – Director will present for those who may not have attended the first meeting
  • Overview of and Discussion of Urban Farm and Food Security Act (6:15-6:45 pm) Food Policy Director
  • Invited Comments regarding status of Urban Farm and Food Security Act of 2014 (6:45-7:00 pm); Department of General Services; Department of Parks and Recreation; THEARC Farm; Dreaming Out Loud, Inc.
  • Discussion of Working Group short-term (1-year) and long term (3-year) priorities (7:00 – 7:30pm)
    • Identifying land, developing a process
    • FPC Director will assist with facilitation
  • Questions from Community Members (7:30-7:50 pm)
    • Questions may be submitted in advance to robinson@dcbc.dc.gov and christopher.bradshaw@dcbc.dc.gov (please include “Urban Farming Questions” in the email title) or to @dcfoodpolicy on Twitter. They may also be written out on the index cards provided to the audience at the beginning of the meeting. Questions will be selected and read by Food Policy Council Members as time allows and the rest will be submitted to appropriate parties via email.
  • Outcomes and Next Steps (7:50-8:00 pm)

Meeting Notes

Subcommittee Members

Christopher Bradshaw, Co-Chair christopher.bradshaw@dcbc.dc.gov

Joelle Robinson, Co-Chair robinson@dcbc.dc.gov

Food Equity, Access, and Health & Nutrition Education Working Group Meeting Recap

img_6575

The Food Equity, Access, and Health and Nutrition Education Working Group met on Wednesday September 14th from 6-8pm. 

Location: Dorothy Heights/Benning Neighborhood Library East River Park Shopping Center, 3935 Benning Rd NE, Washington, DC 20019

Agenda

6:00-6:05PM: Welcome and Introductions Food Policy Director,Laine Cidlowski 

6:05-6:15PM: Feedback from first Food Policy Council meeting and member retreat Alex Ashbrook, Working Group Co-Chair Paula Reichel, Working Group Co-Chair

6:15-6:30PM: Introduction to FEED DC Act Megan Brown & Ona Balkus, Office of Councilmember Mary Cheh

6:30-6:45PM: Progress update on Grocery Store Development Program Beverly Wheeler, DC Hunger Solutions,  Marie Whittaker, Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development

6:45-7:00PM: Progress update on Healthy Food Retail Program Nola Liu, DC Central Kitchen

7:00-7:30PM: Facilitated brainstorm on areas of improvement and other group policy priorities

7:30-7:45PM: Next Steps

7:45-8:00PM: Announcements

Meeting Notes

 

 

Subcommittee Members:

Alex Ashbrook, Co-Chair alexandra.ashbrook@dcbc.dc.gov

Paula Reichel, Co-Chair paula.reichel@dcbc.dc.gov

Tambra Raye Stevenson, tambraraye.stevenson@dcbc.dc.gov

Local Food Business & Labor Development Working Group Meeting Recap

The Local Food Business & Labor Development Working Group met on Tuesday September 6th from 6-8pm. 
Location: DCRA, 1100 4th Street SW, 2nd Floor Conference Room

 Agenda

  • Introductions
  • Brief Background on DCFPC – Director can present for those who may not have attended the first meeting
  • Reports and comments on Standing Strategic Issue Areas & Goals for Working Group (FPC Director will assist with facilitation).
  • Reports of Co-Chairs of the Working Group (what will the meeting cover and in what format)
  • Introduce what the working group is and try to set expectations.
  • Understanding what the public perception of the working group is and what is expected of us.
  • Set priorities for the near-medium term, especially (a) laying the foundation of the larger food economy report; and (b) at least one other priority that we think is feasible given our lack of human and financial capital.
  • Discuss public goals – near and medium.
  • Announcements
    • Member Announcements
    • Public announcements, go around the table or room
  • Next Meeting – Announce Date & Time

Meeting Notes

Sustainable Procurement Working Group Meeting Recap

img_6553 img_6554The Sustainable Food Procurement Working Group met on Wednesday September 7th from 6-8pm.
Location: Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Library, 3160 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20010

Key Questions for Discussion

  1. What progress can we expect in DC Public Schools foodservice by the end of this school year?
  2. How will the key stakeholders at this meeting maintain communication, transparency, and partnership moving forward?
  3. What gaps in school nutrition policy and practice require additional study and action by this Working Group?

Agenda Items

  • Introductions and Opening Statements
  • Report from Dr. Stacey Snelling, Dr. Sarah Belson, and Erin Watts of American University: “Creating environments to make the healthy choice the easy choice for students in the school cafeteria”
  • Invited Comments from: Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE); DC Public Schools Office of Food & Nutrition Services; DC Central Kitchen; SodexoMAGIC; DC Greens & the DC Farm to School Network; DC School Food Project
  • Questions for Invited Presenters from the Food Policy Council
  • Questions from community members
    • Questions may be submitted in advance to moore@dcbc.dc.gov (please include “School Food Questions” in the email title) or to @dcfoodpolicy on Twitter. They may also be written out on the index cards provided to the audience at the beginning of the meeting. Questions will be selected and read by Food Policy Council Members as time allows and the rest will be submitted to appropriate parties via email.
  • Outcomes & Next Steps

Meeting Notes

First DC Food Policy Council Meeting – August 3, 2016

 

On Wednesday August 3rd, about 150 community members met to kick off the first formal meeting of the District of Columbia Food Policy Council. Photos, notes, and the agenda from the event are included below.

DCFPC Meeting Agenda August 2016

Introductory Presentation August 2016

DC Food Policy Council August 2016 Meeting Notes

Summary of the DC Food Policy Council