Joint progress report assesses region's local food system

Joint Progress Report Assesses State of the Local Food System 

Long Island Food System Report CardSustainable Long Island and Adelphi University’s Vital Signs project announced today the release of the Long Island Food System Report Card; a joint progress report that details the state of the region’s current food system and provides recommendations to address the challenges ahead.

The report card is the first comprehensive assessment of Long Island’s food system and offers a baseline profile of its sustainability across three domains: Economic, environment and equity. The report card tracks the performance of 31 food system indicators and rates them on a five point color scale from dark green (highest rating) to red (lowest rating). The goals of the Long Island Food System Report Card are to create awareness, share findings and encourage mobilization among stakeholders to improve the region’s food system.

While Long Island remains a state leader in agricultural revenue, the strength and fairness of the Long Island food system is at risk. The report card’s analysis of multi-year data revealed a number of trouble spots threatening economic, environmental and social sustainability. The number of farms continues to decline, dropping 15.6% from 1987-2007, with just 644 now remaining. Efforts to preserve farmland have been an uphill battle, with less farmland being preserved over the last decade than originally anticipated by the Counties.

Food manufacturing and food wholesale have also taken hits. From 2003-2010, the number of food manufacturers declined 16.7% in Nassau and 15.3% in Suffolk. During the same time period, the number of food wholesalers dropped 10.8% in Suffolk and 5.7% in Nassau, with the largest declines in the poultry, packaged frozen foods and seafood categories.

Consumers in the New York Metropolitan are spending a greater share of their annual household expenses on food, 13%, than they did before the Great Recession, as a result of rising food costs and/or declining incomes. Moreover, the economic downturn has fueled a dramatic increase in food insecurity; Food Stamp or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enrollment increased 116% in Nassau and 168% in Suffolk between 2008 and 2011.

Food system byproducts are causing significant damage to our environment. Water quality of lakes, estuaries and rivers are under stress largely due to urban/stormwater runoff. 35% of Long Island sound basin rivers, 8% of lakes and 37% of estuaries have been rated as “poor”.

These challenges and many others require a thoughtful, proactive, and integrated approach to change that allows us to move toward a more sustainable future.

“With the release of the Long Island Food System Report Card, our hope is to mobilize Long Islanders in a discussion about how to achieve a sustainable food system on Long Island,” said Amy Engel, Executive Director of Sustainable Long Island. “We are confident this report will assist Long Islanders, elected officials, businesses, and community partners in raising their awareness about existing food system issues, as well as encouraging dialogue between stakeholders about programs, policies, and food-related research.”

“We at Adelphi University are pleased to work with our partner, Sustainable Long Island, on the Long Island Food System Report Card and other important research questions, which lend themselves to increased knowledge and improvements in society,” said Dr. Robert A. Scott, President of Adelphi University. “This fulfills our mission as the ‘engaged university,’ underscores our vision for Vital Signs – the social health indicators project, and strengthens our programs in Public Health and the Center for Health Innovation.”

“The Long Island Food System Report Card represents the first comprehensive assessment of our region’s food system and offers a data-driven blueprint for creating positive change throughout all food system sectors,” said Dr. Sarah Eichberg, Director of Community Research and Author of Vital Signs, Adelphi University. “While the report’s findings are mixed, identifying areas of strength and weakness, its recommendations offer strategies to make our food system more economically robust, environmentally healthy and socially equitable for all stakeholders – from producers to consumers.”

Overall recommendations to improve Long Island’s Food System were identified as follows:

  • Infrastructure investment to preserve and grow Long Island’s regional food system.
  • Economic diversification in farming to strengthen its role as one of the region’s economic engines.
  • New and heightened initiatives to address food accessibility, insecurity and rising costs of food for all Long Islanders.
  • Protection of the region’s farmland, water, and air quality for the long-term economic and environmental viability.
  • Strengthened and expanded regional partnerships to promote communication, coordination, and collection of information – in order to conduct regular assessments of the food system.

Please view the full Report Card for more detailed findings. 

The Long Island Food System Report Card was made possible by The Angela and Scott Jaggar Foundation.

About Sustainable Long Island

Sustainable Long Island is a nonprofit organization advancing sustainability through community revitalization, brownfield redevelopment, and food access initiatives. Sustainable Long Island connects public and private resources and expertise with communities that need them the most while promoting economic development, environmental health, and social equity.

Sustainable Long Island is located at 399 Conklin Street, Suite 202, Farmingdale, NY 11735. For further information, call (516)-873-0230, visit or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Adelphi University’s Vital Signs

Vital Signs is a multiphase project that systematically identifies, tracks, and analyzes the social health of populations and communities in Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island. Initiated by Adelphi University President Robert A. Scott in 2004, it has the primary objective of developing a centralized resource to help inform policy and service provision and reduce social health disparities. As a campus-community partnership, Vital Signs reflects Adelphi’s ongoing commitment as an “engaged university” and is affiliated with the Institute for Social Research and Community Engagement.

For further information, please contact:

Todd Wilson
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