The Role of Metrics in Food Policy: Lessons from a Decade of Experience in New York City
In the last decade, New York City developed food policies designed to improve access to healthy food, reduce food insecurity, support community development, promote sustainable food systems, and improve conditions for food workers. Since 2012, the New York City Council has mandated the Mayor’s Office to prepare annual Food Metrics Reports to present data on selected food system indicators. This article uses these reports to assess how the metrics describe the city’s progress in implementing municipal food policies set in the last decade. Our analysis examines: (1) changes in the indicators that the city reports; (2) strengths and weaknesses of the Food Metrics Reports as a tool for monitoring policy enactment and impact; and (3) opportunities for improvements to the indicators and the development and implementation of future metrics. We found that the reports show improvements in 51% of the 37 indicators and sub-indicators, declines in 40% and no change or no assessment in the remaining indicators. While the food metrics process has provided valuable data on the implementation of selected city food policies, it has several limitations. By adding new indicators, tapping into additional data sources, and engaging additional constituencies in the process, New York City food metrics could play a more useful role in helping New York City to set goals and monitor progress towards the development of a more equitable, efficient, and sustainable municipal food system. The experience with food metrics in New York City suggests lessons for the use of food policy monitoring to improve food systems in other cities.
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