The “food system,” or the way we produce, distribute, and consume food, is inextricably linked to climate and health

A sustainable food system that provides access to nutritious food for all residents is essential to end chronic health disparities in the District and to address the contributions of the food system to climate change. Food system activities, such as raising livestock for consumption, transporting food around the globe, and disposing of wasted food in landfills, produce a third of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by humans. At the same time, The District’s food system is vulnerable to the short- and long-term effects of climate change, such as severe weather events that cause disruptions to food supply chains.

To address these issues, the Redstone Center focuses on efforts to integrate food policy into the fight against climate change by making the food system resilient to future disruptions and reducing carbon emissions from the food system, while also improving the nutritional quality of the food supply. See below for a snapshot of some of our recent work in this area.

Food Policy Council Sustainable Supply Chain Working Group

Redstone’s Policy Director, Rachel Clark, serves as an appointed member of the DC Food Policy Council, a coalition of public and government food leaders appointed by Mayor Muriel Bowser to create a just, healthy, equitable and sustainable food system for all by engaging, empowering, and informing DC residents and effecting positive policy change.

As an FPC member, Rachel co-chairs the FPC’s Sustainable Supply Chain Working Group, which leads efforts to increase the sustainability of the District’s food system.

Glasgow Food & Climate Declaration Policy Brief

​​In October 2021, Mayor Bowser signed the Glasgow Food & Climate Declaration, a commitment by subnational governments to center food policy in government strategies to address the climate crisis. The Redstone Center recently published a policy brief intended to serve as a roadmap for achieving the District’s commitments under the Declaration. The brief outlines the District's current efforts to address climate change in the food system, as well as policy recommendations for future action. These recommendations fall under four overarching goals: increasing awareness of the climate impact of food systems among policymakers and the public; reducing greenhouse gas emissions from food waste; strengthening climate resiliency in the District’s infrastructure; and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from meat consumption. Read the full brief.

Green Food Purchasing Amendment Act

In 2021, the DC Council passed the Green Food Purchasing Amendment Act, which requires the District to reduce GHG emissions from its meal procurement by 25% by 2030. To achieve this goal, the legislation requires the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) to implement best practices for sustainable food procurement at meal-providing agencies. The Redstone Center provided testimony about the bill and its implementation.

Good Food Purchasing Coalition

The Redstone Center is a member of DC’s Good Food Purchasing Coalition, which aims to use values-based food procurement to achieve a more just and equitable food system. This coalition prioritizes five key values in procurement: local economies, environmental sustainability, valued workforce, animal welfare, and nutrition. Redstone chairs the Coalition’s Advocate Subcommittee, which supports policy and resource investments that support adoption of values-based procurement practices. 

Central Food Processing Facility

In June 2021, the DC Office of Planning and the Food Policy Council published an Assessment of a Central Food Processing Facility for Washington, DC, a comprehensive assessment of how the District could best use a Central Food Processing Facility (CFPF) to improve the nutritional quality of meals served in public institutions (such as schools, senior centers, and correctional facilities), support local food businesses, create career pathways in the food sector, and strengthen the District’s food resiliency in case of future emergencies. Since the the assessment was published, the Redstone Center helped secure additional funding for the District to prepare a feasibility and siting study to move forward on building a CFPF. Redstone also published a Fact Sheet describing the benefits of a CFPF for nutrition and sustainability.

Federal Food Service Guidelines

The Redstone Center has been involved in efforts to support values-based procurement at the federal level, including participating in a coalition seeking required implementation of the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities (FSG) in all federally owned and operated facilities. Developed by an interagency working group led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the FSGs are evidence-based, currently voluntary best practices to align federal facility food services with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as well as food safety, efficiency, environmental support, and community development goals.

Food Waste

In 2014, the District of Columbia set an ambitious “Zero Waste” goal of diverting 80% of its waste away from landfill or incinerator by 2032, through waste reduction, increased recycling, and other strategies. The District’s Zero Waste goals have significant implications for the food system. Food waste is the single most prevalent material in the District’s refuse stream, representing nearly 20% of all refuse. Currently, the vast majority of the District’s food waste goes to incinerator or landfill. The District cannot achieve its zero waste goals without significantly reducing food waste production and expanding its capacity to divert food from incinerator/landfill using organic waste processing methods like composting.

The Redstone Center has testified about Zero Waste legislation and provided comments on the forthcoming Zero Waste Plan, which will outline the steps the District can take to achieve its diversion goals, and provided technical assistance on policy development and implementation.