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Baseline Reports on the
Tompkins Food System

Read findings from Tompkins County's first-ever food system assessment, covering production, infrastructure, food environment, food access & security, consumption and waste. The product of hundreds of conversations, interviews and survey responses, this report offers a glimpse into the state of our food system. 


The people who plant, grow, raise, and harvest the food we eat are at the heart of our food system. Farmers work in relationship with the land and environment to provide food for our community and beyond. In this section, we explore who grows our food, how it is produced, and the type and quantity of food produced in our region. We also look at what producers need to create strong and sustainable businesses for the long-term.  

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Food is an essential component to human life. Being well nourished enables us to sleep well, exercise, perform well at school or work, and live a full life. Even if we ourselves are food secure, the food insecurity of our neighbors impacts the whole community. In this section, we explore the scope and nature of food insecurity in Tompkins County, alongside the barriers to access, and what's currently being done to help residents have to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. 

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National studies show that an estimated 30-40% of all food produced in the US (about 130 billion pounds) is never eaten. At the same time, upwards of 40 million Americans struggle with food insecurity. Combined with obesity rates of 30%, this “American food paradox” highlights the need for change. This section explores current initiatives at work in Tompkins County to divert food from the landfill, remove barriers to food waste prevention among individuals, businesses and institutions, and the opportunities that exist to prioritize waste reduction, feed people and animals, and generate valuable compost.

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Community Voices

In late 2020, 541 Tompkins County residents provided input on food access and security challenges, and shared their ideas for how to improve these conditions locally. Surveys were distributed at food pantries and service agencies in all municipalities throughout Tompkins County.

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In the winter of 2021, 592 community members weighed in with their ideas, opinions, and priorities on how to shape the future of our food system. These responses are helping to inform the direction and focus of the forthcoming food system plan. 

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Progress Updates

The ideas, insights, and perspectives garnered through our public engagement efforts have laid the groundwork for the food system plan, and three key directions have emerged as anchors for the plan. Ten priority goals have been identified to support the achievement of the community’s vision for a more sustainable, equitable, healthy and affordable food system. We are currently bringing this draft framework to the community to generate specific policies, programs and actions that our community can take toward a more secure food future.

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In February 2020, more than 100 community members attended the food system plan launch. They shared their vision alongside challenges, strengths and opportunities for the food system planning initiative. This report includes a summary of the event, and an overview of the project.

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Additional Local Resources

The Tompkins COVID-19 Food Task Force met regularly throughout the 2020-2021 pandemic to distribute food through coordinated efforts between over 80 local organizations and farmers. This is the final report crafted by staff support at CCE Tompkins and reviewed by Coordination Committee members.

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