East Point’s first Agriculture Plan focuses on urban farming and prioritizing equitable access to healthy foods.

With a unanimous vote at their April 19 meeting, East Point City Council adopted a new City Agriculture Plan, the first of its kind in the Atlanta Region.

The initial draft of the plan — developed throughout 2020 by a steering committee comprised of East Point community leaders, local growers and city planners — was created in partnership with Atlanta nonprofit Food Well Alliance and the Atlanta Regional Commission. The steering committee worked with city council during the first part of 2021 to arrive at the version of the plan approved last week, and implementation is now underway.

“This plan is going to be a gamechanger for urban agriculture and building local food ecosystems across the nation,” Mayor Deana Holiday Ingraham said. “With City Council’s vote, guidance from our partner organizations and key resources now in place, the East Point City Agriculture Plan is poised to set the standard on providing a framework for equitable access to healthy food in communities similar to East Point.”

The concept for the plan came out of a key learning from FWA’s 2017 Local Food Baseline Report — local community leaders and growers needed a way to bring their voices to the process of developing government policies that prioritize urban agriculture.

In 2018, FWA invited 54 metro Atlanta cities to join them in piloting the region’s first plan. Seven cities applied and East Point was selected in July of 2019. After six months of engaging East Point community members and mapping local food assets, the steering committee was selected and went to work developing the plan.

On the same day the plan was approved, East Point’s first urban agriculture manager and a member of the steering committee, Tenisio Seanima, stepped into his first day on the job.

“I am excited to represent East Point’s local food movement as a genuine grower, consumer, and advocate,” Seanima said. “My first purchase of local food was in East Point. The very first crop that I planted and harvested was in East Point. My first local food staff position was in East Point. Hence, this city has been a part of my local food journey from the very beginning.”

Food Well Alliance Executive Director Kate Conner expressed her appreciation for the accomplishments of the steering committee and her excitement about Seanima’s new assignment.

“We are so thankful for Tenisio’s leadership and the energy he and this dedicated group of involved citizens have put into developing a robust plan,” Conner said. “Even with the pandemic and other challenges of 2020, they never missed a beat. Now, the transformative work of implementation can begin.”

With funding resources secured and an urban agriculture manager in place, work is ready to begin on the next key priorities for the plan — forming a citizen’s urban agriculture commission and piloting City incentive programs for urban agriculture. FWA granted $75,000 for the implementation phase, which will be matched by the city.

An additional $250,000 will be provided over three years through the new Regional Food System Partnerships Grant recently awarded to FWA by the USDA. Initial funding for piloting the plan was made possible by The Zeist Foundation and the James M. Cox Foundation.

The City Agriculture Plan is not only a first for FWA, the city of East Point and metro Atlanta, but also for ARC.

“This is just the beginning,” Conner said. “Our partnership with ARC aims to bring City Agriculture Plans to all 54 cities in the counties we serve across the region.”

Sam Shenbaga, the Managing Director of ARC’s Community Development Group, is excited at the prospect of the East Point project serving as a catalyst for other communities to pursue urban agriculture.

“For years, ARC has assisted cities and counties throughout the region to address quality of life issues including traffic congestion, housing affordability, water conservation, and workforce development, to name a few,” Shenbaga said.

“The ability to develop a thriving local food system not only promotes a higher quality of life, but also serves as a means to create a resilient and equitable community and region,” Shenbaga said. “Food access is, and will remain, a regional priority for ARC moving forward.”

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