Sustainable DC

Comprehensive citywide movement to address economic, environmental and health issues in the DC area.  Holistic sustainability goals were set in 2011 to achieve certain targets by 2032. Many efforts below are in progress alongside the other legislation in this document, however other areas continue to require initiation and development.

Key goals related to DC food policy:

By 2032 have 20 additional acres of land for growing food.

  • Adopt sustainable urban agriculture legislation and update zoning codes
  • Evaluate DC land and rooftops to find optimal agriculture spaces and display them online
  • Install educational gardens at 50% of DC Public Schools and partner with non-profit /community groups to maintain them outside of the school year
  • Identify public areas to plant fruit & nut trees in 5 acres of DC
  • Develop system of pop-up agriculture

By 2032 ensure 75% of residents live within 1/4 mile of healthy and affordable food supplies

  • Healthy Corner store expansion: piloted in 30 local stores in Wards 5,7 and 8
  • Double Dollars program: expand it to farmers market and corner markets
  • Create more permanent healthy food and education programs in public schools
  • Increase food label transparency
  • Create “food buying clubs” where people buy healthy food together in bulk, for a lower unit price

By 2032 produce/obtain 25% of food within a 100-mile radius

  • Comprehensive study of DC’s food system
  • Support local small & mid sized business by creating a Local Food Hub and encouraging government and institutional consumption of local food
  • Designate staff for the new Food Policy Council built by nonprofits and healthy food advocates

To learn more:
Read the Sustainable DC Plan.

Animals in the Classroom Act of 2014

An amendment to the Animal Control Act of 1979, this act allows animals to be used by schools for educational purposes. This includes, goats, chicken, bees and more and was created in response too the growing number of schools developing strong experiential learning programs that teach environmental literacy.

Current status: This legislation is effective as of January 13, 2015.

To learn more:
Read the full text here.


DC Urban Farming and Food Security Act of 2014

This act promotes urban farming and food security in DC by establishing incentives to encourage the use of privately-owned land for urban farming and community gardens.

Key features:

  • Benefits to landowners who use their land for agricultural purposes:

    • Awards a 90% tax abatement to landowners in DC whose land is used for agricultural purposes.

    • If a tax-exempt organization leases or otherwise uses its land for agricultural purposes, it is still eligible to retain its tax-exempt status.

Next Steps:

The District Department of Parks and Recreation is currently finalizing regulations with the Office of Tax and Revenue to implement the tax abatement in FY2016, which was funded up to $400,000 in abatements. The zoning commission needs to approve and recognize urban agriculture. Those interested can make comments to support the zoning commission’s ongoing regulations review here.

To learn more:
View the bill’s history here.
Updated bill status.
Committee of the Whole Committee Report

DC Food Policy Council and Director Establishment Act of 2014

This legislation calls for the creation of a Food Policy Council that will work to increase food access and improve the District’s local food economy by promoting positive food policies. It also establishes a position for a Food Policy Director, who will oversee and collaborate on food policies and advocate for new food ventures in the District.

Key features:

  • Creates a Food Policy Council (FPC) comprised of 13 voting members from the community (equally representing the public, nonprofit, and for-profit sectors) and 10 non-voting members from designated government agencies

  • Annual evaluation of city food policies and progress:

    • The FPC will write an annual report that assesses the current state of food access and the local food economy in DC. This report will also recommend policy changes.

  • Creates the position of Food Policy Director, who will:

    • Work with existing agencies to strengthen the local food system

    • Collaborate with Sustainable DC and create plans to meet Sustainable DC’s food goals

    • Seek grants and partnerships with organizations working to promote food access and local food economies

    • Represent the FPC outside of DC

Next steps: This legislation must be funded. The cost of implementation is $109,000 over the first year and $462,000 over four years.

To learn more:
View the complete signed Act
View the bill’s history here
View the Committee on Transportation and the Environment’s Committee Report

The Healthy Tots Act of 2014

The Healthy Tots Act of 2014 continues the successes of the Healthy Schools Act of 2010 for the youngest members of the DC community in the child care environment.

Key features:

  • Adopts higher nutritional standards than the national standards, including serving local produce, and provides a financial incentive to do so – 25 cents per child per day in addition to the federal reimbursement.

  • Makes DC the first “state” to allocate local funding to pay for a third meal each day through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (only two meals and a snack are federally funded).

  • Establishes grant funding for physical activity, gardens, nutrition education and Farm to Preschool activities.

Current Status: This legislation is effective as of May 2014.

To learn more: 
View DC Hunger Solutions summary of the Act and the language inside the Budget Support Act of 2014.

DC Government Family Leave Program

This legislation is a subtitle in the DC FY 2015 budget outlining the DC government paid family leave program. Through this legislation, employees are now eligible for paid family leave.

Key features:

  • Eligible DC employees will receive paid family leave of up to 8 work weeks within a 12-month period for a single qualifying event

  • Details:

    • The family leave may be used either consecutively or intermittently but in no less than one-day increments

    • Qualifying events: birth or adoption of a child or care of a family member with a serious health condition

Current status: This legislation is effective as of October 1, 2014.

To learn more:
View the full section text here.


Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2013

The Earned Sick and Safe Leave Amendment Act of 2013 expands on the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008, which guaranteed DC workers the right to earn paid annual leave for physical or mental illness, preventive care, family care, parental leave and absences associated with domestic violence or sexual violence. This act includes certain groups of workers who were not receiving benefits previously.

Key features:

  • Reduces the length of time an employee must work before becoming eligible for paid leave:

    • The required amount of time an employee works at a company before receiving paid leave is reduced to 90 days.

  • Tipped employees are now eligible for paid leave:

    • Tipped employees were excluded under the 2008 but included in the 2013 act. They are to be paid leave at a rate at or above the minimum wage.

  • Expands the definition of “employer”:

    • An “employer” is now defined as any entity that directly or indirectly employs or exercises control over the wages, hours, or working conditions of employment.

Current status: The Earned Sick and Safe Leave Amendment Act of 2013 is effective as of February 22nd, 2014.

To learn more:
View the bill’s complete history and content.

Minimum Wage Amendment Act of 2013

This legislation raises the minimum wage in DC and outlines how the minimum wage will be adjusted on an annual basis going forward.

Key features:

  • The minimum wage will increase to pre-determined levels over the next two years and be adjusted annually beginning in 2017:

    • The DC minimum wage will increase from $9.50 to $10.50 per hour on July 1st, 2015, and from $10.50 to $11.50 per hour on July 1st, 2016. Beginning on July 1st, 2017, the minimum wage will be adjusted annually in proportion to the change in the Consumer Price Index for DC.

  • Requires the Mayor to provide information to employers:

    • All employers in DC will receive written information about minimum wage laws.

  • Increased monitoring of employers of tipped workers:

    • Employers of tipped employees are required to submit a report every 3 months ensuring that all employees are earning the minimum wage.

Current status: This legislation was unanimously passed by the DC Council and signed into law on January 15, 2014.

To learn more:
View the bill’s history and the final legislation.


Cottage Food Act of 2013

The Cottage Food Act of 2013 defines requirements and regulations for small, residential food businesses called “cottage food operations,” or CFOs. This allows individuals preparing low-risk food on a small scale to sell their goods at public events and markets.

Key features:

  • Defines a Cottage Food Operation

    • Businesses producing and packaging food out of a residential kitchen that have an annual revenue of $25,000 or less are eligible to be considered a CFO.

    • Food produced by a CFO must:1) Be prepared in a residential kitchen; 2) Be stored on the premises where it was made; and 3) Be clearly labeled with the business name and address, net weight, ingredients, allergen information, and note saying it was “made by a cottage food business that is not subject to the District of Columbia’s food safety regulations”

  • Allows these small operations to publicly sell their wares:

    • As long as it complies with these requirements, a CFO may sell its food at farmers markets and other public events.

    Current Status: This legislation is effective as of January 25, 2014 and received funding in the FY2016 budget.

    To learn more:
    View the bill’s history and the complete legislation.

Farmers’ Market Support Act of 2013

This legislation is designed to assist and promote DC farmers’ markets by helping them navigate permitting processes and developing a citywide advertising campaign. Through a nutrition incentive fund, this legislation will also supplement federal nutrition assistance dollars spent at farmers markets.

Key features:

  • Support for farmers’ markets navigating legal processes:

    • Creates a District position for a “farmers’ market ambassador,” who will be available to assist new and existing farmers’ markets with regulatory procedures and approvals, permitting processes, and other applications, permits, etc. as needed.

  • Citywide farmers’ market promotional campaign:

    • Establishes a central (voluntary) registration of DC farmers’ markets; the Mayor will use this list to promote farmers’ markets in the District.

    • The Mayor will also provide for the design, plan, and implementation of a District-wide marketing and advertising plan promoting the availability and advantages of purchasing local produce; the mayor will also establish a website including a comprehensive listing of DC farmers’ markets.

  • Assistance to low income community members:

    • Establishes a Farmers’ Market Nutrition Incentive Fund, which will be used to supplement nutrition assistance dollars (SNAP, WIC, SFMNP) at DC farmers’ markets.

Next steps: This bill was introduced in October 2013 and sat under council review but never moved forward. To be considered, this bill needs to be re-introduced to the new council. However, the ideas proposed in this legislation could also be redesigned and integrated into the role of the new Food Policy Council and Director.

To learn more:
View the press release from the office of CM Mary Cheh.


Vendor Sales Tax Collection and Remittance Act of 2012

This legislation repeals previous sales tax legislation for sidewalk and mobile street vendors and now requires these establishments to remit the full amount of sales tax they collect, with a minimum payment of $375 per quarter.

Key features:

  • Sidewalk and mobile street vendors are now required to collect sales tax:

    • Repeals previous legislation that required sidewalk and mobile street vendors to pay a flat payment of $375 in lieu of collecting and remitting sales tax.

    • Requires licensed street or mobile vendors to collect sales taxes and each quarter make a minimum sales tax payment of $375 to the Office of Tax and Revenue. Vendors that collect more than $375 per quarter in sales taxes are required to remit the full amount collected.

Current Status: This legislation is effective as of July 13, 2012.

To learn more:
View the bill’s full text and history and see more information from the DC Food Truck Association.

The Healthy Schools Act of 2010

The Healthy Schools Act of 2010 was a landmark piece of legislation designed to improve the health, wellness, and environmental literacy of students attending D.C. public and public charter schools.

Key features:

  • Makes school meals more affordable

    • Makes breakfast free to all students

    • Covers the cost of reduced-price meals (40 cents) so students can eat for free

  • Encourages schools to serve food that is healthy and local

    • Provides 10 cents/day/meal at breakfast and lunch for meals that go beyond national nutrition standards (more whole grains, a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, less fat, and less sodium)

    • Provides an extra 5 cents/day/meal that serves a locally-grown, unprocessed food

    • Requires that foods vended, sold at fundraisers, or given as prizes meet the USDA’s Healthier US Schools Challenge gold level

  • Encourages school gardens and outdoor learning experiences

    • Establishes a school garden program that grants funds to schools for garden creation and maintenance

    • Establishes an Environmental Literacy Plan to integrate environmental education into K-12 curricula.

Current Status: This legislation is effective as of August 2010.

To learn more:
View the DC Healthy Schools website and OSSE’s Healthy Schools Act resources.


FEED DC Act of 2010

The FEED DC Act of 2010 creates a Grocery Store Development Program that provides assistance and incentives for development and renovation of grocery stores in areas of the city that have limited access to healthy food. The act also creates a Healthy Food Retail Program to help small grocers sell fresh produce and other healthy foods.

Key Features:

  • Grocery stores in eligible areas of the city may apply for grants, loans, federal tax credits, etc. as well as technical assistance to support their development.

  • Retailers interested in building or renovating grocery stores in eligible areas may receive assistance from the District’s “grocery ambassador.” This person will provide research and data on areas that lack sufficient grocery access; coordinate with relevant District agencies and public utilities; provide assistance with obtaining and expediting regulatory procedures and approvals; and assist with other activities as needed.

  • Establishes the Healthy Food Retail Program, which will assist corner stores, farmers markets, and other small food retailers in their development through grants, loans, federal tax credits, equipment, technical support, and/or other forms of financial assistance.

  • The District Department of the Environment will develop energy efficiency tools and resources to help corner stores reduce operating costs.

Next Steps:
This legislation has been funded and implemented. However, regular evaluation is necessary to ensure that this legislation is effectively increasing access to healthy food in DC’s low-income communities and that the programs are effecting each Ward of the city in an equitable way.

To learn more:
View the entire legislation here. 
Learn more about the FEED DC Act of 2010 on DC Hunger Solutions’ website.