According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, the proportion of fresh fruit eaten in the United States that was imported rose to 53.1 percent in 2016, up from 23 percent in 1975. In this same period, the proportion of fresh vegetables that was imported rose to 31.1 percent, up from 5.8 percent. Increasingly, our healthiest food comes from other countries. For example, since the NAFTA Trade Agreement in 1994, U.S. consumption of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, limes, berries, avocados and mangos imported from Mexico is way up and still rising.
The CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute’s recent report Food Policy in New York City Since 2008 Lessons for the Next Decade recommended that New York City develop a comprehensive, multi-year food plan for the city to ensure continued progress in reducing food insecurity and diet-related diseases, two big health burdens on New York City residents. The report suggested that New York could learn from similar global cities that have implemented food plans. The recently released Draft London Food Strategy provides three valuable lessons in food planning:
In New York City and around the world, it is women, people of color, recent immigrants and the poor who are essential for growing, producing, preparing and serving food. These groups are also most harmed by the failures of our food system: hunger and food insecurity, diet-related diseases, low wages and poor working conditions, and pollution and climate change caused by food production and consumption. And here in New York City and around the world, these same group are often excluded from participation in making decisions on local, municipal, national and global food policies.
In both Europe and the United States, public health regulation of the food industry is under attack. In both these major world markets, the global food industry is using its power and influence to oppose taxes on sugary beverages, resist mandates for stronger regulation of food labeling, and defend continued presence of pesticides and herbicides in many foods. But the growing health and economic burden of diet-related chronic diseases—also called non-communicable diseases—is creating new opportunities for support for stronger public health protection.
Ever since the Republican Party scored its electoral trifecta, gaining control of the White House and both houses of Congress, anti-hunger activists have been preparing for big fights over the nation’s food assistance safety net. There have been three main arenas for this contest: the federal budget, Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation, and the Farm Bill.