A Green New Deal offers an opportunity to elevate the role of food production, land access, public procurement, and anti-hunger and nutrition policies and regulations as levers to fix our wasteful and inequitable agri-food system. Earlier this year, the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute convened a group of academics, practitioners, and activists to imagine how a Green New Deal at the city, state, and federal levels could take stock of this opportunity. This plan is based on that discussion and focuses on changes in New York City, New York State and federal policies.
On August 14 the New York City Council introduced more than a dozen legislative measures connected to many of the food system goals outlined in the Growing Food Equity in New York City Agenda announced by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson this summer. On September 18, 2019 City Council held a joint public hearing of the Committee of Economic Development, the Committee of Education, and the Committee of General Welfare inviting public input on this comprehensive food policy package comprised of 14 bills and 2 resolutions. The CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute provided a testimony in support of the measures and recommended that the City take into consideration several key factors to ensure their effective implementation in the coming months and years.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic’s Diversity and Inclusion Statement states as follows: The Academy encourages diversity and inclusion by striving to recognize, respect and include differences in ability, age, creed, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, size, and socioeconomic characteristics in the nutrition and dietetics profession. The recent article in JAND Strategies and Recommendations to Increase Diversity in Dietetics points out that “Examples of the Academy’s efforts are the Diversity Mentoring Toolkit, member interest groups, mentoring programs, diversity promotion grants, and extensive cultural competency resources.” However there are issues with all of these that may be hindering progress towards attaining a diverse nutrition and dietetics workforce.
On August 1st, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson presented his plan to address food inequities in New York City, defined as unequal access to healthy food and socioeconomic, racial/ethnic and other disparities in the impact of the food system on well-being. The report outlines the food-related problems the city faces including high levels of food insecurity, lack of access to healthy and affordable food for New Yorkers in low-income communities and communities of color, and food waste.
United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and Representative Al Lawson (D-Fla.), member of the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, last month introduced the College Student Hunger Act of 2019, legislation to address food insecurity on college campuses by enabling more low-income college students to access the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and pushing the federal government, states, and colleges and universities to take a more proactive role in addressing student food insecurity.
The latest Trump Administration effort to shrink the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP] would eliminate benefits to about 3 million current users, undo automatic eligibility for free school meals for about 500,000 students, and increase the administrative burden on the states and the complexity of the application process for future applicants. On July 24th, USDA posted a proposed rule change that would revise the Categorical Eligibility or “Cat-El” provisions that allow the states to extend eligibility to any household receiving benefits under Transitional Assistance to Needy Families [TANF] or Supplemental, Security Income [SSI]. According to USDA, 40 States, the District of Columbia, The US Virgin Island and Guam had made use of the provision by 2018. The public comment period is open until September 23rd.
The capitalist diet: Energy-dense and profitable. Freudenberg’s review of The Neoliberal Diet: Unhealthy Profits, Unhealthy People by Gerardo Otero. (2018).
A recent book by Gerald Otero, The Neoliberal Diet: Unhealthy Profits, Unhealthy People, analyzes how global diets have changed in recent decades, what caused these changes, and who loses and gains by the transformation. In the book, Otero describes how the global diet that emerged at the turn of the 21st century has contributed to world-wide increases in overweight and obesity and how neoliberalism, the variant of capitalism that evolved in this period, promotes obesogenic diets. Neoliberalism posits that markets are best equipped to solve all problems and that by deregulating, privatizing, and emphasizing individual responsibility, governments can unleash capitalist economies for growth. Otero makes several points that warrant the attention of food policy analysts and advocates. Read the review by CUNY Urban Food Policy Director Nicholas Freudenberg in the latest issue of Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development.
In New York, many gardeners, farmers, advocates, and, more recently, entrepreneurs argue that policies should facilitate long-term use of city land for urban agriculture, or remove barriers to entry for new businesses hoping to start-up in the Big Apple. And, as new forms of food production such as indoor hydroponics and remotely-controlled systems have joined longer standing community-run farms and gardens, an increasing number of New York City policy makers are joining in their support for such ideas. Nonetheless, to date, there is no comprehensive policy plan systematically guiding the existence of urban agriculture in the city, including its 1,200 community gardens; 490 school gardens; and 20 community farms and its growing commercial sector.
The Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP) is one of the most comprehensive efforts to harness the power of institutional food procurement to achieve social, environmental, and economic goals through the promotion of better food purchasing practices. Specifically, the program provides a metric-based, flexible framework that prioritizes five core values: local economies, environmental sustainability, valued workforce, animal welfare, and nutrition. With more than 100 national, state, and local food system experts providing recommendations and feedback on the policy, the GFPP is the first procurement model to support these five values in equal measure.
New York City advocates for the health and well-being of children, like their colleagues around the nation, have an opportunity to take action, NOW. Congress has at last taken up the process of Child Nutrition Reauthorization, routinely referred to as “CNR” by those who gear up, approximately every five years, to work for improvements in the legislation governing the nation’s child nutrition programs. In addition to School Lunch and Breakfast and the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the CNR process includes out of school time meals such as summer and after-school meal programs, and meals provided to pre-school children in childcare settings as well as several smaller programs. For a complete list see a primer prepared by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).