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).
New York City is an epicenter for urban agriculture. With the largest system in the country, it includes a vast (and perhaps unknown) number of community gardens, greenhouses, and rooftop farms. Despite this vital urban infrastructure, the city still does not have a comprehensive urban agriculture plan. New York City lags behind other US cities that have integrated urban agriculture in their plans and policies, such as Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
On June 11th, the New York City Council held a hearing on Int. No. 1058, a bill introduced by City Council Member Rafael Espinal Jr. at the request of Brooklyn Borough President Adams that would organize, integrate, and expand urban agriculture in New York City for the first time. The bill is co-signed by 46 Council Members.
In 2016, CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute released the report Eating in East Harlem: An Assessment of Changing Foodscapes in Community District 11. The report found that, while the number of supermarkets in East Harlem had increased from 10 to 18 between 2000 and 2015, an increase of 80%, the number of fast food establishments had increased even more, from 11 to 47, a 327% increase. For every supermarket in East Harlem in 2015, there were almost three fast food outlets, one of the many reasons why East Harlem residents bear a disproportionate share of the city’s burden of diet-related diseases such as diabetes.
On May 7, 2019, the board of supervisors in Riverside County, California unanimously passed Ordinance 949, which regulates micro-enterprise home kitchen operations. The ordinance allows for the production and sale of small batched food directly from homes and legalizes what has been known to be commonplace throughout the Riverside County area. After 30 days, the ordinance went into effect on June 5, 2019.