Saturday, February 7, 2009

Fix Our "Broken" Food System in NYC

Photo (from NBC News Segment): "Boro Prez: End the Food Injustice", February 7, 2009. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and food experts/steering committee members.

As many of my readers know, for the last six months I've been working on a steering committee with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Deputy BP Rose Pierre-Louis, and Policy Analyst Jenifer Clapp and dozens of food advocacy organizations, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and other agencies in New York City on a politics of food initiative.

Today, the Office of the Manhattan Borough President released its comprehensive report (which I helped draft) with dozens of "doable" recommendations that all came out of the November 19th "Politics of Food" conference.

The report is impressive and represents the collective brain power of dozens of food and land use experts from the city and organizations in the 5 boroughs focused on food systems, nutrition, hunger, food pantries, farming, community gardens and farms, farmers markets, community supported agriculture and LOCAVORISM! Thanks, Jen Clapp for pulling it all together!

Julie Moskin at The New York Times had an advance on the story and published this piece today, "Manhattan Borough Chief Pushes for Better Nutrition in City" and NBC Local News interviewed some folks at Union Square Market and got a few sound bites from the press conference held by the BP on 14th Street/Union Square. VIDEO: "Boro Prez: End the Food Injustice".

A lot of work lies ahead for the steering committee as we break up into smaller task forces and roll up our sleeves to work on not only the "low hanging fruit" food systems projects that can help create real economic stimulus in NYC but also the longer-term infrastructure issues that can ensure NYC is a vibrant and healthy market for farmers and food processors and eaters from all neighborhoods for future generations.

According to the Borough President: "Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers live in “food deserts” where there are no supermarkets with fresh food; meanwhile, food prices are going through the roof, and yet thousands of eligible families cannot get food stamps.”
Here's a summary of the report from the BP's press release also issued today:
"The recommendations, part of wide-ranging report entitled is called "Food in the Public Interest: How New York City’s Food Policy Holds the Key to Hunger, Health, Jobs and the Environment" included:

• the designation of a New York City ‘foodshed” consisting of farms in a given radius of the city where growers of healthy food would have special access to city markets and from which government purchasers of food as the school system would be required to buy 20 percent of their vegetables, dairy products and other items; on a preliminary basis, such a foodshed could be set at 100-200 mile distance;
• designating “food enterprise zones” in areas that the Department of City Planning has identified as “food deserts” for their lack of supermarkets; enacting special tax incentives and zoning bonuses to encourage farmer's markets and the building of supermarkets, with a goal of helping reduce the estimated $1 billion New Yorkers spend in supermarkets outside the five boroughs;
• Increasing the availability of food by expanding the DOE’s breakfast-in-school program to all schools; mandating that all city agencies develop procedures for donating surplus food to local food pantries; and reducing the administrative barriers for families of the unemployed in order to speed up their eligibility for food stamps and other assistance;
• zoning and tax incentives for the creation and maintenance of community, back yard and rooftop gardens."

Stay tuned.........

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