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Food policy for breakfast

2014 September 10
by admin

Worker loading apples at the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center (Photo: NYC SIRR)


“One of the least-known but most impor­tant rit­u­als in New York takes place every night in the South Bronx at the Hunts Point Food Dis­tri­b­u­tion Cen­ter. There, in strik­ing abun­dance, del­i­ca­cies from around the state, coun­try, and the world are bought and sold—cabbage from New York, oranges from Cal­i­for­nia, blue­ber­ries from Chile, bell pep­pers from the Nether­lands, beef from Aus­tralia, and fish from Nova Sco­tia.” –– Open­ing descrip­tion in the ‘Crit­i­cal Net­works’ Chap­ter of the NYC Spe­cial Ini­tia­tive on Rebuild­ing and Resiliency report.

Food secu­rity and pub­lic health are at the heart of the issue of cli­mate change. Johanna Goet­zel fol­lows the sub­ject with a recent talk held at the CUNY Grad­u­ate Center.

Cli­mate change impacts the food sys­tem, glob­ally and locally. Tues­day morn­ing, at the City Uni­ver­sity of New York (CUNY) Grad­u­ate Cen­ter, a panel of aca­d­e­mics and busi­ness lead­ers explored the impacts of food acces­si­bil­ity and deliv­ery in NYC in a far reach­ing ses­sion called Cli­mate Change, Food and Health: From Analy­sis to Action to Pro­tect Our Futures.

Mod­er­ated by Nicholas Freuden­berg, Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor of Pub­lic Health, CUNY School of Pub­lic Health & Hunter Col­lege, and Fac­ulty Direc­tor, NYC Food Pol­icy Cen­ter at Hunter Col­lege, the dis­tin­guished pan­elists included Nevin Cohen, Asst. Pro­fes­sor, Envi­ron­men­tal Stud­ies, The New School; Mia Mac­Don­ald, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, Brighter Green; Mark Ize­man, Direc­tor, New York Urban Pro­gram and Senior Attor­ney, Urban Pro­gram, National Resource Defense Coun­cil (NRDC)

Mia Mac­Don­ald began by speak­ing about the eco­log­i­cal and pub­lic health reper­cus­sions of the “global spread of US-style con­sump­tion.” One solu­tion she offered was ‘cool foods,’ those that are less energy inten­sive to grow and transport.

Mark Ize­man spoke about the dan­gers of sea level rise on the Hunts Point food dis­tri­b­u­tion hub. As the largest food dis­tri­b­u­tion cen­ter in the world, the increas­ing fre­quency and inten­sity of cli­mate change events like Hur­ri­cane Sandy will have sig­nif­i­cant impacts on the population’s well being. Address­ing these con­cerns and other resilience efforts, the Hunts Point Life­line project pro­posal offers an avenue for sus­tain­able future developments.

Pan­elists also dis­cussed trans­porta­tion strat­egy for the 5–7 mil­lion tonnes of food that enter NYC, 95% over the George Wash­ing­ton Bridge.  Nevin Cohen empha­sized the impor­tance of inter­de­part­men­tal coor­di­na­tion (trans­porta­tion, san­i­ta­tion, health) to address the entire ecosys­tem of food.

Since the bench­mark recy­cling law of 1989, mak­ing New York the first state to enact a pol­icy,  only min­i­mal progress has been made in state-wide com­post­ing pro­grams. This pro­vides an oppor­tu­nity to ele­vate Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Food Print” pro­pos­als to reduce waste at mul­ti­ple points in the food sys­tem. Local efforts can be made in sup­port­ing farm­ers mar­kets, the major­ity of which accept EBT/food stamps.

Atten­dance at the talk was high and the dis­cus­sion was robust, offer­ing numer­ous solu­tions for greater involve­ment. One mes­sage that res­onated was the need to update meth­ods of advo­cacy. All were invited to par­tic­i­pate in the Peo­ples Cli­mate March Sep­tem­ber 21. The next dis­cus­sion in the Food Pol­icy for Break­fast series will be held Octo­ber 14, about food pro­vided in New York uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges. The rip­ple effects of local con­ser­va­tion efforts and per­sonal com­mit­ments to eat­ing bet­ter can have global impacts on the resources threat­ened by cli­mate change.


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