NYC Food Policy Center April 2024 Food Flash

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH
Food flash

A roundup of food policy topics

What’s Hot: Robin Hood FUEL for 50 Awards
Robin Hood is a poverty-fighting philanthropic organization in New York City that supports learning and development among young children living in poverty.

FUEL is Robin Hood’s Fund for Early Learning, and the FUEL for 50 program is a three-year, $10 million initiative to support community-led programs that serve NYC parents and caregivers of children up to age three. Fifty organizations were each awarded $25,000 in February 2022, and in April 2024, three of these organizations–Chances for Children, FamilyCook Productions, and Forestdale–were awarded additional grand prize funding. Chances for Children, which works to strengthen bonds between child and caregiver, will receive $1 million; FamilyCook Productions’ Nibble with Willow culinary nutrition program for preschool children and their families will receive $750,000; and Forestdale, which addresses trauma and crises among young children and their families, and will receive $1 million.  

Robin Hood’s CEO, Richard R. Buery, Jr., stated that “By supporting our youngest New Yorkers, as well as their parents and caregivers, we help make New York City the best place in the world to grow up and expand opportunities for the most vulnerable New Yorkers.”

Read more here.

Food Policy Watchdog: Limits on Forever Chemicals in Drinking Water
On April 10, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the first-ever limits on “forever chemicals” in drinking water. Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are known as forever chemicals because they do not break down and are almost impossible to destroy, and exposure to these chemicals has been linked to cancer, damage to the liver and heart, and developmental problems in infants and children. Limits have been set to reduce exposure to PFAS and, thereby, prevent thousands of premature deaths and tens of thousands of serious illnesses. EPA’s press release states that “All public water systems have three years to complete their initial monitoring for these chemicals. They must inform the public of the level of PFAS measured in their drinking water. Where PFAS is found at levels that exceed [the new] standards, systems must implement solutions to reduce PFAS in their drinking water within five years.”

Read the EPA full press release here

Farm Bill Updates:

  • Farm policy expert Jonathan Coppess has stated that the odds of a farm bill reauthorization happening in 2024 “grow more dim with each passing day.”
  • House Ag Chair, G.T. Thompson (R-PA), is pushing to unveil a draft by Memorial Day, but more Democratic support is needed to make that a reality. Republicans have proposed a list of spending offsets to support the $1.5 trillion bill, but Democrats oppose many of these proposals. 
  • Thompson wants a farm bill draft that blocks California’s Prop. 12 and other state animal welfare laws.  
  • The latest draft would make Thrifty Food Plan updates (which serve as the basis for deciding SNAP food benefits) budget-neutral and would use $13 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act for conservation programs. 
  • Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) has proposed the Federal Agriculture Risk Management Enhancement and Resilience (FARMER) Act to improve the affordability of crop insurance. 
  • House Democrats would rather push the farm bill to next year, hoping that they will gain control of the House of Representatives after this fall’s election. 

Read more:

Quote of the Month:
“We have a society that tends to think about paying people back, but where would we be if everyone just paid it forward?” -Emily Borghard, Founder of Sidewalk Samaritan 

Fact Check: AI and Food Waste
Artificial intelligence (AI) is now being used to reduce food waste created by supermarkets and restaurants. Two different companies, Afresh and Winnow, have developed AI tools to monitor and analyze food waste generated by commercial food establishments. These tools analyze what foods are being tossed and why. For example, portion sizes at a restaurant may be too large, or certain food items may be overstocked at a grocery store. 

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has worked with Afresh, Shelf Engine, and the Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment to pilot AI tools in two grocery chains to determine the types and quantities of products that customers purchase. Using this data, stores were able to increase the accuracy of what and how much food they ordered and stocked, and food waste was reduced by an average of 14.8 percent per store. WWF estimates that, if these results were replicated across the food retail industry, 907,372 tons of food waste could be prevented, 13.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions would be avoided, and more than $2 billion in financial benefits would be gained.

Winnow’s technology uses cameras installed above restaurant garbage cans that can decipher what types of food, and how much, are being thrown away, which can help the restaurant determine if their portion sizes are too big or if certain parts of a dish are not being eaten. 

The data gleaned from AI can help businesses save money and increase profits while also reducing food waste and protecting the environment. 

Read more from The New York Times here and from the World Wildlife Fund here.

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