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Transforming the Nation’s Food System: Lessons from the New Deal and Strategies for Today

March 2, 2023 @ 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

The Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center, Roosevelt House and Living New Deal’s NYC Chapter aco-hosted an expert roundtable to explore how federal policy initiatives can spur revitalization of regional agriculture, better conditions for farm and food-processing workers, more equitable food distribution, and improved nutrition for all Americans — measures that recall successful New Deal programs.

The trauma of the pandemic alone has not changed the underlying forces that have shaped the nation’s food supply chain over many decades, narrowly concentrating sources of food production, processing, and distribution. The emergency infusion of funding for SNAP benefits, food pantries, and charitable hunger-relief programs is abating, though food insecurity persists widely.

This year’s anticipated re-authorization of the federal farm bill is an opportunity to transform the nation’s food system. First enacted during the Great Depression, this omnibus statute encompasses a host of agricultural programs as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — the largest source of federal food assistance for low-income Americans. Recent federal actions address food supply-chain insecurity, support for small farmers, and SNAP program management.

Many of these measures resonate with successful initiatives of the New Deal era. These included hunger relief programs in rural and urban areas, including schools; construction of farm-to-market roads; rural electrification, facilities for farmer education and agricultural research; and housing for farmer resettlement. New Deal programs funded construction of urban farm market structures, some of which survive today in New York State and elsewhere.

The experts gathered for this roundtable explore current challenges and opportunities and reflect on the legacies of the New Deal for today’s policymakers. Welcoming remarks by Roosevelt House Director Harold Holzer.

Moderator: Jeff Gold is a New York City-based urbanist and editor, chair of the Metro NY Health Care for All Campaign, and director of the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility. Gold serves on the NYC Working Group of the Living New Deal. He has coordinated community needs planning sessions with local residents of distressed smaller cities to find solutions to ‘food deserts’ and other serious food supply problems.


  • Kate MacKenzie is Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy (MOFP) and advises the Mayor on all issues related to food policy and the City’s food system. She leads the City’s Good Food Purchasing commitments, focused on increasing access to healthy, sustainable foods for the over 238 million meals and snacks served daily by City agencies, from public schools to senior centers.
  • Annette Nielsen is the Acting Director of the Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center. Until recently, she led the New York City office for the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Representing the Department, she provided a touchpoint for the agricultural and food industries in the greater metropolitan area, while supporting statewide efforts to build resilient food systems. She is a member of the Policy Committee for the Food Ed Coalition at the Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University, and the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance.
  • Jan Poppendieck is a Professor Emerita of Sociology at Hunter College, a co-founder of the New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter, and a senior fellow at the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute at the CUNY School of Public Health and Health Policy. She is the author of Breadlines Knee-Deep in Wheat: Food Assistance in the Great Depression, Sweet Charity? Emergency Food and the End of Entitlement, and Free For All: Fixing School Food in America. She serves on the Board of Directors of Community Food Advocates, and the Advisory Committees of Wellness in the Schools and the Hunter College Welfare Rights Initiative, and she is a member of the Global Alliance for Food, Health, and Social Justice.
  • Myron Thurston is the Food Supply Chain Marketing Specialist for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County and is a Senior Resource Educator in the Cornell System. His most recent position was in Agriculture Economic Development at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Madison County, and he worked with farmers there to help them prepare for expansion, diversification, and financial protection for their agribusinesses. He also served as the head of marketing for two nonprofits in Central New York. Myron grew up on a 100-year-old family dairy farm that milked some 350 cows and farmed on 2,000 acres in Oneida County, NY.

Watch the panel discussion HERE.


March 2, 2023
7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
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