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.
Watch the panel discussion HERE.