NYC Food Policy Center August 2021 Food Flash

by Melissa Gallanter, RD

A roundup of food policy topics

What’s Hot: New Study Finds That American Children Get Most of their Calories from Ultraprocessed Foods

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that American children and adolescents are getting two thirds of their calories from ultra-processed foods and less than a quarter of calories from unprocessed or minimally processed foods. The study found that the amount of energy provided by ultra-processed foods rose from 61.4 percent to 67 percent between 1999 and 2018, while the amount consumed from unprocessed or minimally processed foods decreased from 28.8 to 23.5 percent. 

The study defines ultra-processed foods as ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat “formulations made mainly with ingredients refined or extracted from foods and contain additives but little to no whole foods.” Some common examples of ultra-processed foods include hot dogs, potato chips, fast food menu items, and packaged cookies. 

There is an important place on the table for processed foods that improve food security and ensure food safety. For example, some whole grain breads and dairy foods are ultra-processed. However, ultra-processed foods as a whole are more likely to be high in added sugar, trans fat, sodium, and refined starch while also more likely to be low in fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals

Discussion of the new study includes speculation about reasons for an increase in ready-to-heat and -eat food due to their increased availability and the portion size of ready-made meals as well as the increased consumption of food prepared away from home since the beginning of the study period. 

Food Policy Watchdog: Pandemic-Based SNAP Increases Set to Expire Next Month, While Biden Administration Creates Largest Permanent Increase to Benefits in Program History 

While the COVID-19 Delta variant is on the rise across the country, pandemic-related food assistance benefits, including a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit increase passed at the end of 2020 that increased the daily food stamp benefit from $4 to $7 per person, remain set to expire at the end of September. The additional payment helped more than 1.6 million income-eligible households in New York alone. 

In addition to the federal increase, individual states have approved increases in food stamp payments. But states such as Arkansas, Idaho and North Dakota are declaring an end to the emergency, which includes an end to the food stamp increases. However, extra allotments can continue to be paid as long as the federal government has declared a public health emergency, which the Biden administration has announced is likely to remain in place for the rest of 2021.

This comes at the same time as a permanent increase in SNAP benefits prompted by a revision of the nutrition standards of the food stamp program, under rules to be put in place in October. Average benefits will rise more than 25 percent from pre-pandemic levels, and all 42 million SNAP recipients will be provided with additional aid. 

Quote of the Month: 

“If you want to participate in society fully, you’ve got to get vaccinated. It’s time. You’ll need proof of COVID-19 vaccination for indoor dining, indoor gym, and indoor concerts and performances in New York City. This is a lifesaving mandate to keep our city safe.” – NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, on Twitter, August 3, 2021

Effective August 17, New York City became the first major U.S. city to mandate vaccination proof for indoor dining under a mandate called Key to NYC. As a means to put additional pressure on people to get vaccinated, at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is required for workers and customers alike in order to enjoy indoor dining, as well as entrance to museums and  fitness centers. 

After a transition period, enforcement will begin on September 13, when schools are expected to reopen and more people will return to offices throughout Manhattan. To enter indoor venues, the NYC COVID Safe App, the state’s Excelsior Pass app, a photo or original copy of a CDC Vaccination Card, NYC Vaccination Record, or an official immunization record from outside NYC or the U.S. must be shown. 

Many NYC businesses are in support of the mandate, but others have expressed concerns about losing customers as well as falsified vaccination cards being used for entry. A group of small businesses in New York City is suing the city, filed on day two of the mandate. According to the New York Times, the businesses say that the city is unfairly targeting businesses that have struggled during the pandemic and that there should be exemptions for customers with certain medical conditions or religious beliefs. Other restaurateurs, as well as supporters from Congress and City Council argue that the mandate impedes on civil liberties and freedoms

This mandate comes during a month of increased COVID-19 cases across the country and within NYC, with just under three-quarters of adults in New York City having received at least one vaccine dose. Since New York City’s announcement of this mandate, New Orleans and San Francisco have followed suit. 

Fact Check: How to Access GetFoodNYC Emergency Home Food Delivery (And Other Food Resources)

Although many emergency food providers and programs are shifting back to pre-pandemic status, New York City continues to provide fresh or frozen meals for those eligible through GetFoodNYC. Eligible New Yorkers include those who are unable to go outside, have no one who can help get food and who cannot afford delivery as a result of COVID-19. 

Each delivery contains enough food for three days, and options range from Kosher or Halal meals to Vegetarian, Pan-Asian or Latin meals. To sign up for the first time or sign back in to reorder deliveries, go to the GetFoodNYC webpage. The Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center has created a step-by-step guide to signing up for deliveries through GetFoodNYC. 

In addition to GetFoodNYC, or for those ineligible for the food delivery, take a look at your Neighborhood Food Resource Guide to determine what food pantries, Meal Hubs, and other food resources are located near where you live or work. Each resource guide includes information about food access within the community, such as the location and hours of food pantries, meals for students and seniors during, delivery services for people with disabilities, and resources for immigrants. 

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