NYC Food Policy Center May 2022 Food Flash

by Melissa Gallanter, RD

A roundup of food policy topics

What’s Hot: Baby Formula Shortage Leaves Parents Desperate to Feed their Young Children

Exacerbated by supply-chain challenges nationwide and a recall of a defective brand in February, a baby formula shortage is affecting parents and children across the country. Parents are driving several hours to access infant formula, private sellers are gouging prices, and many large retailers are totally depleted of inventory. 

Research from the data analyst company Datasembly has found that, across the country, there was a 43% out-of-stock rate earlier in May, which is up ten percent from the average in April. And the shortage has taken its greatest toll on women and children from underserved communities. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, highlights the fact that about half of all infant formula sold nationwide is purchased with WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) benefits

According to The New York Times, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that officials were working with Abbott Nutrition, the company involved in the recall earlier this year, to restart production, and have also been urging other infant formula manufacturers to increase production capacity. A shipment of infant formula from Europe arrived on May 22, and the White House has reported that another shipment is expected to arrive during the week of May 23rd. The FDA and the Biden administration report that action is being taken to increase production and maintain the safety of available infant formula; however, advocates are advocating for more urgent efforts, and information has leaked that a former employee at Abbott alerted FDA officials of food safety violations in October, months before the recall and related infant deaths occured. 

For parents who are unable to provide adequate formula for their infants, desperation is driving an increase in at-home research for homemade infant formula recipes, which health experts warn can be dangerous. And it is recommended that mothers increase the amount of milk they breastfeed or pump. That said, these recommendations and over-simplify the realities for many families. Some mothers are unable to breastfeed for various reasons, including health issues, inadequate milk supply, or the time required to increase the supply, which working or care-taking mothers cannot afford. . Additionally, the parents of  children who require special diets don’t have that option, nor do the care-givers of children who are  not their birth mother. 

As food policy expert Marion Nestle summarized, “we are seeing the results of unregulated monopolies… With the most vulnerable members of society – and society’s future – at risk.”

Food Policy Watchdog: Second-Ever White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health Planned for September 2022

The first and only White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Healthy was held in 1969. In the years since, the country’s food policy agenda has been impacted by the results of that conference in ways including: 

According to the press release issued earlier in May, the second White House Conference will address a “coordinated strategy to accelerate progress and drive transformative change in the U.S. to end hunger, improve nutrition and physical activity, and close the disparities surrounding them.” Advocates for the Conference include Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass) and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) as well as Senators Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.).

To help inform and achieve the goals of the Conference, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Food Systems for the Future, the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, and the World Central Kitchen have announced the creation of a Task Force on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health along with a Strategy Group on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. The Task Force is to be co-chaired by:

  • Chef José Andrés: Founder and Chief Feeding Office at the World Central Kitchen
  • Ambassador Ertharin Cousin: Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Food Systems for the Future and Former Executive Director of the World Food Programme
  • Senator Bill First: Vice-Chair of The Nature Conservatory and  former Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate
  • Secretary Dan Glickman: Distinguished Fellow of Global Food and Agriculture for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs,  Senior Fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, and Former United States Secretary of Agriculture
  • Dariush Mozaffarian: Dean of Nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University; Professor of Medicine at the Tufts University School of Medicine and the Division of Cardiology at Tufts Medical Center

Quote of the Month: 

“This Tops is more than a grocery store, it was an oasis in this food desert and also, if you were to walk into this store you would most likely see someone you knew… It was a community center that, if you came in to buy a loaf of bread you would spend 15 minutes because you ran into three or four people you know. It had that barbershop, salon kind of feel.– Ulysses Wingo, Masten District of Buffalo Common Council Member to Buffalo News

When the Tops supermarket opened in Buffalo’s East Side in 2003, it started to fill a gap for the Buffalo neighborhood of Masten Park, which had been a food desert with little access to affordable, healthy food options. Tops served as the lone supermarket within walking distance of many community members in the predominantly Black neighborhood of Buffalo. According to a 2018 report, Buffalo’s Black residents are six times more likely than white residents to live in a community without a grocery store. After this month’s horrific racist attack on shoppers in the Tops supermarket, the grocery store has closed indefinitely. 

Not only an attack on those killed and wounded in Tops, the shooting has attacked and temporarily shut down a vital community hub and food-access point for the neighborhood. According to New York State Governor Kathy Hochul, a food distribution center at the Resource Council of WNY building has opened, volunteers with refrigerated trucks are passingout bread, milk, eggs and other goods, and ride-share services are offering free transportation to and from Buffalo supermarkets in order to address the widened food access gap that was created by with the Tops’ temporary closure. Tops is also providing free shuttle buses from the closed Jefferson Avenue store to its location on Elmwood Avenue in order to assist people who need to go grocery shopping. 

Other community-driven efforts to maintain food access include the local, Black-founded non-profit Rooted in Love, which is providing fresh produce and non-perishable food items, FeedMore WNY, the Buffalo Community Fridge, Feed Buffalo, and Black Love Resists in the Rust, a local Black organization collecting donations for food and offering mental health support for community members.  

Fact Check: New York City has Launched its First Food and Climate Dashboard to Help Fact Check the City’s Carbon Footprint

The New York City Mayor’s Office of Food Policy released the NYC Climate Dashboard to clarify the carbon footprint of the City’s purchases. The dashboard complete’s the City’s commitment included in Executive Order 8, published in February 2022 to maintaining transparency about City agency purchases in relation to environmental sustainability.. The Dashboard is meant to be a tool for tracking the City’s collective efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, convert to clean energy sources, and create a more sustainable infrastructure.

Data indicate that dairy and ruminant meats (e.g. beef, bison, and lamb), followed by poultry, then grains, release the most greenhouse gas emissions . NYC has committed to reducing GHG emissions 80 percent by 2050. 

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