NYC Food Policy Center March 2024 Food Flash

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH
food flash

A roundup of food policy topics

What’s Hot: New School Food Pantries
Three schools in NYC–P.S. 113X in the North Bronx and two other undisclosed schools in Manhattan and Queens–have recently opened food pantries managed by New York Edge, a nonprofit dedicated to providing opportunities for students in underinvested NYC communities. On March 13, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at P.S. 113X to celebrate the opening of all three pantries. 

The Garden of Dreams Foundation provided more than $130,000 to ensure that the pantries in all three schools would have industrial refrigeration and ample storage space. In addition to supplying food, the pantries will stock clothing, school supplies, and household goods that will be available to students and their families throughout the school year. 

Food Policy Watchdog: Food Security in Gaza
The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) reported on March 18 that, with the entire population (2.23 million) currently facing high levels of acute food insecurity in the midst of the Israel-Hamas war, famine is imminent in Gaza. According to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, this is the first time an entire population has been classified as such. By mid-July, half the population (1.11 million) is expected to be classified in IPC Phase 5, which is catastrophic food insecurity, the most severe category in the IPC system.

On March 15, UNICEF reported that at least 23 children in northern Gaza had died from malnutrition and dehydration in the previous weeks, one-third of children under two were suffering from acute malnutrition, and 4.5 percent of children in shelters and health centers were experiencing severe wasting, which puts them at risk of dying. In addition, parents are starving themselves to make sure their children can eat. 

The World Food Programme (WFP) and other humanitarian organizations have truckloads of food to provide to Gazans, but these organizations need “immediate and full access to the north” in order to distribute it. WFP estimates that at least 300 trucks will be needed daily to provide the required amount of food, but they have only been able to bring in nine convoys since January. When trucks do enter, they are often looted before reaching their destination, and food aid convoys have drawn large crowds where dozens of citizens have been killed or injured trying to feed themselves and their families. According to WFP Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, Carl Skau, “WFP and our partners have food supplies ready, at the border and in the region, to feed all 2.2 million people across Gaza — but moving food into and within Gaza is like trying to navigate a maze, with obstacles at every turn.

Read more:
Acute malnutrition has doubled in one month in the north of Gaza strip: UNICEF (UNICEF) 
Famine imminent in northern Gaza, new report warns (World Food Programme) 
Famine in northern Gaza is ‘imminent,’ warns the world’s leading authority on hunger (NPR) 
Gaza’s entire population facing acute food insecurity, Blinken warns (BBC) 
GAZA STRIP: Famine is imminent as 1.1 million people, half of Gaza, experience catastrophic food insecurity (IPC) 

Quote of the Month:
“What happens after famine is really simple: People die in very large numbers. The cause of deaths will start to shift. Whereas the majority of the 31,000 deaths so far have been from the conflict, what we will see is not just large numbers of people dying of hunger, but dying of preventable diseases, particularly children.” – Ciarán Donnelly, International Rescue Committee Senior Vice President for Crisis, regarding the current situation in Gaza

Farm Bill Updates

  • Voluntary conservation programs, including adjustments in program funding, practices to mitigate climate change, expansion of technical assistance, compliance mandates, and efforts to engage underrepresented communities, are at the forefront of the farm bill debate. 
  • At the Agri-Pulse Ag and Food Policy Summit on March 18, Senator Debbie Stabenow, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, expressed optimism about passing a farm bill in 2024 although 80 percent of summit participants doubted that it would happen. 
  • House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson believes the bill could be passed earlier than the September 30 deadline, but Democrats and Republicans are still unable to agree on funding. 
  • Chairman Thompson has been criticized for his attempts to nullify Proposition 12, also known as the Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act and the Farm Animal Confinement Initiative.

Fact Check: Sugar-Elimination Technology
As many Americans seek out food products with low sugar, zero sugar, or “no sugar added” nutritional claims, food technology startup companies have begun developing products that will eliminate the added sugar from our bodies after it has been consumed. 

Zya, a startup in the UK, has released an enzyme called Convero that can convert up to 30 percent of consumed sugar into fiber when it reaches the digestive system, thereby reducing the amount of sugar that enters the bloodstream. The company is hoping that, rather than selling Convero as a supplement, food manufacturers will add the enzyme to their products. Pending FDA approval, Zya expects to launch Convero in the US in 2026.

Another product, this one developed by BioLumen, called Monch Monch, is a plant fiber-based drink mix that expands in the stomach and acts as a sponge to soak up sugar and reduce its absorption. Online sale of the product begins in May. It will be sold as a supplement, meaning that it does not require FDA approval. Like Zya, BioLumen hopes that eventually, food manufacturers will be able to use Monch Monch as an ingredient in food products.

Read more:
A New Startup Wants to Turn the Sugar You Eat Into Fiber (Wired)
Can we have our cake and eat it? Welcome to the world of sugar elimination (The Guardian)
‘Sugar Elimination’ Technology Has Arrived (The Food Institute)

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