NYC Food Policy Center February 2024 Food Flash

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH
food flash

A roundup of food policy topics

What’s Hot: NYC’s Permanent Outdoor Dining Program
The official rules for outdoor dining in New York City were released on February 2 and go into effect on March 3. The regulations establish the city’s permanent outdoor dining program, Dining Out NYC, which builds on the program that began in 2020 to support restaurants through the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to 2020, outdoor dining was permitted only on sidewalks and only in Manhattan. During the pandemic, many restaurants were able to stay in business by allowing outdoor dining in structures set up on the city streets. That program, however,  was loosely regulated, difficult for some restaurants to maintain, and often resulted in crowded sidewalks and fewer available street parking spots. 

The new program aims to build upon the lessons learned during the pandemic by setting the following rules:

  • Permitted restaurants will be able to offer sidewalk seating year-round.
  • Roadway seating (in the street) will be allowed from April 1 through November 29.
  • Enclosed shed structures will be eliminated. Outdoor dining setups must be open-air and easily moved.
  • Restaurants can use loading zones for outdoor dining, but they cannot block metered parking spots. 
  • Outdoor dining areas must be shut down by midnight. 

Beginning in March, an online application will be available for restaurants that wish to join the outdoor dining program. The first approved Dining Out NYC setups will likely be established by the summer of 2024.  

Learn more from the Office of the Mayor here or from NBC New York here.

Food Policy Watchdog: 2022 Census of Agriculture Results
On February 13, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released the results of the 2022 Census of Agriculture, which is taken among American farmers and ranchers every five years and examines land use and ownership, producer characteristics, production practices, income, and expenditures. Key takeaways from the 2022 census include:

  • The total number of farms in the US decreased by 142,000 (7 percent) between 2017 and 2022. 
  • In 2022, there were 1.9 million farms and ranches, taking up 39 percent of all US land.
  • The average age of American farmers increased from 57.5 to 58.1. Nine percent were under 35.
  • Women accounted for 36 percent of all producers. 
  • Farms with Black producers decreased by 8 percent.
  • 43 percent of farms had a positive net cash income. 
  • US farms had a total net cash income of $152 billion and generated $543 billion worth of agricultural products.

Read more from NASS here or from Civil Eats here

Farm Bill Update:
A February 14 article from The Hill highlighted recent issues causing continued delays in the passing of a new farm bill. Republicans argue that taxpayer money is not making any difference in the cost of food and food production, and they propose increasing subsidies to farmers by taking money out of climate and food aid programs. Democrats, on the other hand, have stated that cutting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding is not up for discussion and that taking funds out of the Inflation Reduction Act, meant for conservation and energy programs, would be ineffective. Republicans, therefore, are calling on Democrats to come up with a different funding source that would support both parties’ farm bill goals. 

Read the full article here.  

Quote of the Month:
“Outdoor dining was a lifeline for our restaurants during the pandemic and brought a much-needed energy to the city during that time. ‘Dining Out NYC’ makes that energy and vibrancy a permanent fixture in our city, providing a great benefit to restaurants and New Yorkers for years to come.”
Sandra Jaquez, President of the NYS Latino Restaurant Bar & Lounge Association

Fact Check: “Predigested” Foods May Contribute to Weight Gain
During the production of ultraprocessed foods like chips, cereals, and sweets, manufacturing processes “predigest” raw ingredients. Basic ingredients such as corn, wheat, and potatoes are broken down into molecular parts, and a “starch slurry” is extracted to combine with other artificial colors, flavors, and emulsifiers to create ultraprocessed foods. The starch slurry is produced by a manufacturing process similar to human digestion, which means that when it is consumed – as a part of any number of ultraprocessed foods – it bypasses the body’s satiety signals and leads to overeating. 

Read the full article from CNN here.

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