A roundup of food policy topics
What’s Hot: Fast-Food Workers in 15 Cities Hold Black History Month Strikes to Demand $15/hour Wages
In honor of Black History Month, fast-food workers in Atlanta, Charleston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, and St. Louis held strikes to demand $15/hour wages from their employers, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s restaurant chains.
Earlier this month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed the minimum wage raise will be part of the House’s coronavirus relief package that is now being prepared to send to the Senate for final approval. Democrats are preparing to fast-track passage of President Biden’s plan through budget reconciliation, which doesn’t require Republican support. The House hopes to pass the aid package within a matter of weeks.
A national poll demonstrates that an increase in the minimum wage is favored by most Americans, but opposition remains among Republicans as well as some Democrats. A Congressional Budget Office report published on February 8 noted that 27 million Americans would benefit from a raise in the minimum wage, and 900,000 people would no longer be living below the poverty line. The report does also note that raising the minimum wage to $15 would cause employment to decline by more than one million jobs in order to compensate for employers paying higher wages.
Food Policy Watchdog: What are the Democratic Mayoral Candidates’ Plans for Addressing Food Insecurity in NYC?
Nine of the more than 30 candidates in the York City mayoral race participated in the Mayoral Food Forum 2021, a discussion of the future of food policy and the NYC food system. The candidates who joined the event were: Eric Adams, Kathryn Garcia, Shaun Donovan, Dianne Morales, Ray McGuire, Scott Stringer, Jocelyn Taylor, Loree Sutton, and Maya Wiley.
Loree Sutton provided a quote from former mayor Fiorello LaGuardia that provides context or the importance and need to focus on food insecurity. LaGuardia stated that “Only a well-fed, well-housed, well-schooled people can fully reap the benefits of liberty,” which Sutton called the gold standard that should still prevail today.
Almost all the candidates present at the event agreed on the importance of a few policies including the need to increase SNAP benefits and improve enrollment in the federally funded program, expansion of community gardens and urban agriculture, and improved access to nutritious food through community settings and institutions including schools, senior centers, and food pantries.
Adams dove deeper into the need for nutrition education as well as providing more nutritious meals to students. “Government can’t feed the crisis. It’s just not about food bellies,” he said, highlighting that the food currently being made for children in NYC schools is contributing to childhood obesity, diabetes, and asthma.
Maya Wiley mentioned that the best approach to food insecurity must include addressing the root causes, including unemployment and income disparities. Wiley and Taylor both discussed the need for more input from communities based on more targeted data to better determine food program outcomes.
Dianne Morales contended that a focus on food justice should be paired with a focus on climate justice. She also said that as mayor she would invest $25 million to food innovation and sustainability programs within communities of color.
Multiple candidates including Adams, Donovan, and Stringer mentioned that they hoped to see a greater emphasis on the local and regional food system, including more farmers’ markets and increased purchasing from regional food providers.
McGuire provided a more corporate-minded plan to allow for larger supermarket chains, hiring gig workers to deliver meals to seniors, and providing improved refrigeration to bodegas in order to store and sell more fresh produce.
Kathryn Garcia, who managed the City’s emergency food response as Food Czar in 2020, explained how understaffed the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy is and that the way food is approached is very “siloed” and “fragmented.” She also reported that, under her leadership, the city had provided one million meals a day this past summer.
Quote of the Month:
“We see farmers making American agriculture first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions and gaining new sources of income in the process.” – President Joseph R. Biden
The agricultural sector currently accounts for ten percent of total U.S. emissions. Biden’s plan, the Climate 21 Project, calls for the creation of a “carbon bank” that would pay farmers, ranchers, and foresters to store carbon by capturing carbon dioxide before it leaves its source, such as a power plant, and transporting it and storing it using regenerative agriculture practices.
The plan aims to turn various regions across the country into carbon sinks, systems that suck up and store carbon carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This would help offset the country’s 7,000 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions each year. The carbon bank would be created and maintained by the Government-owned Commodity Credit Corporation.
Climate change has been a priority for Biden since his campaign, and within hours of being sworn swearing in, he’d formalized plans to re-enter the Paris climate accords. Within days, he made additional announcements onabout future climate initiatives including putting oil leases on pause and the government’s switching to using electric cars and trucks.
Fact Check: Are Restaurant Workers Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccines?
After almost one year of COVID-related challenges faced by the restaurant industry, many workers are eager to access COVID-19 vaccinations in order to feel safer and more protected while working.
Vaccination eligibility for restaurant and grocery workers varies from state to state, and the timing of eligibility remains uncertain in most states. In some states, such as New York, restaurant employees are eligible for vaccinations as part of “Phase 1b.” In other states, such as Delaware and Massachusetts, restaurant workers are not yet eligible but will be soon. The National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe team has created a tracker to provide the most up-to-date information on each state’s eligibility for restaurant workers.