In New York City, 1.2 million residents were food insecure prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that number has increased to around 2 million. How would you decrease poverty and end hunger in New York City?
I believe that the purpose of government is to provide its citizens with basic needs: Food is the most basic of these needs. I have a two-fold plan to address food insecurity and decrease poverty in New York City by utilizing a grass roots, local approach. New York is famous for its restaurants and each of its fifty-nine communities has restaurants specific to the culture of its residents. With city funding, local restaurants can provide healthy, culturally specific foods to people in need while hiring local residents to help with distribution, thereby improving local economies and addressing the needs of citizens in crisis.
What specific steps will you take to increase the participation of eligible New Yorkers in federally-funded programs such as SNAP and WIC?
Each of the community boards within the five boroughs will have agents specifically appointed to focus on food insecurity with the specific goal of connecting eligible, needy citizens with federally-funded programs. They will focus on schools, churches and social clubs within the community to locate families in crisis. There will be a twenty-four hour hotline to serve citizens in need.
Would you increase the administrative power of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy or would you provide a different structure for New York City food oversight? Please specifically include how your plan would a) enhance mechanisms for community engagement and direct democracy and b) unify the City’s public policies related to food (that are currently split among many different agencies and many massive, private, non-profit groups)?
I would increase the administrative power of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy while working in a grassroots fashion within each community to find where best to allocate funding and to specifically work with local restaurants to help provide food for citizens in need. There should be one agency whose only focus is to serve citizens suffering from food insecurity. Private, non-profit groups which serve our communities would work with a central city agency to ascertain how to effectively address the needs of hungry people.
How will you ensure the lived-experiences and expertise of communities of color are incorporated into the development and implementation of policies to build a more equitable food system? How will your policies approach the structural racism that exists in our food system?
The way to respect the culture and needs of communities of color is to work in a hyper-local fashion to understand and respect cultural traditions and foods. If there are restaurants in the communities, I would provide city funding to help each restaurant provide healthy, culturally appropriate foods and hire local residents to distribute these meals. If the community is in a food desert and lacks local restaurants, I would work with local schools and churches to locate needy families. I would search for under-utilized real estate to construct community, city and state government funded “restaurants” and food pantries to provide needy residents with food.
How do you plan to invest in long-term food sovereignty in NYC that moves away from the current investment in Emergency Food as a response to systemic and long term food insecurity?
Again, by working in a hyper-local, grassroots fashion; by focusing on each community in New York City with its various cultures and needs; by providing citizens with consistent support on a daily basis so that Emergency Food becomes a thing of the past.
Approximately 230 million meals are served annually by our NYC agencies. The Good Food Purchasing Program, which is currently in the early stages of implementation here in NYC, uses the enormous strength of our City’s food procurement power to improve the local and regional food systems in the areas of workers’ rights, environmental sustainability, local economies, nutrition, animal welfare, and meaningfully infuse racial equity and transparency practices into the food system. We want to understand your commitment to maximizing the impact of the Good Food Purchasing Program in your administration. Can you speak to the resources that you would harness to make this happen?
The United States has been providing sustenance to millions of people throughout the world since WWII. New York City’s neediest citizens are facing the direst shortfall of food in their communities since the Great Depression. I would look to examples of past and current federal policy where large-scale food distribution has been most successful. I would build on these successful strategies and implement them within the five boroughs. I would streamline the relationship between the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy and local communities, work to coordinate relationships between federal, state and local agencies and discourage competition and red tape. I would work tirelessly to provide local and community agencies a prominent voice in describing and re-writing their future.
It is important for students to have access to food that fuels them and helps them succeed in school. Students deserve school meals that are a respected, valued part of the school day as well as a wide range of food options, including Halal, Kosher, and options for people with extreme allergies. How important is school food to you? What would you do to improve the school meal quality, experience, and options?
Our children are out most precious resource. It is of utmost importance that every child has their most basic need met: to have healthy, culturally and medically appropriate meals that help them navigate their daily lives and challenges. Each community board, under the auspices of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy, will work with local school systems to design menus that appeal to and nourish every child.
What would you do to improve the quality and nutritional value of institutional meals provided by City agencies (e.g. school food, senior meals, etc.)?
Again, New York City is famous for its restaurants and the chefs who create the menus. I would provide state and city funding to work with local chefs to design menus utilizing community garden and New York State local farm produce to provide fresh, healthy foods for the people that most need them.
How will you work to better support and expand the capacity of non-profit community-based organizations and their staff who are serving meals to older adults through the Department for the Aging, including Senior Center and home-delivered meal providers? (For context, in normal times, these chronically underfunded systems serve roughly 20,000 and 30,000 older adults respectively, and could be better utilized to expand their reach.)
I will provide them with greater state and city funding and listen respectfully to their concerns. I will learn from the organizations who already know the people in their communities and have tried mightily, with limited resources, to address their needs.
What would you do to ensure food workers are treated equitably?
I am a great believer in the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program with it’s worker-driven, socially responsible policies. it is imperative to give voice to workers everywhere.
How would you fortify and expand community-driven efforts towards an equitable, sustainable and resilient food system?
I would provide communities with appropriate funding and maintain a healthy respect for each community’s awareness of their own needs and their understanding of how to address those needs..
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Black tea with milk.
One word you would use to describe the food system?