OPINION: Let’s put food power in communities’ hands

BY COREY JOHNSON | As human beings, food is what we need to survive and thrive. But we all know that food is more than just a necessity. It’s a connection to our families, our culture and to the Earth.

Unfortunately, in our city — one of the richest in the world — many people don’t have access to adequate, nutritious food.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson. (Photo by William Alatriste / NYC Council)

More than 1 million New Yorkers are food insecure, and there is inequitable access to fresh and healthy food in many neighborhoods throughout the city, predominantly in low-income communities and communities of color.

That’s why I recently released “Growing Food Equity in New York City,” a detailed report that outlines the City Council’s agenda to tackle the challenges we face regarding food policy.

This report stems from our core belief that access to adequate, nutritious food is a human right.

That means that we have a moral obligation to build a society where everyone has the fundamental right to be free from hunger and have access to healthy food.

Food policy needs to be addressed holistically if we’re going to achieve that goal, which is why the City Council will introduce legislation to empower the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy. That office is currently too understaffed and under-resourced to appropriately coordinate all of this city’s vast food policy.

We also need to expand some of our most successful food programs that not only feed New Yorkers, but also make sure the food they get is fresh and healthy.

One example is our Health Bucks initiative, which provides coupons to low-income New Yorkers to purchase fruits and vegetables at farmers markets.

The program benefits more than just its participants. Health Bucks encourages participants to shop at farmers markets, which are an important part of our local food economy.

Stimulating that economy — which also includes Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs and fresh-food boxes — is at the heart of what we need to do to achieve our ambitious food-policy goals.

I’m also calling for the city to fund a Community Food Hub Incubator to develop and support even more local food businesses and farm-to-city projects. The Council will also consider legislation to create an Office of Urban Agriculture that will help prioritize the ecological, economic and health benefits of urban agriculture in our city, including community gardens and urban farms.

Things like local food businesses, CSA’s, farmers markets and community gardens are integral to our diverse communities, and as a city we must do everything we can to help make them a success.

This is smart food policy.

New Yorkers know best what kind of food they need to sustain themselves and their families physically, emotionally and culturally. Our diversity is our strength, and we don’t need a top-down approach to food equity.

Rather, we want a system of food governance that grows (pun intended) from the communities themselves.

That’s at the heart of the City Council’s food agenda — implementing food policies that enrich our diverse communities.

Food is power. And we want that power in the hands of the people.

Johnson is the speaker of the New York City Council and represents Council District 3 (Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Times Square, Hudson Square, West Soho, Flatiron and Garment District).

2 Responses to OPINION: Let’s put food power in communities’ hands

  1. Families are starving now even working families that make 35,000 need snap to survive. Pantries are limited not just by materials but by knowledge of where they are located and the criteria’s that are attached to receiving those materials.
    Families of color and low income are always the ones that pay the price when things get cut. First Medicaid so we can die of illnesses or have our credit report on sky high from medical bills and now snap so people can fight and steal for food or just die of hunger

  2. This is really crazy! people need food to survive and food is very expensive. The snap programs does not last for the entire month for families. So imagine cutting off that program it will be like taking people off life support. Many children, young adults,and elderly will get very sick to the point of death. Not to mention this will affect the black and brown community and people living with low income. Most of them rely on the snap program. They are the one that are struggling just to keep a roof over their heads a place to live and thrive with their families.This will start many riots and protists for the right to have food to feed their families. Let’s not forget that we are all human being and we all have a right to live and thrive.

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