Food Blog

Stigmatizing Hunger: Why Finger Imaging SNAP Recipients is Bad Policy

*Any opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not constitute the opinions of the Food Systems Network NYC.

By Gabrielle Blavatsky

Farmers, bodega owners, and grocery stores in New York City are losing millions of dollars each year due to a policy that requires food stamp program (or SNAP as it is now called) applicants to be fingerprinted before receiving their benefits. As the New York Times op-ed piece Punishing Poverty explained in yesterday’s edition, New York City and the state of Arizona are the only two jurisdictions that still use this practice. The remaining cities in the state of New York stopped finger imaging SNAP applicants in 2007. In the past of couple years, California and Texas have also banned similar fingerprinting requirements. Despite this trend, the Bloomberg Administration uses a waiver to continue implementing the policy.

According to Kevin Concannon, Agriculture Undersecretary for the USDA, requiring candidates to be fingerprinted discourages low-income families in need from even applying for the program. In a 2010 interview, Concannon argued that the consequence of this policy is lower than average program participation and billions of dollars in lost federal revenue in New York City.

The 2012 Food and Farm Bill

The 2012 Food and Farm Bill is being developed in an unprecedented environment, where the politics of the national deficit is driving this, and other, discussions of federal programs.  Many of the healthy and local programs accomplished with the 2008 Farm Bill are on the budget chopping block.  At this time, perhaps more then at the time of the 2008 Farm Bill, all of us, farmers and eaters, rural and urban, must stand up for Food and Farm Farm Bill programs that support healthy communities, healthy farms, and a healthy environment. 
The New York City Food and Farm Bill Working Group, chaired by representatives of Just Food and the Hunger Action Network of New York State and including the Food Systems Network NYC, worked with the New York Farm Bureau, the New York chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association, and other farm advocates to develop a letter to New York Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, urging her to fight for a Food and Farm Bil based on sound food and farm policy, not just deficit reduction, to support more sustainable, diversified farming, provide more healthy food, and create more economic opportunity. This letter represents a unique urban and rural perspective...addressing national policy that will support the health of our regional farm and food systems.  The FSNYC Leadership Committee voted for FSNYC to sign:

Ask the Chefs of Pig Island: Getting Through a Food Festival!

For all the Pig Island attendees tomorrow. Here is some advice on getting through an all-day meat marathon from the chefs and farmer behind the event:

"I advise people to fast for about 24 hours ahead of time, then pace yourselves! Be careful with heavy beer,  you wanna leave room for pig belly in that gut. Maybe do some training at Dinosaur BBQ. Get that appetite ready!"- Chef Nate Courtland of iCi

"Bring friends for "moral support" and pace yourself. This event is once a year so make every bite count." - Farmer Timothy Haws of Autumn's Harvest Farm

"Fast and drink plenty of fluids the night before Pig Island. Get there early the day of, pace yourself and get your pork on!" - Chef King Phojankong of Kuma Inn and Umi Nom

"Pace, pace, pace. Eat breakfast, don't fast because you will cramp like a fat kid trying to chase the ice cream truck. And even though I tend not to take this advice: get some water in between those delicious Sixpoint Beers ... every third is a water guys! Don't crowd the place with the line ... it usually is not the best food ... it is the slowest, least set-up team at the rodeo!!" - Chef Joe Dobias of JoeDoe

"Walk around first, do an entire lap,  get a beer, and then dig in!" - Chef Danny Mena of Hecho en Dumbo

Sweetwork Project Could Solve Two Urgent Social Problems

by Adriana Velez
August 25, 2011

*Any opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not constitute the opinions of the Food Systems Network NYC.

This article was originally published on Civil Eats.

For a dozen years Greg Allen has been living in Harlem and thinking, “Someone should open a grocery store here.” He would goad the owner of the nearest corner store, telling him he’d be the richest man on the block if he would only stock fresh produce -- but to no avail. Meanwhile, as a caseworker, Allen was becoming increasingly frustrated as he watched young people age out of the homeless youth program he worked for. Participants leave the program at the age of 24 never having held a job in their lives, so their prospects start out dismal and just worsen as time goes on. Then one day Allen put the two problems together and came up with a solution he’s calling the Sweetwork Project.

The Sweetwork Project is -- or will become -- a cooperative grocery store in Harlem that will employ the same kinds of disenfranchised yet promising youth Allen has been working with. Workers will start off at a $28,500-year salary and progress through an aggressive schedule of pay increases (a co-op model inspired by the California sex toy company Good Vibrations). After a year of employment workers have the opportunity to receive shares of the grocery store as part of their compensation. This is what Allen refers to as “radical access” -- access to ownership for people who would otherwise not have the financial means. Allen believes it’s the responsibility of entrepreneurs “to think of creative ways to solve urgent social problems.”

As of this writing, The Sweetwork Project has been funded through Kickstarter with time to spare. Allen has been gratified by the response, though of course he welcomes additional funding. He notes that most of the funding has come through complete strangers, some donating as much as $1000. “People are so ready for something like this,” he says. “I feel optimistic about the future and getting investors. People really want this to happen and want to help make it happen.”

Menu of Food Initiatives in PlaNYC

by Nevin Cohen
July 25, 2011

*Any opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not constitute the opinions of the Food Systems Network NYC.

From Urban Food Policy:

New York City's PlaNYC 2030, released in 2007, was roundly criticized by advocates of sustainable food systems because it was silent on food production, processing, distribution, or disposal. On April 21, 2011, Mayor Bloomberg released updated PlaNYC, which introduces the topic of food as a cross-cutting issue. There are references to food throughout the document, particularly in discussions of what constitutes sustainable neighborhoods and in reference to specific initiatives like community- and school gardens and composting programs.

For a complex issue like food, it is a bit surprising that only two of the plan's 198 pages are actually devoted to food. By comparison, Minneapolis just completed a major urban agriculture plan that augments its comprehensive plan, and Chicago's regional plan has an entire chapter devoted to food systems. The City Council's own FoodWorks is a comprehensive 90-page policy plan.  

To those of us engaged in food policy, most of the initiatives in PlaNYC will sound familiar. And, unlike a proper food system plan, PlaNYC does not articulate a comprehensive vision of a sustainable food system. It does not explain how the discrete pieces fit together and how food relates to other agency plans, like the City's Solid Waste Management Plan or DEP's recently released Sustainable Stormwater Management Plan. And with the exception of the farms in our watershed, the food elements are entirely focused on the five boroughs, ignoring our role within the foodshed.

As a quick reference to the initiatives in PlaNYC that relate to the food system -- and a checklist to review the city's progress -- I've compiled the following chart.

See the chart and read the rest of this post on Nevin's blog

Measure for Measure: Two Bills Before City Council Help Drive FoodWorks Vision Forward

by Carolyn Zezima
July 19, 2011
*Any opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not constitute the opinions of the Food Systems Network NYC. 

As the co-founder of The Talking Farm, an urban farming organization in Evanston, Illinois, I learned from experience how difficult it is for food and farming enterprises to pinpoint suitable land for growing food and how important and powerful a resource city governments can be in supporting local food economies and as a storehouse of information that enterprises need to drive their missions forward and plan their businesses. Five years later and now living in New York City, I am heartened at the evolution of local governments’ vision in creating opportunities for food and farming businesses and helping to drive local food economies, as embodied in City Council Speaker Quinn’s FoodWorks plan.

On June 16th, the New York City Council held a hearing for two food-system-related bills. One of the bills, Proposed Intro. 248-A, also known as the “City Land Inventory Reporting Bill” would create a free, searchable, public database of city-owned property and features of that property, including suitability for urban agriculture. The other bill, called the Food Metrics Reporting Bill, would require city agencies to report on a comprehensive set of metrics related to the City's food system. These bills lay groundwork for creating enormous entrepreneurial, food-access and public health opportunities around our local food system, particularly given the critical mass and sheer size of New York City’s land holdings and our regional food economy.

Hydraulic Fracturing and Agriculture, Starting the Conversation

by Krystal Ford
May 2, 2011
*Any opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not constitute the opinions of the Food Systems Network NYC.

On Monday, May 2, residents from across New York State gathered in Albany to rally for a statewide ban on fracking. Students, farmers, leaders and activists organized lobby visits and petitioned in the state capitol to demonstrate to legislators the need for a permanent ban on hydraulic fracturing in the region. New Yorkers have been battling horizontal hydraulic fracturing, a resource-intense method of deriving natural gas from the ground, in the Marcellus Shale for the past several years, and with the state moratorium set to expire on July 1, residents are getting worried.

Most of the conversation around hydraulic fracturing revolves around contaminated water, rightly so, but there are other equally important concerns that need to be discussed. Natural gas drilling puts our agricultural land and food at risk. All forms of agriculture, from growing crops to raising livestock, depend on clean water.Farmland in NYS

Gas drilling will be taking place mainly in rural communities because of the amount of land required for each gas well. Farmers are prime targets for natural gas companies. They have land and for many farmers, especially New York dairy farmers, life is constant struggle to survive. Leasing a small parcel of land can be very tempting.

NY Food Procurement Policy Debated in City Council

by Nevin Cohen
March 2, 2011
*Any opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not constitute the opinions of the Food Systems Network NYC.

The New York City Council’s Committee on Contracts held a hearing on February 28th to discuss two measures designed to increase city procurement of local and regionally produced food.

The first is a local bill (Introduction No. 452) to require the city chief procurement officer to encourage city agencies to make best efforts to purchase New York State food, defined as food grown, produced, harvested, or processed in New York. The bill refers only to New York food because New York State authorizes cities to preferentially procure food produced within the state’s boundaries.

Int. No. 452 requires the city’s chief procurement officer to develop and publish procurement guidelines for agencies to help them buy New York State food, train agency contracting personnel, monitor agency procurement activities, and submit an annual report to the Speaker of the Council detailing each agency’s efforts and the overall quantity and dollar amount of New York State food that each agency procured. The bill prohibits the city from spending more on New York State food than on its current purchases.

Food Almanac 2011 Panelists Share Cautious Optimism for Regional Food and Farming Horizon

2011 brings opportunities for economic development and Farm Bill organizing
by Carolyn Zezima
February 23, 2011
*Any opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not constitute the opinions of the Food Systems Network NYC.

A panel of food activists, farmers, and policy advocates offered their predictions and visions for the 2011 year in food at the first-ever "NYC Food Almanac". The event, held on February 2 at 632 on Hudson and presented by “Food for Thought” and Food Systems Network NYC, gave the audience a hopeful glimpse of the future of our local food and farming system. The Food for Thought series was created by Mary Cleaver of The Cleaver Co./The Green Table, and 632 on Hudson owner, Karen Lashinksy to raise awareness and funds for groups working to improve the health of our food supply. The discussion was accompanied by tasty seasonal hors d’oeuvres, local wine and beer and a winter tagine supper from The Cleaver Co.

Anna Lappé, food activist and author of Diet for a Hot Planet, and co-founder of the Small Planet Institute and Small Planet Fund moderated the panel, which consisted of:

• Kate MacKenzie, Director, Policy and Government Relations, City Harvest;
• David Haight, Director, American Farmland Trust (AFT) New York;
• Jen Small, Farmer, Flying Pigs Farm; and
• Brian Halweil, Editor of Edible East End, Publisher of Edible Manhattan/Brooklyn and Co-Director, Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project.


Short-term Forecast for Food and Farming
Food Almanac PanelLappé first asked panelists what events or issues they think will most likely define the 2011 local food and farming scene. Positive predictions from the panelists for the coming year focused primarily on the opportunity for food activists to position food and farming as an engine for regional economic development and job creation, and the opportunities for Farm Bill organizing and coalition-building.

Grow Food, Grow New York’s Economy

by David Haight
January 25, 2011
*Any opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not constitute the opinions of the Food Systems Network NYC.

Think back to the first days of New York’s history. Who were some of the state’s original business people? Farmers. If you think about it, trade in food has historically been the foundation of all economic activity.

Fast forward to 2011. Farms remain critical to New York’s economy. The state’s 30,000 farms sell over $4.5 billion annually — milk, fruits, vegetables, meat, flowers, plants and so much more. And farms buy much of the goods and services they need to survive from other local businesses. There is a network of connections between farms and thousands of New Yorkers employed at hardware stores, banks, farm equipment dealers and other enterprises.

Farm Photo provided by AFTThe economic opportunities for growing, processing and marketing food and farm products in New York are vast and diverse. New York is a national leader in the production of more than 20 farm products — recently, we were second in the nation in the production of apples, maple syrup and pumpkins and third in dairy and wine and grape production. This abundance of food production in close proximity to 19 million state residents and millions more in neighboring states makes New York a strategic place to locate food processing businesses.

When you add together the businesses that sell goods and services to farmers, farm jobs and food processing businesses, these enterprises generate a combined $30 billion a year in economic activity in New York. Yet there is still potential for growth. New York City residents alone spend more than $30 billion a year on food.

But, agriculture is often overlooked by mainstream economic development programs, and as a result, we don’t adequately protect farmland or promote our farms. Investing in agriculture supports an extensive network of small businesses connected by farming and food . And, these projects encourage environmentally-sound “smart growth” — focusing development in our cities, villages, town centers, and hamlets.

There are hopeful signs that agriculture and farmland protection will be a much higher priority for New York in the near future. In the last 90 days, three major political leaders in New York have released reports or policy agendas detailing the importance of farms and food to all New Yorkers.