Our Plan for Food Justice

As your City Council Member, I will work day in and day out to create an environment where no New Yorker faces hunger or has to depend on emergency food pantries; where we have a strong local food economy which builds wealth and resilience in and among our own community; and where our children are provided healthy, appealing food and nutrition education at school:
  • Increase the City’s efforts to meet immediate food needs, while moving away from an emergency food model, and working towards a model of food sovereignty—in other words, community-led, resilient, and sustainable.
  • Ensure more New Yorkers can enroll in SNAP and WIC, and use those benefits to purchase healthy food at the grocers of their choice.
  • Support our children’s health, and ability to learn and thrive, by prioritizing scratch cooking and food and nutrition education in schools.

Read more below...

The Issues:

COVID-19 has intensified food insecurity at an alarming rate in The Bronx. While we knew it was a problem prior to the pandemic, COVID-19 has highlighted just how fragile many of the families and seniors living here are when it comes to food insecurity. In a city with more billionaires than anywhere else on earth, it is completely unacceptable that people go hungry, and are unable to access the types or amounts of food that they need on a regular basis. In 2020, nearly 1 in 5 Bronx residents were food insecure, compared to 1 in 8 residents citywide. Childhood hunger has skyrocketed over the last two years; 1 in 3 New York City children are now food insecure. Rates of food insecurity have consistently been higher in many of the neighborhoods within District 11— especially among seniors. What’s more disturbing, but also not new, is the disparities that exist between racial and ethnic groups: Black and Latinx New Yorkers are experiencing food insecurity up to four times more than white New Yorkers.

 

Food insecurity is linked to diet-related disease, which also existed pre-pandemic, but has only been made worse by the pandemic. Diet-related chronic diseases—such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease—have been the fatal factor in many COVID-19 cases over the last year. These are challenges our own neighbors struggle with: across the Northwest Bronx, rates of child and adult obesity, diabetes, and hypertension are either equal to or higher than the overall New York City rate.

 

Both of these related issues—food insecurity and diet-related disease—are driven by other systemic challenges like income inequality, racism, and unequal access to fresh, healthy foods. Additionally, essential food workers, who have been putting their lives on the line every day since last March, helping ensure our city can eat even during lockdowns, have been left out of decision making, and have not been adequately prioritized by policymakers.

Our Solutions:

Healthier, more affordable food for The Bronx is one of my top priorities. I believe food is a human right, and that all New Yorkers deserve to eat healthy, affordable, culturally-relevant foods.

Our community members know what needs to be done to reduce food insecurity and diet-related disease. So far, however, these solutions have not been supported enough at the government level. Ultimately, to address the root causes of food insecurity, New York City needs policies that ensure living wages, and accessible, affordable, high-quality housing, health care, and child care.

 

As your City Council Member, I will work day in and day out to create an environment where no New Yorker faces hunger or has to depend on emergency food pantries; where we have a stronger local food economy which builds wealth and resilience in and among our own community; and where our children are provided healthy, appealing food at school as well as nutrition education—both of which are critical for their long-term health.

We have a network of over 500 food pantries and soup kitchens in New York City. Their work is vast, and they have all stepped up to help make sure all New Yorkers are fed during the COVID-19 crisis. But we recognize the limitations of this. An emergency food model cannot be the answer to hunger. We must invest in community-driven solutions to both increase access to fresh, healthy food, and improve our diets, thereby improving our health and health outcomes.

During this crisis, we have seen even more clearly that schools can and should be a primary place where we address food insecurity, and health. Before the pandemic, school meals often made up half of the nutrition students received daily. Childhood obesity rates are also way too high (40%), with Black and brown students again being disproportionately affected. Ensuring all New York City students receive healthy, appealing food and nutrition education at school will significantly improve our childrens’ long-term health outcomes, making for happier, healthier families, and a healthier future New York.

We have the power and the will to achieve this vision. We just need the resources. Informed by community expertise, and with a strong commitment to health, economic justice, sustainability, and racial equity, I will work to:

 

Increase the City’s efforts to meet immediate food needs, while moving away from an emergency food model, and working towards a model of food sovereignty—in other words, community-led, resilient, and sustainable:
  • Support food pantries and other emergency food organizations working to feed our city by increasing funding from the City’s Emergency Food Assistance Program, and ensuring these organizations are involved in how those funds are allocated and used.

  • Work with food pantries and their providers to ensure the food they distribute is healthful and culturally relevant.

  • Revise and expand the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) program to increase the places New Yorkers can buy healthy food, including adding smaller, local grocers, cooperatives, and culturally appropriate food retailers to the program.

  • Provide financial and technical assistance to community-based organizations and other groups who are supporting grassroots food efforts including but not limited to community gardens and urban farms and educational programs.

  • Maximize City purchasing power to support a transparent, equitable, and sustainable food system by fully implementing the Good Food Purchasing Program across agencies.

  • End senior food insecurity, including funding seven meals per week instead of five, and increasing the number of meals available per day for vulnerable older adults. 

Ensure more New Yorkers can enroll in SNAP and WIC, and use those benefits to purchase healthy food at the grocers of their choice:
  • Provide technical assistance, technology access, and grants/loans to small businesses, with a particular focus on minority- and women-owned businesses so more local food retailers can accept electronic benefits.

  • Explore how to enable all eligible people to obtain multiple safety net benefits through one simplified application, available in multiple formats and languages.

  • Increase outreach in multiple languages at places where people live, work, play, and worship to increase the number of eligible people who are receiving SNAP and WIC benefits; and increase awareness of and access to Health Bucks.

 

Support our children’s health, and ability to learn and thrive, by prioritizing scratch cooking and food and nutrition education in schools:
  • Increase the amount of freshly prepared foods made from minimally processed, locally sourced ingredients in school meals.

  • Invest in workforce development programs for DOE's Office of Food and Nutrition Services staff to support scratch cooking in schools.

  • Improve schools’ cafeteria culture by directing capital funds towards cafeteria upgrades and ensuring more time for students to eat. 

  • Increase City funding for schools and community-based organizations providing high quality food and nutrition education.

 

Abigail Martin for City Council

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