Public officials are making good on promises made last year to take a long look at food policy in New York City. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn included this topic in her recent State of the City address and spoke about the impact our local food industry has on economic development:
One of our strongest business sectors is food manufacturing. It’s a five billion dollar industry that employs tens of thousands of New Yorkers.
Last year, working with Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito, we began helping even more of our best cooks start their own businesses. Many of them can’t afford their own industrial kitchen space. So this summer we’re opening a brand new shared kitchen in East Harlem.
Working with Council Member Margaret Chin, we’re developing a proposal for a brand new public market for regional foods.
Public markets like these serve as major tourist attractions and centers of economic activity for other cities. Pike Place in Seattle is home to nearly 200 businesses and 5,000 jobs, and it attracts an average of 8 -10 million visitors a year. New Yorkers are hungry for those same opportunities.
Quinn is not alone. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is another Democrat who recognizes the importance of a uniformed approach to how food is handled, which is why his office has released “FoodNYC: A Blueprint for a Sustainable Food System” (click here to download pdf), a comprehensive plan for everything from sustainable food processing to food education, a first for New York City. In a recent press release Stringer said
By devoting serious attention to our food system, city government can in one stroke improve public health, sustainability, and job creation. In recent years, there’s been growing interest in this issue, but we’re still left with a grab bag of disjointed, independent initiatives. Now, with the help of hundreds of dedicated New Yorkers, the document we’re releasing today will for the first time present a single, comprehensive vision for food policy in this city.
Anna Lappé, food policy expert and author of Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It added:
This report puts New York City at the forefront of an exciting movement across the country in which citizens are developing practical solutions to fixing our broken food system while improving our health, boosting the economy, and healing the environment
In a city known for its selection, its palette and its appetite, pragmatic approaches to protecting our food sources should bring big rewards in the future.