Our grocery stores are full of apples that come thousands of miles from
Specialty stores in affluent neighborhoods stock thousands of gourmet items, even while hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers live in 'food deserts' that have plenty of fast food joints but no markets that sell fresh produce.New Yorkers are missing out on the delicious, fresh food grown in their own backyard, even as hundreds of thousands of New York families struggle with diet-related illnesses like diabetes and child obesity.
The first step should be to establish a "foodshed" for the city, an area within a few hundred miles in which growers of healthy food would be provided special access to the
Certified growers and distribution networks in the designated area would be entitled to compete for a government set-aside through which schools, hospitals and other municipal institutions would be mandated to purchase a certain amount of their food supplies - perhaps as much as 20 percent for certain categories or items - from within the foodshed.
Twenty percent of the annual budget for the city's $435 million school food programs alone would mean an investment of more than $80 million. This would represent a significant amount for the often hard-pressed small and mid-size growers in our area, and a meaningful incentive to bring together a new generation of young farmers.
But a "foodshed" alone is not enough to fix everything wrong with our system.
We need to stop giving tax breaks to fast food outlets and to explore zoning and regulation changes that would limit the number of junk food providers that could inflict themselves on a neighborhood.
We need an aggressive zoning and tax incentive policy to help make sure that the more than a dozen struggling neighborhoods identified by the Department of City Planning can attract and retain supermarkets that offer fresh produce.
We need an expanded school lunch and breakfast program that ensures that every child gets the proper nutrition.
We need to recreate the
There is a growing sense throughout the country that industrialization and globalization has lowered the quality of our food supply and left it increasingly vulnerable to changes in climate and fuel prices. As energy costs spiral upward and unstable climates loom before us, we have to take affirmative steps to create a local food system that can provide our citizens with affordable, healthy food choices.
For more information, read the report,
is President of the Board of the Stone Barns Center for Food and
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