Collaboration is the new business and reducing food insecurity in New York State from 2019 to 2024 is the business at hand as goals are drafted and focus honed at the New York State Council on Hunger and Food Policy. Our group of experts gathered this week in Albany with a mission to provide state policymakers with respective expertise on how to address hunger and improve access to healthy, locally grown food for New York State residents and support agriculture as an economic driver.
“Culture makes up agriculture and school gardens teach us the importance by where food comes from and the history, and ethnicity, important in food,” farmer and activist Karen Washington of Rise & Root Farm shared.
Our collective power lies in the hands of the next generation to connect to seed and soil so we all understand where our food comes from, why it is vital to eat well and preserve good health with the power of good food.
I was honored and privileged to be a part of an appointed group that convened Tuesday to provide guidance on which and how food systems interventions can be most effective in reducing food insecurity.
Commissioner of Agriculture Richard Ball’s leadership with a roundtable of experts was inspiring and impactful with input and updates from many including: Cornell University, SUNY, Department of Health, NY Farm Bureau, GrowNYC, Department of Ag & Markets, Food Bank Association of NYS, Rise & Root Farm, Office for New Americans, Department of Education, American Dairy Council, Food Pantries, Reeves Farm, Price Chopper, Foodlink, Office of Gov. Cuomo, Crist Brothers Orchards, NYS ONA, School Nutrition Association, Hunger Solutions, Hunger Free America and FarmOn! Foundation among others to outline next steps, measurable objectives and define an actionable plan for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his unrelenting commitment to NYS agriculture and child hunger reduction with “no kid goes hungry” ideas in mind with policymakers.
The Food Policy & Hunger Relief accomplishments of NYS have included utilization of local resources, such as food from farms in New York to expand access to food-insecure communities with many programs launching and legislation passed to strategically leverage local resources to provide great access to healthier food for all New Yorkers. Several of these accomplishments are attributed to the thoughtful recommendations and discussions from this group. Thirty-six major achievements were highlighted summarizing the state’s progress on implementing anti-hunger and food policy priorities. In addition to these, 30 more are highlighted that have been implemented since May 2017 that will play an important role in addressing food insecurity statewide in 2019 such as:
n No Student Goes Hungry (ban lunch shaming, expand breakfast “after the bell,” offer an increase in reimbursement to schools that purchase at least 30 percent ingredients from NY Farms, double state investment in Farm to School programs)
n Vital Brooklyn ($500,000 Mobile Market Grant Program, $325,000 to open 12 new youth-run farmers markets in Central Brooklyn, $300,000 food insecurity screening pilot program).
Other accomplishments to date from past Council meetings included: NYS tax credit for farmers donating food-to-emergency programs, Health Across all Policies, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), access to child care subsidies to families experiencing homelessness through NYS social services districts, OCFS contract with Hunger Solutions Inc., $3 million-plus toward Nutrition Outreach and Public Education Program with additional funds to Older Adult SNAP Outreach Initiative, commitment to supporting the Farmers Market Nutrition Program and NYS Department of State’s Division of Community Service administers federally appropriated award of $60 million in the enacted 2017-18 budget and $2 million of those funds are granted out to support the following kinds of programs: Community food/soup kitchens, community gardens, culinary classes, food delivery to elderly and disabled persons, food pantries and summer lunch programs among others.
The Milk Marketing Advisory Council meeting and presentation at the council meeting this week was highlighting the need for dairy products throughout emergency food programs and the ongoing need to support dairy farming overall, discussed in depth because dairy farmers are suffering as we continue to see strong production, a continued rise in global supply and decline by consumers for fluid milk meaning it costs more to produce milk that the revenues earned. As dairy remains a driver of our economy with 14.7 million pounds (1.73 million gallons) of milk produced in 2017, and 10 percent surplus in 2017, planning to convert unutilized milk for good and economic development is paramount.
Ball applauded NYC local school food sourcing efforts (and pioneer NYC School Food Director Eric Goldstein [as a council member] launching Local Burger Thursdays moving statewide in next months) serving one million meals daily in the New York boroughs with a commitment to local sourcing. When Ball visited NYC PS 32 school district last year he shared his meaningful thoughts from the visit, “Container gardens were planted at the school where not a patch of grass was within 20 blocks. The students planted lettuce in these container gardens and then visited the farm in Schoharie County and planted butternut squash there, too. They returned in the fall to find their marked plants and harvested 20 half-bushels of butternut squash which they returned to the lunchroom where Chef George taught them how to cook. I was so touched by those kids, 5th graders, I think I’ll soon have 20 applications to work on the farm after they asked, “Why the air smelled different at the farm?”
The message was loud and clear — a touch point to where our food comes from early on impacts food security for a lifetime. Grateful to live in the great state of New York at the direction of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. I remain committed and inspired to be sure we all have access to food security and nutrition. And I want you to get involved, too. Ask me how. FarmOn!
Reach Tessa Edick at firstname.lastname@example.org.