Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Update on yesterday's FRESH Hearing at the New York City Council

Energy-dense foods, such as fast food (picture...Image via Wikipedia
By: Mo Kinberg, Food Policy Coordinator, UFCW Local 1500

On Monday October 26th, the New York City Council, Zoning and Franchises Committee held the first of two hearings to review the City's proposed Food Retail Expansion to support Health program. UFCW Local 1500, along with a coalition of community and faith based organizations spoke on a panel in support of the program, on the condition that good food and good job standards are attached to any financial incentives stores receive through the program. Before hearing public testimony, Speaker Christine Quinn joined the committee to say a few words on how important this program is to her in the pursuit of addressing health disparities in NYC.  She acknowledged that the proposal is not perfect and that she is committed to working with all stakeholder groups including labor and business to continue improve the program before it is vote don by the full Council. 

In her public testimony, Lisa Sharon-Harper, Executive Director of NY Faith and Justice reminded the Council of a previous incentive program passed in 1984, the Industrial Commercial Abatement Program.  Pointing out that although this program was passed with the best of intentions, to create job in low-income areas in hindsight it spurred the proliferation of fast food restaurants and poverty level wage jobs.  Pat Purcell, Assistant to the President of Local 1500, told the story of the good, the bad and the ugly in NYC City's supermarket industry, urging the council to ensure bad employers like Whole Foods and Amish Markets are not eligible for public subsidies.   Kerry Bernbach of New York City Coalition Against Hunger spoke on the need to consider high-rates of poverty in relationship to obesity and diabetes in low-income and communities. 

In her closing Lisa Sharon-Harper quoted
Cardinal Roger Mahony who echoed Ghandi when he said that: “Any society is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members -- the last, the least, the littlest.” She called on this Council not to be remembered for their good intentions but "by the effect of your policies on the last, the least, and the littlest in our city."

On Monday Nov. 16h the full Land Use Committee will hold a second hearing on F.R.E.S.H. We encourage and hope for all of you to attend!

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