On Monday, Local 1500 co-sponsored an event at the New School regarding the expected passage of F.R.E.S.H. (Food Retail Expansion to Support Health). Local 1500 President Bruce Both spoke at the event, along with New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (you can read her speech here, or watch it here).
“Unfortunately, while more and more chickens are cage free, many workers are still caged.” Bruce Both, President, United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 1500 –Bluntly opening her speech, Quinn noted some oversight by the council, "Suppose I told you that New York City had the opportunity to create thousands of new jobs – but we just weren’t doing it... Now suppose I went on to say that we’ve actually had that opportunity for years, we just weren’t paying close enough attention..." Her honest point came across clear, New York City (and NY State) has ignored the economic potential and the amount of impact a certain sector can have on one's health for what seems like forever. The sector is of course New York City's Food System. The facts are all there, as Peggy Shepard from WE ACT pointed out, "The recession leaves us unemployed, obese and diabetic, not only because of individual decisions, but because our environment works against our own being." The abundance of fast-food stores throughout the Bronx and Harlem strikes anyone who walks through those neighborhoods. KFC, Burger King, McDonalds, Popeyes and a bodgea, these are the options our youth is left with. More than half of New York City adults are overweight, and 34% are obese, 58% are either obese or overweight. In the past 10 years, the number of people with diabetes in NYC has more than doubled. An estimated 530,000 adult New Yorkers know they have diabetes. For every two people who have diabetes, there is another person who has it and doesn't yet know it, suggesting another 265,000 New Yorkers with diabetes. (NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene)
"What they came up with was the first of its kind in the nation – the use of both zoning and tax incentives to bring more grocery stores to underserved communities. And we should all be incredibly proud and excited that the FRESH zoning initiatives are about to be passed by the full City Council this week."
- Christine Quinn, Speaker, New York City Council.
In what seemed like a too good to be true event, Christine Quinn outlined a well informed five point plan called FoodWorks New York. Covering everything from manufacturing and transportation to the health of our communities, the broad Good Food, Good Jobs coalition has clearly taken much into consideration regarding the potential of the Food System for New York City by Quinn's blunt admissions on prior oversights, "But the truth is, each step in the food cycle – from the farm all the way to the table – has a major impact on the lives of every New Yorker. And each step has the potential to create jobs, to improve public health, and to preserve our shared environment. Or – if we continue to ignore those opportunities – the potential to cost us jobs, increase obesity, and pollute our air."
Quinn's FoodWorks NY:
1. Improving City's Food Infrastructure. Saying, "Too much of that infrastructure is outdated and inefficient, which costs us jobs and damages our
environment. That’s why we need to begin making key, targeted investments – creating better links between the city and upstate producers, and supporting a smarter redevelopment of Hunts Point"
2. Creating new and better jobs in the food industry. Stressed the need to create better jobs in the Food Industry, "We talk a lot about getting
people food, so they can feed their families. Now let’s use food to get people jobs, so they can afford to feed their families."
3. Keep local food dollars in the local economy -
Outlined that 2% of fruits and vegetables coming from Hunts Point come from New York State.
4. Reduce diet related illnesses like obesity, heart disease, diabetes.
Bring healthier food to low income areas who lack access.
5. Reduce environmental damage from the consumption, transport and production of food.
Stressed the need to cut out needless transportation of food from other states that is produced here in NY State. Cut greenhouse gases by using more rail transportation rather than truck.
United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500 has been on the forefront advocating for the development of a City-wide food policy. Working with the Mayor, Speaker and Department of City Planning, UFCW Local 1500 and a coalition of community groups have spent almost two years developing F.R.E.S.H and targeting the City’s food deserts for supermarket growth.
Through our innovative Building Blocks Project, we believe that Good Food, Good Jobs and Good Health are the building blocks of all communities and that New York City's economy benefits when communities are built on this foundation.
FoodWorks New York has been covered by Supermarket News & The NY Times.