Monday, April 23, 2007

Kids and Hunger

Joel Berg, Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, was recently quoted in an article in the New York City Independent Media Center's IndyKids, a publication geared toward kids in 4th to 8th grades. The article discusses the serious and increasing problem of hunger in the United States and also low minimum wage as a contributing cause of food insecurity. Berg is quoted as saying, “Childhood hunger is one of the biggest unnatural disasters in America. But unlike a natural disaster, you can prevent it from getting worse.”

Friday, April 06, 2007

NYC's Middle Class - Heading for Extinction?

New York City's Middle Class is shrinking rapidly. According to a study by the Brookings Institution released summer 2006, the City had the smallest proportion of middle class families out of any of the country's metropolitan areas. The Drum Major Institute for Public Policy conducted a survey of New York leaders to try and discover ways to strengthen and increase middle-income families in the city. Among other enlightening results, the survey found that while the City's median family income is just over $49,000 a year, those surveyed think $75,000 to $135,000 is the actual amount it takes a family of four to have a middle-class standard of living.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

"Making America Stronger: U.S. Food Stamp Program"

A video released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities "commemorates the 30th anniversary of the of the reforms achieved by the Food Stamp Act of 1977 by telling the story of how food stamps dramatically reduced the extent of severe hunger in our country, how they continue to help Americans in need, and how this essential program can achieve still more." The video offers an interesting look at the history of the Food Stamp program, it also discusses some of the many reasons that make the program an absolute necessity.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Mayoral Food Policy

According to an article in today's New York Times, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, "has taken on more food issues, and provoked more controversy, than any New York mayor before him." The piece explores Mayor Bloomberg's past and present food policies, highlighting such actions as banning smoking in restaurants, banning trans fat, improving school lunches, and, most recently, forcing restaurants to post calorie counts on menus. Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, Joel Berg, is quoted, “The tools are now all in place to achieve significant progress, but it depends on whether the city decides to use the tools...It took Nixon to go to China, maybe it’ll take a Republican billionaire to have real progress on hunger and poverty.”

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Whopper of a Policy

Although it does not go into effect until July 1, the recently passed Board of Health rule requiring restaurants to list calorie data next to each menu item in the same size print is already causing some noticeable changes. When the rule goes into effect, it will only apply to restaurants that already list nutritional information for their standardized menus, thus mostly affecting fast food establishments. In response, some fast food chains, including Wendy's and White Castle, have stopped posting nutritional information in their establishments in order to avoid compliance with the rule. Joel Berg, Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, personally witnessed the trend of nutritional informational removal. Berg had this to say:

As you know, the Department of Health's new regulation requiring restaurants to have clearer nutritional labeling applied to chains that had some information already posted prior to the implementation. There were some media reports that certain chains actually took down their already-posted nutrition information before the deadline in order to avoid having to comply. But now I have seen it with my own eyes: the Burger King right next to the NYCCAH office on Beaver Street did in fact recently take down their large nutrition information poster. So, unfortunately, the City's good-intentioned effort had the practical impact of reducing the nutrition information available to consumers.

An interesting Burger King fact: its costs LESS to get a medium fries and medium soda than to get a small fries and a small soda, because the "value meals" only come in the medium or large sizes. The cash registers literally won't ring up smaller sizes for the value meals.

Yet, according to nutritional information available at the Burger King web site (but not on their wall), the nutritional difference between medium and small sizes is massive. A double cheeseburger is 500 calories and 29 grams of fat, not counting fries and a drink. Small fries are 230 calories and 13 grams of fat and a small coke is 140 calories and 0 grams of fat. Medium fries are 360 calories and 18 grams of fat and a medium coke is 200 calories and 0 grams of fat.

Thus, a double cheeseburger with small fries and a small coke equal 870 calories and 42 grams of fat; a double cheeseburger with medium fries and a medium coke equal 1,060 calories and 47 grams of fat. Given that USDA recommends that the average adult should eat about 2,000 calories per day, the small meal would comprise 44% of that, but the medium meal would be 53% of the daily caloric needs.

Even worse, large fries equal 500 calories and a large coke equals 290 calories. A double cheeseburger, large fries, and a large coke would be 1,290 calories, or 64% of a person's daily caloric needs.

To further stress the point, the "king"-size fries equals 600 calories and a "king"-size coke equals 390 calories. Thus a double cheeseburger, king-size fries, and a king-size coke would be 1,490 calories, meaning that this one meal would equal 75% of a person's caloric need for a a whole day. No wonder they don't want to post nutritional information. Perhaps it's time for a revised City law/regulation to require restaurants to have real nutrition information easily available to their customers."

Monday, April 02, 2007

NYCCAH Front Page

The New York City Coalition Against Hunger graces the cover of the April 1st edition of The Nonprofit Times Magazine. The cover article discusses the growing use of technology in the nonprofit world. It highlights organizations, like NYCCAH, which "have truly championed technology and used it to grow their organizations." The article specifically touches on the Coalition's website and innovative mapping technology, as well as - the Hunger Blog. JC Dwyer, NYCCAH's Director of Programs and National Service, headed the pioneering mapping project. The website is designed and maintained by the excellent Dave Hsia, the Coalition's Development and Technology VISTA.

Increased Food Quality?

New York might be on its way to getting its first statewide Food Policy Council, as reported today by the Daily Intelligencer. The Council would be in charge of coordinating sustainable-food efforts and community-supported agriculture efforts that would bring local and organic produce into lower-income shops, such as bodegas. Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, Joel Berg, had a somewhat skeptical response, "The question is, is it just going to be a food-quality and local-food focus, or is it going to have a key anti-poverty focus?I hope this really doesn't end up a yuppie thing."