Friday, February 29, 2008

City Council Victory in Push for Green Carts

City Council voted 37 to 9 on Wednesday, February 27th to approve the Green Carts bill, which will provide permits for 1,000 produce vending carts in neighborhoods that currently lack access to fresh produce. Vendors will be allowed to sell in 34 police precincts where the need for fresh fruits and vegetables is greatest. Though the bill faced opposition from small grocers who feared competition from cart vendors, supporters cited an increased rate of obesity and diabetes in neighborhoods without produce access. Council Speaker Christine Quinn declared the bill “a huge step forward in our battle against obesity and it's a huge step forward in our efforts to combat hunger in New York." Mayor Bloomberg plans to sign the legislation, and Reuters claims that the carts may roll out as soon as the Spring.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Greenpoint Church Reacts to Neighborhood Need

It was the many knocks on the door of their apartment over Greenpoint Reform Church that convinced Rev. Jennifer Aull and her co-pastor Rev. Ann Kansfield that there was a need for an emergency food program in their neighborhood. Four months later, church members and volunteers now serve hot meals to 50 people a week and packaged food bags to 90. Like all nascent soup kitchens and food pantries, Greenpoint’s emergency food program must sustain itself through private funds for three to six months before being eligible to apply for food from the Food Bank or United Way. For volunteers and members of the church this early process, though challenging, has brought them closer to the needs of their community and customers. Said volunteer Christine Zounek, “These are the people I’ve been seeing on Greenpoint Avenue for 11 years, and now I know them all. I know all their names.”

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Coalition Responds to Green Carts Opposition

The New York City Coalition Against Hunger questions the allegations made by President of the Korean-American Small Business Service Center of New York Sung Soo Kim who claimed in a press conference Thursday, that New Yorkers have “plenty of access to produce.” Soo remarked in opposition to the Green Carts bill, joining with other Korean small grocery store owners who are seeking to postpone a vote on the bill and enact further restrictions on Green Cart vendors, including a minimum distance between grocers and Green Carts.

NYCCAH Executive Director Joel Berg responded to this opposition, stating: “Food industry opponents have been basing their opposition on two arguments that diametrically contradict each other: 1) That few people will buy produce from the Green Carts because low-income people are just too ignorant to know their need more produce; and 2) So many low-income people will buy fresh produce from these carts that it will drive existing carts out of business. Logically, both arguments can't possibly be true. The Coalition's work in low-income neighborhoods proves to us that low-income people - who understand poor nutrition contributes to many diseases --desperately want fresh, affordable produce. I would hope the food industry would do more to meet, not dismiss, that need.”

City Council staffers are currently tweaking the Green Carts bill for a possible Wednesday, February 27 vote.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Consumers Face Unprecedented Increase in Food Costs

It’s no illusion that you’ve recently been paying more for a loaf of bread, and the USDA reports that the trend will continue. Industry insiders predict that the rising cost of food will outpace the general rate of inflation over the next two years, affecting the shopping and eating habits of a huge segment of Americans. As the price of corn and other grains has surged, livestock farmers have been forced to increase prices in order to absorb feeding costs. The USDA’s chief economist attributes this rapid inflation in part to the biofuel industry’s demand for corn, which has monopolized a portion of that market. To combat this tension between the demands for fuel and food, agricultural companies are funding new research in the hope of producing new high-yield corn seeds.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Neighborhoods Struggle as Number of New York Groceries Drops by 1/3

As climbing real-estate prices have forced neighborhood groceries across the city to close, many New Yorkers are rapidly losing access to fresh food sources. While high-end grocers have recently seen an increase in profits, the total number of supermarkets in the five boroughs has dropped by one third in the past six years. Grocers have been unable to absorb the soaring cost of rent, especially in areas of rapid real-estate development. The lack of local grocers has already led to higher rates of obesity and diabetes in Bronx neighborhoods, as residents turn to bodegas as their primary source of food. The city hopes to deter this trend by introducing Green Carts to struggling neighborhoods and encouraging bodegas to stock healthier products, while state officials have announced plans for a supermarket commission to address the needs of both grocers and food-scarce neighborhoods.