Review: The Trouble With Food Politics

The American Prospect • May 17, 2007

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, with Camille Kingsolver and Steven L. Hopp (HarperCollins, 384 pages)

On a spring morning several years ago, I made a final visit to a politicized cooking class for New York City public high school students. During earlier visits, I had watched teachers promulgate a body of then-eccentric ideas about food: the benefits of local and organic produce; the dangers of a diet based on McDonald’s; the environmental destruction wrought by conventional agriculture. During those initial visits, the teens handily dismissed their lessons. One young man, after declaring his love for daily visits to McDonald’s, declared simply, “I’m not going to change what I eat.”

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More Markets, Better Health?

City Limits Weekly • April 16, 2007

Harlem— New York City is eyeing a new target for promoting health among Gotham’s poor: supermarkets.

On Friday, the city’s food policy coordinator, Benjamin Thomases, sat in on a briefing about the nuts and bolts of bringing supermarkets into low-income neighborhoods. “We’re definitely looking at the issues of access to healthy food,” said Thomases, who said the city has been meeting with local food industry players, from biggies like Pathmark – whose extremely successful store on 125th Street in Harlem is generally considered a model project – down to the Washington Heights-based National Association of Bodega Owners, to discuss possible strategies.

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Fancy Produce in Every Pot!

Daily Intelligencer • April 2, 2007

The Alice Watersization of New York cuisine is continuing apace, and now it’s spreading to decidedly un-haute cuisine. Now that the budget is done, Albany leaders are finalizing a deal to give New York its first statewide Food Policy Council, charged with spreading the local-and-organic movement to corner bodegas and other places where lower-income New Yorkers shop. A Friday announcement by state Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker explained that the new body will coordinate the mind-numbing minutiae involved in favorite sustainable-food efforts like getting New York State apples to the neighborhood deli and ensuring that community-supported agriculture-buying clubs are affordable to the poor.

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Farmer Delivers to the Bronx: High Health, Low Fat and Cost

City Limits • Oct. 23, 2006

The Bronx’s La Antillana supermarket is getting some stiff competition from an unlikely source: the schoolyard of P.S. 28, across East Tremont Avenue in the Mount Hope neighborhood. Last Thursday, public health leaders and community activists announced the Mount Hope Food Project, a new program aimed at preventing obesity by expanding access to healthy food.

The program’s cornerstone will be a community-supported agriculture (CSA) project, where an upstate farmer brings fresh produce every week to program members at a low cost – roughly $11 per person each week. The ability to get fresh, quality food sold Altagracia deVilla, 44, a home health aide and single mother of three, on the CSA.

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Welcome Shoppers

City Limits • Aug. 21, 2006

From beneath a purple awning emblazoned with “East New York Bargain$ For Less,” a handful of local residents are working to put a fresh spin on its previous tenant’s declaration by opening the neighborhood’s first food cooperative.

By mid-September, volunteers and staff from the Local Development Corporation of East New York hope to open the doors on a member-run grocery store featuring high-quality fresh produce, as well as bulk dry goods and other prepared foods. It’s the latest in a series of efforts by the East New York Food Policy Council, a project of the LDC, and other local activists to bolster access to fresh, healthy food in East New York.

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Foodies in da ‘Hood?

The Huffington Post • Aug. 15, 2006

Forget organics. Stop worrying about local. Just get some fresh food into the ‘hood. That’s a pretty basic summary of the latest brainstorm in the “How do we stop being so fat?” conundrum: Use bodegas–the cheap corner stores found in poor urban neighborhoods–as beacons of health. If it sounds unlikely that the local one-stop ice cream/malt liquor shop could be a promoter of sound nutrition, you’d best pause a moment and really take a look at the Bodegas as Catalysts for Healthy Living Act, introduced into the House in late July by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY).

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Jicama in the ‘Hood

Salon • Aug. 2, 2006

Amid a crowd of New York City public high-schoolers, Antonio Mayers, 16, is trying — with modest success — to wrap his head around the idea of freezing a mango pit for later consumption as a popsicle.

“How long you put it in the freezer?”

“Just until it gets, you know, frozen. It’s really good,” says Michael Welch. Welch is leading Mayers and his tittering cohorts in a cooking class coordinated by EatWise, a New York nutrition and food systems education group.

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Body by Bodega

City Limits • July 24, 2006

Bushwick – > Federal officials are opening up a new front in the fight against obesity: access. Heading the charge is Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, representing parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Lower East Side, who plans this week to introduce the Bodegas as Catalysts for Healthy Living Act. If enacted, it would mark the first federal effort to target the issue of food quality and availability in the nation’s low-income communities.

The bill, which is also backed by the Washington Heights-based Bodega Association of the United States and local public health officials, would create a federal program offering grants through the Small Business Administration to help bodegas and corner stores stock and maintain fresh fruits and vegetables, along with low-fat milk and real fruit juices.

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For a Scrappy Neighborhood, a Scent of Farm Fresh

The New York Times • July 10, 2005

After 17 years, Joanne Grant knows Bushwick. So when she looked out her kitchen window and saw a farmer unloading his bounty onto her Brooklyn street Wednesday morning, she knew something was up.

Still clad in slippers and an aqua housedress, her hair tucked under a nightcap, Ms. Grant headed over to the farmer and waited in line to buy the three bunches of broccoli she clutched in her hand. But she also watched her front door anxiously.

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InfoGuide: Where to Grab a Bite

City Limits • July/August 2004

Looking for a healthy snack? Your best bet is to head to Manhattan. It’s home to 322 supermarkets, more than any other borough. Each Manhattanite can claim 2.8 square feet of shopping space—not to mention 22 farmers’ markets and 16 community supported agriculture (CSA) clubs.

And you’d do well to avoid Brooklyn. Brooklynites scrape by with 1.4 square feet of space per resident, 11 farmers’ markets and 7 CSAs. That’s not all: Brooklyn is home to more than half of the 1.7 million New Yorkers living in zip codes with less than one square foot of market space apiece.

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