In a move that follows all of the posts that we have done on this subject for the past few months, the mayor and the council speaker announced yesterday that the city was going to name a food czar to, in the words of the NY Times, "help make healthier options available to poor New Yorkers." A key aspect of the program is geared to insuring that all those who are eligible for food stamps will be able to receive them; but the city is also looking to engage New York's bodegas in an expansion of the fat free milk initiative that was launched by the DOH earlier this year.
AS the Times indicates there is a concern here about food access and the paper references a DOH study that found a lack of supermarkets in neighborhoods such as Bed-Stuy and Bushwick, "...two neighborhoods in Brooklyn with high rates of poverty and obesity..." The Times credits Speaker Quinn for pushing the mayor to create a food coordinator to deal with this matrix of food access issues.
One thing that is missing from both the Times article and a piece in today's NY Post as well, is any comment from stakeholders in the supermarket and grocery store business. It has been our contention all along that the food retail and wholesale sectors need to be brought to the table in order to address the important role that the private sector needs to play in this policy initiative.
With all of the furor over the city's proposed trans fat ban and the proposal to require certain restaurants to provide detailed menu labeling, it should become clear that the city's restaurants, bodegas, green grocers and supermarkets must be brought into the discussion if we are going to address in an effective way the issue of food access and health.