Sunday, January 21, 2007

Food for the Thoughtless

The city, in a move that we felt was predictable all along, has hired a 31 year old "advocate for the poor" to be its first Coordinator of Food Policy. As the NY Times reports this morning, Benjamin Thomases will oversee a task force that will supervise a variety of city agencies in the effort to insure that poor folks get "nutritious food."

Mr. Thomases will also oversee the city's plan to expand its healthy bodega program, one that the Alliance has fully supported, to 1,000 grocery stores. However, the city is setting up its task force without the inclusion of any of the representatives of New York's food retailers or wholesalers in the mix. This is a huge mistake.

Just as we saw with the failure of the DOH's "outreach" to local restaurants on its trans fat initiative, city programs in the area of food distribution and retailing are doomed to fall on their face without the active participation of those who understand the economics of the system.

Even more ominous, is that the exclusion of the industry portends policy initiatives that will restrict the productivity of local business in the name of "health." Having even well-meaning and competent people who are not knowledgeable about the economics of the food business-and we're sure that Mr. Thomases is quite a competent person in many ways- make food policies, is a recipe for disaster.