Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Food Tsar Priorities Examined

In today's NY Sun the paper examines the policy priorities of Benjamin Thomases, the city's first food tsar. As we have mentioned before we are concerned that the main focus of the new food leader will be on the social service side of the food policy equation, at the expense of a greater understanding of the dynamics of the business side of food wholesaling and retailing.

In the story and interview in the Sun Thomases expresses a concern for the availability of healthy food in the city's low income areas and singles out the city's "healthy bodega" initiative as a good policy initiative. We also support this collaborative approach, one that enlists stores as potential partners in the effort to get healthier foods to communities that are less well-served by larger supermarkets.

What seems to be missing, however, is the existence of an effective public-private partnership in this crucial policy area. Thomases needs to be better served by the expertise of the food industry so that the policies developed aren't imposed in a way that makes their successful implementation difficult.

In addition, there needs to be a concerted effort in this regard to reach out and educate low income New Yorkers who may not understand their own nutritional needs. That is why we have been advocating the kind of "hearts and minds" approach that characterizes the Health Corps. If people become knowledgeable than the demand side of the equation will spur all kinds of innovative efforts on the supply side.