Thursday, December 27, 2012

Food justice in 2012

It's been an busy, exciting past couple of months in the world of nutrition, food justice, and food system advocacy. The Hunger & Environmental Nutrition (HEN) Dietetic Practice Group of the newly re-named Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) finalized a new set of Corporate Sponsorship Guidelines to guide the sponsorship activities not only of HEN, but also to serve as an example of what many Academy members, Registered Dietitians, and other nutritionists would like to see as the guidelines adopted by the Academy at large.

The Environmental Working Group launched the "Good Food on a Tight Budget" shopping guide, and HEN held a webinar to give an overview.  (Info from this webinar, as well as other HEN webinars on GMOs and "Healthy Institutions: Strategies for Farm to Tray," are on the HEN website).

The HEN delegation at the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics 2012 FNCE conference held in Philadelphia, organized several exciting events, including a Spotlight session entitled "Systems Approach to Ending Hunger: Exposing the Origin, Uncovering Solutions," which included a talk by Dr. Hans Herren, co-chair of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) study, the world's premiere study of agriculture in relation to hunger, poverty, nutrition, human health, and environmental and social sustainability (here's a similar talk to the one he gave at FNCE).

In honor of CSPI's second annual Food Day, Anna Lappe launched "Food Mythbusters" ("Do we really need industrial agriculture to feed the world?"):

Oxfam continued spreading awareness about its GROW Food Justice Campaign "to build a better food system: one that sustainably feeds a growing population (estimated to reach nine billion by 2050) and empowers poor people to earn a living, feed their families, and thrive." To do this, they launched this video (also embedded below), launched the Future of Agriculture video and had an online discussion, and spearheaded the consumer-friendly "GROW Method" of eating in such a way that promotes environmental sustainability, supports small-scale farmers, reduces hunger and food waste, and promotes health. They even launched a Facebook app and have tons of GROW Method-friendly recipes on Pinterest.  Here's a nice infographic from Oxfam about what's wrong with our food system.

Another great video, along the same lines of describing the global food crisis & how to fix it, is "Feeding Nine Billion":

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy shared their Draft Principles of Food Justice, created after the Food + Justice = Democracy conference in September.

Ellen Gustafson and Danielle Nierenberg are launching "Food Tank: The Food Think Tank" in early 2013, which with their combined experience in navigating the food system should be an exciting initiative. Here's an article by Danielle in the Huffington Post, "13 Resolutions to Change the Food System in 2013."

Christina Schiavoni, food sovereignty advocate and moderator of Oxfam Action Corps NYC's International Women's Day event in March, moved on from her position at WHY Hunger to focus more intensively on food sovereignty from abroad, but not before imparting the wisdom about the film "Growing Change" about food sovereignty in Venezuela, which I am hoping we can organize a screening of in the coming year.

When Hurricane Sandy hit, Occupy Faith NYC made the connections between those hardest hit in Rockaway and Cuba:  climate change inevitably has a greater impact on the poor.

Locally:  The NYC Nutrition Education Network held a "Sustainability in the Food System" event in March (here's a resource list from the event).  Bronx Health REACH held a Bronx School Health & Wellness Conference in May, and published a newsletter documenting this and much of our other nutrition and fitness work.  The "Just in the Bronx: Our Voice, Our Choice" Summit was in September, where Professor Mark Naison from Fordham University gave the keynote address (which you can read on the Bronx Health REACH blog).  At the Summit, there was a Call to Action for both community members and elected officials, in regards to how we can improve the health of the Bronx.  Bronx Health REACH also became the borough-lead for the Community Transformation Grant in NYC - focused on improving healthy eating, active living, and reducing alcohol and tobacco - which is being overseen by the Partnership for a Healthier NYC.

I learned about the Ironwill Foundation, a great organization that does nutrition education classes for parents at the Mercy Center in the Bronx, and numerous middle schools throughout NYC and Newark, NJ with the Ironwill Kids PowerUp! curriculum. (video!).  I also got to see the premiere of the film "Soul Food Junkies" at Lincoln Center, which will be broadcast nationally on PBS on January 14, 2013 at 10pm.

Since seeing the film Forks Over Knives over a year ago (which does a good job promoting a plant-based diet), I heard some critiques about its subjectivity and even had doubts about a few things myself. Then I read some of this critique of The China Study, which delves deep into the scientific literature and should keep any scientist, doctor, or dietitian busy for a while.  Suffice it to say, I still believe the Oxfam GROW Method is the ideal way to eat to support health and environmental sustainability.

If you learn nothing else from reading this post, you should know that the food system is broken.  There are many contributing factors to this, but a considerable portion can be traced back to the actions of a few multinational food conglomerates and governments which support these corporations.  This happened with NAFTA, which favors the US in trade agreements and basically dumps overly subsidized grain products onto other countries, driving the price of these commodities down so low that many farmers in the developing countries receiving the grains can't make a living farming anymore, thereby becoming economic refugees, fleeing to the US (how ironic) as immigrants, trying to make a new life for themselves. This is what The Other Side of Immigration looks like and is the irony of the Harvest of Empire.  The impact of corporations and their ability to undermine communities (and even governments) has the potential to become exponentially worse if we don't pay attention to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a new free trade agreement that has been questioned — if not outright opposed — by environmental, consumer, indigenous, family  farm, labor and other social justice groups on four continents.  We must plead that governments don't blindly sign on to this, especially without the text being made public.

As food justice advocates, we can spread the messages about the food system and those working to change it for the better (documented here and on the Food for Thought and Action Facebook page!).  We can choose food that's healthier and better for the environment, abiding by Oxfam's GROW Method. We can teach kids about nutrition, growing food, and environmental sustainability - which Leave It Better does quite well. We can demand that companies uphold the principles of promoting health and sustainability, as outlined in HEN's Guidelines. We can also organize together with faith communities, such as the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies Jeremiah Leadership Council / NY Faith & Justice's Food Justice Working Group in NYC, to make changes personally and organizationally, and advocate for changes to the food system at large.  (twitter: @foodfaithhealth)

It would not be possible to make this post completely comprehensive of all the great work of food justice advocates or even all of the initiatives I've learned about this year, but hopefully this provides you with some good food for thought and action :)  And just for kicks, here's some more good info not mentioned above.  Happy 2013!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Faith-Rooted Organizing with Sojourners

I first came to know about Sojourners because of NY Faith & Justice. NY Faith & Justice (which worked with Bronx Health REACH back in 2010-2011) was born out of an inspiring conversation that Lisa Sharon Harper, Rev. Dr. Peter Heltzel, and others had during a Sojourners conference, after a deep faith-rooted visit in Congressman Rangel’s office in Washington, D.C. back in 2006.  NY Faith & Justice was formed to unite the church & speak out for social justice in NYC.  Other Faith & Justice networks were formed in other cities, such as Boston, Ohio, and Portland.  The faith leaders who formed these justice networks all remained connected to Sojourners.  They have also formed partnerships with many other organizations such as college campus groups like InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and national associations of various Christian groups. One notable partnership has been with CLUE (Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice) in Los Angeles, CA.  CLUE, and Alexia Salvatierra in particular, has developed a model of organizing and working with elected officials that is rooted in the core of our faith called Faith-Rooted Organizing.  CLUE staff travels around the country and the world conducting these trainings that leave participants feeling empowered and hopeful. 

In spring 2011, NY Faith & Justice organized one of these faith-rooted organizing trainings in NYC at Judson Memorial Church in Manhattan.  This was a one-day training where faith leaders from all over NYC were able to attend and learn the nuts and bolts of faith-rooted organizing.  Then, in fall 2011, NYFJ organized another faith-rooted organizing training, this time at Walker Memorial Baptist Church in the Bronx, which was an entire weekend-long training, including Friday night, all day Saturday, and Sunday afternoon, culminating in an “action” on Monday morning.  Since then, Lisa Sharon Harper has left NY Faith & Justice to work full-time for Sojourners in Washington, D.C., as the Director of Mobilizing.  Now, in summer 2012, I recently had the opportunity to attend a faith-rooted organizing training at the Sojourners national office – the “Organize2Mobilize” training. 

For those of us who have no formal community organizing training, the faith-rooted model is quite refreshing.  As a group, we define faith-rooted organizing and how it differs from secular organizing.  We answer questions such as, What are the ways that faith can contribute to the larger movement for justice in our world? and, What are the gifts of faith that we can bring to the table?  Through scripture study, analysis and reflection of stories of others in the Bible who organized and spoke prophetically about justice, we learn how to apply those same approaches to the social realities we experience today.  We learn to identify our own faith-rooted motivation, to tap into the power of faith and story-telling that is abundant in marginalized communities; to minister to people with power and to see recruitment through God’s eyes. But first we learn to identify the core “lie” that society is blindly feeding us about a particular issue, the Biblical antidote to the lie, and the clearest manifestation of the lie. 

While these ideas have been codified by Alexia Salvatierra, Lisa Sharon Harper and their colleagues at CLUE and Sojourners, they are not new. They’ve been around for years… and have been the method by which some of history’s most renowned justice seekers have approached their work.  Gandhi saw an injustice in his country as the British colonialists outlawed cloth spinning so they could take the techniques they learned in India back to Britain, and sell it back to India at an inflated price.  Taking this skill and trade away from the natives was the clearest manifestation of the “lie” (that colonization was “good”).  Gandhi took the nonviolent resistance approach (a Biblical antidote, as we see in Jesus’ teaching to “turn the other cheek” or “walk the extra mile” (Matthew 5:38-41)) and told people to spin their own cloth, despite what the English said to do.

In a similar way we see Rosa Parks’ effort as a faith-rooted approach.  The lie, that it was okay to segregate people of color, was most clearly manifested in segregation on the bus, because blacks were only allowed to sit in the back of the bus.  The spiritual antidote is that all people are created equal.  Hers was also one of nonviolent resistance.  

The Occupy movement clearly identified the lie that accumulation of wealth does no harm, pointing out that corporations are (and should not be) treated as people, and that the public sphere is owned by private corporations.

Antonio Torres from Bronx Health REACH and Christ the King Catholic Church pointed out the core lie that the church is believing today, that it’s not the place of the pastor to cross the line into discussing social issues. Another similarly connected lie is that money is the only force that can create substantive policy change, while the spiritual truth is that people power can be an effective counterweight to money’s loud voice. 

During this particular training I found the outlining of the Thresholds of Recruitment to be one of the most thought-provoking and useful exercises to go through.  Lisa started off this session by telling her own narration of some of the key turning points in her life which brought her to Christ.  But politicians are people too, and we can be part of their journey of transformation by using the moral authority that our faith provides us, to help expand their ideas of what it means to have courage to give a preferential option for the poor. In the best cases this will not just influence the way the politicians vote on bills, but also the way they talk to other legislators. People of faith have the power to move legislators to speak prophetically about the importance of treating all people with equality. By returning to the Commandment to treat your neighbor as yourself, to be your brother’s keeper – we can remind legislators what it means to make sure that we take care of kids even if they are not our own.  To take care of people living in areas that might be disproportionately affected by a potential new industrial site that emits excessive pollution; that are disproportionately affected by climate disruption (the US has 4% of the world’s people but emits 25% of the world’s greenhouse gases); or that cannot properly benefit from programs that were set up to supposedly help lift people out of poverty, because of unaddressed barriers and red tape keeping people from utilizing these resources most effectively.  To make sure that our agricultural policies are not set up in such a way that undermines the economies of other countries, destroys the naturally renewable resources God has provided for us, and promotes diet-related diseases disproportionately among the poor because subsidies make unhealthy products much more affordable than healthy foods.  If we can get Congressmen/women and other legislators to see the human and on-the-ground realities of what their policies look like in communities, this will bring them closer to understanding specifically what they need to advocate for when they are developing and voting on policies.

During the training we heard from several cutting edge social justice thinkers of this country, one of which was Tom Perriello, former US Congressman from Virginia, who advocates use of moral authority and believes in people-powered politics (he didn’t take lobby money as a Congressman).  He’s worked on and taught justice-based security strategies, and has helped lead a resurgence of moderate and progressive faith leaders advocating on issues of poverty, economic fairness, tolerance, and environmental stewardship. He helped launch Faith in Public Life,, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and Catholics United.  Perriello currently serves as the President and CEO of the Center for American Progress (CAP) Action Fund and Counselor for Policy at CAP.  CAP is a nonpartisan political think tank and advocacy organization that works to raise the level of policy debates through commonsense communication, such as its coverage of the Nuns on the Bus Tour and criticism of the Ryan budget.

Perriello’s words of wisdom for working with legislators include helping them realize what will be good for people while also making the legislators look good; using facts and moral authority; and asking legislators why they came into public office.

We also heard from Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, President of the Skinner Leadership Institute who has served as the Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus as well as many other boards, including the Christian Community Development Association.  Dr. Williams-Skinner is an advocate of going in to visit elected officials with prayer, as the spirit of compassion helps to humanize the legislators one is addressing.  She suggests adopting Jesus’ indignation about how poor/low-income people are being treated, and speaking with a posture of “I don’t agree with your position, but help me to understand it.”  Many times legislators want the best for their constituents but often times their facts are missing or wrong.  We can work to correct this misinformation by telling our own stories and providing factual information.

Sharing a panel discussion with Dr. Williams-Skinner was Larisa Friesen Hall, Director of Major Gifts at Sojourners.  Larisa stressed the importance of identifying what posture we address people with – we should try to understand where the rich politicians are coming from (75% of people in Congress are millionaires) such as by watching Fox.  We must emphasize that budgets are moral documents and that it’s righteous to be concerned about people.  While there is a lot of dirty money in Congress, the act of redemption is possible, if politicians decide to take money from something bad and turn it into something good.  Resources she suggested to look into further include Bolder Giving and The Spirituality of Fundraising by Henri Nouwen

Tim King, Chief Communications Officer for Sojourners, and Eric Sapp from the Eleison Group led a session on “Messaging to Move Legislators.”  The Eleison Group leads educational campaigns to align what’s right with what works politically and economically, and empowers progressive activists to connect authentically with the faith and values of vet voters.  They’re proponents of approaching faith in the public square from a place of humility. The Eleison Group specializes in media messaging – targeting messaging for specific audiences (not the “general public”), getting to the root of what people’s values are. For example, in Texas, anti-corruption is the message, not anti-corporation.  At the end of the day there are ways to reach the same policy goals, but just using different messaging tactics.  

Sapp advocates for making sure values are integrated into our messaging, and that people can answer the question, Why do you believe what you believe?  People make decisions with their hearts, not with their heads.  He noted Obama’s moving campaign speech in 2007 (which spoke to people’s hearts) when he was a Senator vs. his transactional, verbiage-heavy approach used when he became President (which spoke to people’s heads).  While the “what” of policy can be complicated, the “why” (message) should be simple.  Messages should be communicated in terms of right and wrong, keeping the end goal (telos) in mind. When communicating with legislators, we need to stay humble and honest, and keep our messaging memorable and simple.  It was suggested that environmental advocates reframe the message being used in advocacy, because the current messaging isn’t working.  Some politicians will shut us out if we mention the words “climate change” (which raises disputes about scientific validity) whereas “creation care” hits at the same issue but touches on the moral imperative to be stewards of the Earth.  Our messaging should also include a way to make the leader look good.  It’s important to point out that the poor pay the greatest price for our actions relating to the environment; however, what will appeal to many electeds is to let them know that America is losing out on an economic future (as China takes over the solar panel industry, for example).*

Tim King added that public figures that make public statements should be held publicly accountable.  We should critique people we often agree with to keep pushing them forward.  (“People are too nice to Obama.”)  As Tim says, it would be nice if Obama gave a heartfelt faith-based account for the poor. 

We also had the honor of hearing Jim Wallis (founder of Sojourners) speak.  He spoke about the power that the faith community can hold in Washington, D.C., and gave the example of Sojourners’ role in organizing evangelicals which ultimately led to a change in immigration policy.  At the end of his captivating speech, he said that the difference between events and movements is sacrifice and asks, “Where is your moral courage?” 

Beau Underwood, Campaigns Manager at Sojourners, provided some tips on planning our Capitol Hill visits which would occur the next day.  A few pointers which are useful for any visit with an elected official:  time is limited, so be sure to control the agenda; make a clear ask; and determine follow-up.  In the actual meeting, be sure to introduce yourself & explain why you’re there, have a storyteller speak who can offer a reflection (ideally from personal experience), and lay out the issues and share your faith-informed perspective.  In accordance with the National Mobilizing Circle, we were to ask Congress not to balance the budget on the backs of the poor.  Supporting data is valuable and should be presented, but people of faith are not expected to be policy wonks – the strength of people of faith lies in our ability to make moral arguments.  But as for the supporting data: according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, extending tax cuts for those who make between $250,000 and $1 million would cost the US $366 billion over ten years, making programs (i.e. relating to health, environment, social services, foreign aid & other programs for the poor etc) very vulnerable to cuts.  

Wendy Tarr from Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice in L.A. provided some additional tips for faith-rooted advocacy.  It’s important when speaking to our political representatives that we foster relationships with them. Relationships can open doors, change minds, and ensure our voice is heard.  After the visit, note what the member/staff said and any commitments made. Develop a plan for following up and providing any additional information requested by the office.

One tenant of faith-rooted advocacy is using religious symbols in delegations.  The one we used with Senator Gillibrand’s and Schumer’s offices was that of milk and honey (making a just decision) vs. bitter herbs (making a decision which perpetuates injustice).  (While the food analogy from the Old Testament is nice, I took it a step further by saying that policies which promote cheap, unhealthy food in the American diet is more like feeding poor people a bag of Doritos instead of a piece of fruit.) 

Now what?
Organize2Mobilize was a very informative and spiritually nourishing training, and this post only begins to reveal the valuable components of faith-rooted organizing.  Here are a couple of ways to get more involved:

Sojourners will be coming out with a new film in October: October 2nd will be the livestream premiere of the film “Poverty in America,” which highlights stories of people in poverty across the country.  They suggest using this film as an organizing tool, because nothing is more powerful than stories, and there is no easier way to tell stories than through film.  (Janee Woods Weber from Everyday Democracy added that EvDem has study guides on poverty that could complement the film screening nicely).

Sojourners also seeks for faith leaders and organizations to join their National Mobilizing Circle which calls out the budget as a moral document and implores legislators to treat it as such.  

Another way of recruiting legislators into a relationship and guiding them into becoming champions for justice is to start with inviting them to “Come and See” what’s happening in your own community.  Tell them, “before you vote to cut funds, come and see what exactly you would be cutting.” 

Soon, there will be a faith-rooted organizing training in NYC at the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies for organizing around local policy issues.  More details to come! 


Additional suggested resources include:

*In delving a bit further into messaging for Creation Care with Alycia Ashburn, we concluded that it’s important to talk about creation care in the context of its interconnectedness with other issues: i.e. climate justice is hunger justice.  When people do not have basic necessities such as clean water, wars and spread of infection ensue.  Therefore, environmental issues are linked to national security and are a threat multiplier. In addition, war is costly, and Republicans care about saving money: former Navy Brigadier General Steve Anderson saved the Navy $1 billion by insulating tents.  Another costly budget item is healthcare: we can argue for reducing healthcare costs by investing in clean air, clean water, and healthy food as preventive measures. But whatever we do we must not pit social justice issues against each other!  Many Democrats are guilty of this.  The Department of Defense has plenty of money that can be reallocated to programs which will help protect the poor and the environment.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Do your part to Leave It the reGeneration!

Over the past year or so, I've become familiar with the organization Leave It Better and gotten to know a few of its incredible team members.  Leave It Better is an organization which empowers youth to heal the environment, primarily by teaching them gardening and composting skills, as well as filmmaking skills so they can document their experiences as they learn to grow food.  The LIB team then edits the film clips created by the children and shares them online, with the ultimate goal of creating a global youth gardening documentary which will be called "the reGeneration." 

Leave It Better is currently in the tail end of a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for their reGeneration documentary. They recently put together a campaign video where Dominique tells her story of how she developed her passion for gardening and health. Witnessing the suffering that her father went through as a consequence of his poor eating habits, she discovered gardening to be a healthy alternative, a way to take control of one's food choices and therefore one's health. She embodies what it means to take the challenges that life throws at us and create positive solutions which grow healthy, empowered citizens and heal us, our communities, and our environment.  But don't take my word for it - watch the video yourself :)   And consider supporting their efforts to make the reGeneration film a reality by becoming a backer of their Kickstarter campaign

A few years ago when working with students at MS 331 in the Bronx, the Leave It Better team members were approached by a teacher in the school with the suggestion that they should clean up the abandoned park across the street from the school and make it into a garden. They agreed, going through all of the steps necessary to register the garden with the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation/ GreenThumb, get the community involved, and clean up the garden.  Dominique, who wears the hat of Garden Manager amongst many others, also took a class at the NY Botanical Garden to become a Master Composter.  Their work with this garden in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx - which they call the Leave It Better Kids' Garden - has inspired hope in the community and its youth.  The youth are assigned roles and each have their own garden tasks and responsibilities, creating a sense of purpose for them in the community while also providing residents with a tangible solution to the health problems plaguing many neighborhoods in the Bronx:  freshly grown food.  There are garden plots for the youth, the seniors, and even for King of Glory Tabernacle Church down the road.  The entire community, which previously was just like many others in the Bronx - a "food desert" filled with very few healthy food options - now has a direct source of fresh, local produce, as well as a method of empowering kids to create positive change in their neighborhood.  And they've partnered with BronxWorks, a social service organization, to bring a farmers market to the neighborhood too, bringing in yet more fresh produce and employment opportunities for residents who help run the market, which is on Thursdays this summer by University Ave & West 181st Street in the Bronx.  

Leave It Better team members Graham, Dominique and Roz are doing their part to "leave it better" by empowering youth in this Bronx community and in schools citywide to care for the environment, contribute to a sustainable food system, develop healthy eating habits, and be positive change agents in the world around them.  Now it's our turn to do our part.  The reGeneration Kickstarter campaign has raised over $10,000 so far but still needs to raise nearly $25,000 by July 14th in order for the campaign to be funded and any of the pledges to be counted.  But now it's up to us - we must be the change we wish to see in the world. Diet-related diseases cost billions of dollars a year in medical costs, ruining millions of people's quality of life and our national budget. But we have the answers, and they lie in empowering the younger generation to contribute to a sustainable food system and develop healthy eating habits.  We must become the answer to our prayers.  Now is our opportunity to support a worthwhile cause and have the story of youth gardening be captured in a documentary which can be shared worldwide for years to come.  Consider pledging a donation to the Kickstarter campaign and passing the word on to your friends, family and colleagues.  Together we can make a difference. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Farm Bill Action Needed!

The House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture is at work on its version of the 2012 Food & Farm Bill right now. (The Senate Agriculture Committee passed its version out of committee just a few weeks back).  Now is the time to tell the House what we want to see in the Farm Bill!      
The House Committee on Agriculture has set up a comment box for constituents to submit their feedback. It’s open to everyone, but comments must be in by this Sunday, May 20.
To be heard, send a message to Congress via the Comments Box at  

Below you will find some background information about the Farm Bill as it pertains to health, as well as a sample letter with information about the Farm Bill's effect on nutrition, hunger, support for farmers, and the environment. Sending a message to Congress is important, and it will only take a minute! 

The Farm Bill and Our Health

What is the Farm Bill?
The Farm Bill originally was set up to help American farmers.   However, over time, most of the subsidy payments to farmers went to commodity crops instead, with hardly any money going to support the growing of a variety of fruits and vegetables. 

How can this affect our health?
The Farm Bill includes a number of different titles that influence our food system. Changes made to the Farm Bill over the past several decades have made healthy food more expensive and unhealthy food cheaper, pushing the price of fruits and vegetables up by nearly 40% over 15 years and pushing the price of soft drinks (made from processed corn) down by 23%.  In addition, there is not currently enough farmland in the US devoted to growing fruits and vegetables for everyone to meet the US Dietary Guidelines of at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.  

A growing number of policymakers and public health professionals understand the relationships among agricultural policy, our food system and the public’s health, and even succeeded in making some minor advancements in the 2008 Farm Bill that supported both the public’s health and farmers.  However, today’s budget challenges now threaten the funding levels and continuation of several of these achievements.  In particular, the 2008 Farm Bill included a Healthy Food Provisions Package which included policies and programs supporting public health.  Some of these programs, which successfully help improve access to healthy food for low-income communities, need to be expanded, not cut.  These include:
·         Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program - provides low-income seniors with coupons that can be exchanged for eligible foods (fruits, vegetables, honey, and fresh-cut herbs) at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture programs
·         Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program - makes fruit and vegetable snacks available at no cost to all children in participating elementary schools
·         Farmers’ Market Electronic Benefits Transfer Program – funds wireless EBT machines at farmers markets, which enables farmers markets to accept SNAP (food stamps)
·         Healthy Urban Food Enterprise Development - provides grants to help the establishment of businesses that can increase access to healthy, affordable foods for underserved communities, while creating jobs
·         Community Food Projects - addresses food insecurity through developing community food projects that help promote the self-sufficiency of low-income communities. Examples include innovative approaches to nutrition education, and support for farm-to-school programs.
·         SNAP Nutrition Education Program (SNAP-Ed) – supports nutrition education for people eligible for SNAP, but was recently expanded to include individuals who reside in a community with a significant low-income population. Allowable nutrition education was recently expanded to include broader community and public health approaches to improve nutrition.
In addition, the WIC Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program – which provides women, infants and children enrolled in WIC with vouchers to use at farmer’s markets – has traditionally been funded through the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, but should be put under the Farm Bill to protect it from cuts in the future. 

And now, for a sample letter that you can send to Congress via the Comments Box at

As the Committee considers the 2012 Food and Farm Bill, I urge you to: 

Preserve and expand funding for the Healthy Food Provisions Package which includes policies and programs supporting public health.  These programs, which successfully help improve access to healthy food for low-income communities, include: 
•Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program 
•Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program 
•Farmers’ Market Electronic Benefits Transfer Program 
•Healthy Urban Food Enterprise Development  
•Community Food Projects 
•SNAP Nutrition Education Program (SNAP-Ed)  

Place the WIC Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program under the Farm Bill instead of under Child Nutrition Reauthorization.  This program promotes the consumption of produce by women, infants, and children enrolled in the WIC program while successfully creating a base of customers at farmer’s markets in low-income neighborhoods; 

Support our fight against hunger by maintaining and strengthening critical nutrition programs in this time of unprecedented need. We must not solve our budget problems on the backs of those experiencing food insecurity, including our most vulnerable – our children, the elderly, and the disabled;

Provide an even "plowing" field by fully funding programs supporting beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, organic farming, regional farming and food economies, and rural development. We need more farmers and ranchers, more sustainable food production, and more economic opportunity in our food system;

End direct payments and counter-cyclical commodity programs, replacing them with loophole-free agriculture risk coverage and implement a cap on crop insurance premium subsidies. We must support farmers that really need the help, not the biggest farms that don’t.

Eliminate the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) livestock set-aside to limit funds granted to concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) for waste management infrastructure and protect the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) from disproportionate cuts and improve it by ranking applications solely on their conservation benefits. We must ensure that limited conservation funding maximizes lasting environmental benefits.

Thank you! 

Information compiled from the NYC Food and Farm Bill Working Group and the Center for a Livable Future's Growing Healthy Food & Farm Policy report in collaboration with NY Faith & Justice Farm Bill / food justice working groups

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Food Movements Unite!

It was about the same time that I started reading “Diet for a Small Planet” by Frances Moore Lappé that I received some information about Food First in the mail.  With so many different organizations asking for support, it’s hard to decide which ones to pay attention to.  But as I read through the letter explaining the mission of Food First (which happened to be co-founded by Frances Moore Lappé), I knew that there was something special about this organization that stood it apart from a lot of the other foodie organizations.  Food First recognizes the centrality of democracy to the food justice movement.  As I read the letter I noticed one of the ways to lend support involved receiving a complimentary copy of the book “Food Movements Unite” – which sounded like an important book. How could I say no to this deal? 

Not too long after I received the book in the mail I heard about a launch event for the book with the author/editor, & current Executive Director of Food First, Eric Holt-Giménez.   And with 2 of the panelists being leaders from the Bronx on the front lines of food justice, I knew it would be a good event J

On the panel were Karen Washington from La Finca del Sur / NYC Community Gardening Coalition / Just Food / etc; Ray Figueroa from Friends of Brook Park; Daisy Cheung from Restaurant Opportunities Center – New York, Diana Robinson from the Food Chain Workers Alliance, Lupe from the Community Farmworker Alliance, Eric Holt-Giménez from Food First, and last but not least was moderated by our fearless food sovereignty champion, Christina Schiavoni from WhyHunger. 

Eric opened it up with the background behind the book.  He saw that everyone was too busy doing their own food justice work to look at the movement as a whole.  He wanted to create unity in the food movements by getting the stories from food justice movers and shakers across the globe, to hear not just about what they’re doing, but how they believe what they’re doing intersects with the larger picture of the food movement.  To find the areas of convergence and figure out what the barriers are that still need to be addressed.  I’m excited to read the book.

The panelists brought up some interesting points.  Yes, there have been food riots because despite there being enough food grown in this world to feed the population one and a half times over, there is still an extraordinarily high number of people suffering from food insecurity (about 50 million in the US) and hunger (1 billion worldwide).  But this is just a result of the capitalist global food system doing exactly what it is supposed to do – consolidating the food supply into the hands of a few, creating a monopoly over our food supply.  That’s what capitalism was built for – making money.  Which lends itself to disregarding the social externalities which would slow down the profit-making machine that is the world of corporations.  But our job has to be to connect the dots of people doing incredible work in our own backyards, and take back our food system. 

Ray Figueroa from Friends of Brook Park said that one thing we can do is connect with the other human rights movements.  Go off of the model of the Black Panther Party, which saw food justice as one part of a much larger story of liberation. Food is a human right, and the people who work on Housing as a Human Right will also be in solidarity with the food movement.  And not only that, but there will be areas in which to work together.  One thing the housing movement works on is land issues, and it just so happens that community gardening space is also a land issue. So one thing Ray & the NYC Community Gardening Coalition is working on is spreading the word and advocating for the NYC Garden Law, which would protect GreenThumb community gardens so that the Dept of Housing Preservation & Development cannot reclaim and raze the gardens. (If HPD can just take back GreenThumb land whenever it wants, what’s the point in registering the garden in the first place?  That was the question of the day for the Morning Glory community gardeners in the Bronx, whose garden was razed last fall.  But there are a number of other gardens legitimately registered with GreenThumb that still get reclaimed by the City on a regular basis.)  

Karen Washington mentioned that what’s missing is the grassroots element of food justice organizing and advocacy.  We can get funding for certain initiatives, but how do we make sure the money will fund the true grassroots work that needs to get done, and not necessarily just fulfill the “goals” of the grant?  And, how do we get young people engaged in community gardening?   Ray added to the point with the wisdom heard time and time again in social justice circles – top-down education won’t work, communities aren’t going to be educated out of oppression.  He offers the alternative from Gandhi, who was a “fierce humanist” – we must weave our own cloth.  Move to the communities experiencing oppression.  But don’t come if you’re just coming to “help.”  Come if you believe your destiny is tied up with my destiny.  Because then we can all live with dignity, and actually work together to get somewhere. [It’s quite inspiring, really, to have been part of the struggle against FreshDirect moving to the South Bronx from the very beginning of South Bronx Unite in February 2012, and to see the fierce dedication and in-house capacity and skills of the people who are part of this campaign for food, environmental, and economic justice.  Enough injustice in one community is enough.]

Karen Washington echoed something I heard Steve Ritz say at a Bronx Health REACH meeting recently – it’s important to talk to the grandparents.  This generation has a lot of wisdom, and many of them come from agricultural backgrounds and are a lot more respected than other authorities within a community.  We also need to see who is at the table at meetings we have – is there fair representation of communities of color?  Are the meetings held at night so that working class people can attend?  Is childcare and transportation made available?  Until these needs are met, it’s going to be very hard to get people to care about an issue, if their main concern is providing for their families and just having enough money to get by. 

The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United) advocates for restaurant workers nationwide, who survive on poverty wages, little to no benefits, and discrimination.  These restaurant workers federally are salaried the tip minimum wage ($2.13), and are often treated more like machines than human beings.  70% of restaurant servers in the US are women.  And out of 20 million people working in the food industry in the US, most of them are immigrants and people of color.  So ROC works with racial justice organizations and women’s rights organizations to advocate for better conditions for restaurant workers, such as paid sick days, living wages, and dignity.  They’ve organized a national campaign against full service dining, against Darden, which owns 1900 restaurants in the US and made a $500 million profit last year, despite its workers suffering from wage theft and discrimination. [I’m a fan of ROC-NY’s incubator restaurant worker-owned cooperative, COLORS.  Juan Carlos even worked with me to host a screening of the movie FRESH in the restaurant as part of their “Building Bridges Not Walls” series, where Karen Washington/ BUGs, Eric Weltman / Food & Water Watch, and others came together to share their experiences with the food system.] 

Lupe from the NYC Community Farmworker Alliance discussed the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which came together to support the tomato farmers in Immokalee, Florida that grow 90% of America’s tomatoes.  These farmers get $0.45-$0.50 for every 32 pounds of tomatoes they harvest, which makes it hard to earn the minimum wage.  They’ve been successful in getting some new sign-ons to the Fair Food Agreement to prevent exploitation of tomato harvesters, and currently in NYC are campaigning to get Chipotle to sign on to this agreement, since they’ve now been successful with getting Trader Joe’s to sign the agreement.

Lupe talked about how the farm workers’ method of dealing with problems that arise is one of community organizing which everyone in the food movement could utilize – see the problem, analyze it, and take action.  Her other suggestions were to make sure youth have access to food justice information; start youth-run collectives; and bring in faith communities. 

According to Eric Holt-Giménez, there’s the dominant white narrative on food justice (described quite eloquently by Michael Pollan), and then there’s “this” narrative.  [Might I add, it’s not that Michael Pollan’s story is “bad,” it just isn’t the complete story.  Not everyone has adequate access to farmers markets and CSAs and organic food.]  As Eric said, “Voting with your fork doesn’t work when the only option is capitialist food.”  The answers need to come via grassroots, innovative solutions to the issues of food injustice, like entrepreneurial youth farming projects [the Green Bronx Machine being one of my favorite]. 

The event organizers put together a really good handout of next “action steps.”  I will share most of them with you here:

May 1 – All out for a general strike on May Day!  Stand with food and farm workers and all workers – particularly immigrant workers – everywhere!  See and

May 12 – Come to the Brooklyn Food Conference!  Over 5,000 people are expected to attend this free, all day event filled with keynotes from notable food activists, workshops, panel discussions, food demos, family programming, art and much more.

June 1-3 – Occupy the Land ‘Unconference’ – the NYC Community Gardening Coalition is collaborating with the Occupy Wall Street movement, environmental and social justice groups, and a variety of artist collectives to hold an ‘unconference’ in community gardens across the city. The unconference will be a platform for dialogue between different groups and struggles, from the local to the global.

June 6 – Food Workers & Food Justice Conference – the Food Chain Workers Alliance is co-hosting this conference with UFCW Local 1500 and the Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN).

June 20 – Global day of action in solidarity with La Via Campesina and the Peoples’ Alternative Summit to Rio +20 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  There’s a call for people to do actions in their own communities to expose how corporations are driving climate chaos and environmental destruction and to put forward real grassroots solutions. There’s also a call for actions leading up to Rio+20 the week of June 4th.  More at and

More ways to plug in:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Diet for a Small Planet: Lessons for the Long Haul

Last September, I attended the 40th anniversary celebration of Frances Moore Lappé's book "Diet for a Small Planet" in New York City, entitled "Feeding Hope, Living Democracy."  At this event I heard Frances say that "hunger is not caused by a scarcity of food, but a scarcity of democracy" - a quote which truly intrigued me.  (How ironic that the event was held only five days after the start of Occupy Wall Street!)  
While my reading list is always umpteen books long, I figured Diet for a Small Planet should be pretty high on my priority list.  I'd already read her daughter Anna's book, "Diet for a Hot Planet", and have a lot of respect for them both as women in the food movement who also support Oxfam America and HEN.  Today I finished reading Book 1 of "Diet for a Small Planet," and I will say it definitely lived up to its reputation. What I could not believe is how everything Frances wrote about 20, 40 years ago (1971 edition updated in 1991) is still just as relevant today as ever.  We still have the same issues with our food system, but the stories of struggles and successes in overcoming food injustices all over the world are just as inspiring as ever.
Working to change the food system is a daunting task, because the roots of the issue are so multifaceted and cannot be solved with one solution.  It's easy to get overwhelmed and not know what to do first, as happens over and over again in my life in NYC.  But Frances gives some words of encouragement, from the lives of some people whose names still ring a bell 30 years later.  From the life of Harry Chapin, co-founder of World Hunger Year (now WhyHunger) and namesake of the Harry Chapin Media Awards which were created to encourage the media to "tell the story of hunger and poverty," Frances tells us to use what we have.  Well, I have the experiences of life and the books I've read and films I've seen, and this blog, so can write about what I know.  Meanwhile, Oxfam America has relationships with many famous music groups across the country who can continue in the vein of Harry Chapin and encourage musicians to speak out against hunger and poverty.
Frances next talks about how Joan Gussow - the matriarch of the "eat-locally-think-globally food movement," source of inspiration for Michael Pollan, and professor emerita at Teachers College, Columbia University - believes that her decision to study nutrition was probably the "first real decision in her whole life."  She struggled past the dull image of nutrition to learn the science of how food works in the body, and as a result has earned the respect of people interested in bridging the gap between studying food from a scientific perspective and learning about where food comes from... the ground.  I picked up a copy of her book "Growing, Older" when at the NY Botanical Gardens last year and look forward to reading it someday.
Frances tells the story of Michael Jacobson from Center for Science in the Public Interest, a highly respectable organization which has gained a lot of publicity within the last year since CSPI re-launched the annual Food Day initiative on October 24, 2011. Mike Jacobson started off studying biochemistry, and wanted to do something to touch more immediate social problems than could be solved in a chemistry laboratory, so he started looking into the hazards of food additives as an intern with Ralph Nader.  (Fortunately for us, the research into food additives that Mr. Jacobson started in the 1970's has evolved into a food additive safety database available online and on phone apps, called Chemical Cuisine.)
It was also interesting to read about a Nestlé infant-formula boycott at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, and to think about how the ICCR could become more engaged around food justice issues in the future (perhaps through the food justice work that NY Faith & Justice has started? hmm....).
Frances Moore Lappé gives us some other tips in the chapter "Lessons for the Long Haul" that are of note.  These include:
  • working with others - finding a core group who can push you further than when trying to work on the issue alone
  • using the direct experience of oppression - whether placed in a situation involuntarily or voluntarily
  • remaining critical of oneself and one's organization - such as Larry Simon's experience with working with Oxfam America, when "he concluded that Oxfam should not work in certain countries where government repression is so strong that it precludes the existence of any organization working for redistribution of power, the only kind of organization which Oxfam wants to support" 
  • hard work and balance - hard work and self-discipline are important, and balance important so as to prevent burnout; but some of us have recognized that working for social change is incredibly rewarding, makes life interesting, and gives us the opportunity to work with people who are equally inspiring and passionate about social change and food justice. 
There is still so much more to learn and so much more to share.  (I did not even touch upon the books' themes of citizen democracy, meat's impact on the world, or protein complementarity in this post!)  But when you surround yourself with incredible people, read books by inspiring visionaries, and stand on the shoulders of the giants who have paved the way before us - anything is possible.

Friday, February 24, 2012

New York City’s FreshDirect Deal – Just Doesn’t Go Far Enough

A Bad Deal from the Start
On February 7th, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Cuomo, and Bronx Borough President Diaz announced a deal that provides FreshDirect with $127.8 million in taxpayer money to subsidize a relocation of FreshDirect’s headquarters from Long Island City to the Harlem Rail Yard on the South Bronx waterfront.  Two days later, the NYC Industrial Development Agency (IDA) held a hearing on the FreshDirect deal to give provide community members with an opportunity to voice their opinions before the deal was sealed.   South Bronx residents have real concerns about the impact of the FreshDirect deal on the environment, promised job creation, living wages, acceptance of EBT (food stamps), and the inaccessibility of FreshDirect services to South Bronx residents.  Residents came together under the title of “South Bronx Unite: Stop FreshDirect” to speak out against the deal.  South Bronx Unite members have created quite a buzz within the city, raising awareness about the city’s failure to provide community members with a real opportunity to voice their opinions before the deal was decided upon.  South Bronx Unite members have created social media outlets (blog, facebook and twitter) to get the word out about their disapproval of the FreshDirect deal.  There has even been a petition created to stop FreshDirect from building its new headquarters in the South Bronx. 
The opposition to the FreshDirect deal has been covered in media outlets all over the city, from El Diario to the New York Times.  New York City Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito and NYC Comptroller John Liu have both publicly expressed their disapproval of the FreshDirect.  Despite the opposition to the deal, the IDA held its board meeting on February 14th – which was attended by members of South Bronx Unite – and the FreshDirect subsidy deal was voted on in the affirmative by all parties present except Comptroller Liu.  South Bronx Unite members are demanding to see the Environmental Impact Assessment conducted on the Harlem Rail Yards; for the City Council to demand oversight hearings of the NYC Economic Development Corporation; and for NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to audit the Harlem River Rail Yards deal.  South Bronx Unite members would also like to see Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz hold a public meeting where all South Bronx residents would be invited to express their concerns. 
These concerns are real ones, too. While the Bronx Borough President put together a Memorandum of Understanding to try and address the concerns of South Bronx residents, the MOU is non-binding and does not adequately address the concerns:
·    Lack of democracy: Since the very beginning, there was a lack of a true democratic process that would provide community members with enough time to express their opinions before the decision was made. 
·    Environmental Impact:  There has not been an adequate environmental impact assessment conducted on the site, nor has any environmental impact analysis been provided to members of South Bronx Unite.  The promise of using a small number of alternative fuel vehicles doesn’t adequately address the concerns of having an additional 130 trucks per day on the road in the South Bronx – already home to highest asthma rates in the country – nor the increased truck emissions that would come from the removal of more than 380 tons of solid waste per month.
·    Job creation:  FreshDirect is promising that almost 1000 jobs will be created over the next 10 years, which may sound like good news to Bronx county with some of the highest poverty rates in the nation.  But there are no written guarantees to ensure that a certain number of these jobs will be provided to South Bronx residents.  Further, past recipients of IDA subsidies have not have a good track record of holding true to promised job creation:  ALIGN – the Alliance for a Greater New York – has reviewed the State Comptroller’s data and found that for the NYC IDA: “Only eight of the 23 IDA subsidized projects that ended in 2009 met or exceeded their job creation promises.”  In addition, the amount of money being provided through the subsidy deal is out of proportion compared to the amount of money given for job creation in previous deals. According to Comptroller John C. Liu’s office, “A few months ago, the EDC attracted a world-class university by promising $100 million in capital for a project that by their own estimate will generate 30,000 jobs. Now the EDC is giving close to $100 million to create 962 jobs.  The cost to the City is $93,000 for each new job.” 
·    Living Wages: While nearly 40% of current FreshDirect employees make less than $25,000/year, FreshDirect would be exempted from any local living wage mandates adopted by the city.   According to the New York Times – City Room, “As it stands, the city will pour about $130 million into a modestly profitable company over a decade without requiring that it pay more than $9 an hour to workers who labor in frigid warehouses hauling 50-pound boxes. The workers get less than two weeks off a year, and that includes sick, personal and vacation days.”
·    Labor Practices:  As described in South Bronx Unite’s message to the NYS Attorney General, NYC Comptroller, Bronx Borough President, NYC Economic Development Corporation, Empire State Development, and NYS Energy Research and Development Authority: “Numerous complaints have been filed with city, state and federal agencies regarding FreshDirect’s labor practices, including 27 discrimination and nine unfair labor claims against FreshDirect in the last four years alone.  The description of wages and employment in FreshDirect’s NYCIDA application fails to provide taxpayers with enough information to gauge the quality of jobs, including with respect to salary or how many jobs are part-time or full-time.”  
·    Acceptance of EBT: As pointed out by Joel Berg of the NYC Coalition Against Hunger, the MOU does not identify FreshDirect as officially agreeing to accept food stamps: “Fresh Direct previously sought to accept food stamps, had been prevented by doing do by "the State", and that Fresh Direct and the Bronx BP would work together to ‘continue these efforts’ to try to get accept food stamps through EBT.  Unfortunately, Fresh Direct's story that they were prevented from accepting food stamps by "the State" is likely untrue. Under federal law, only USDA, not any state, has the power to decide which retailers can or cannot accept food stamps.”
·    Servicing the South Bronx:   FreshDirect has never and currently does not serve the South Bronx – only the wealthier areas of the Bronx such as Riverdale.  FreshDirect has only discussed expanding to “new Bronx neighborhoods.”  The Bronx Borough President’s office created a facebook page to “illustrate to the company just how many Bronx residents are willing to not only use their service, but have the technical capabilities to do so.” (FreshDirect is an entirely online grocery ordering and delivery system. As the Bronx includes one of the poorest Congressional districts in the nation, many residents do not have readily available Internet access.)  So far, the Borough President’s facebook page has accumulated more opposition than support for the FreshDirect deal.  So has a Crain’s poll.
·    Misuse of public land: As described by South Bronx Unite, “The proposed site at the Harlem River Yards in The Bronx is owned by New York State Department of Transportation and has been leased for 99 years to Harlem River Yard Ventures II (HRYV), which is 95% owned by the Galesi Group.  The purpose of the Harlem River Yards project (together with its partner project, the Oak Point Link) was to reduce air pollution by decreasing truck traffic and to help avoid $500 million in public road improvements through development of a Full Freight Access Program, which has not been developed in the more than 20 years that HRYV has held the lease.  Instead, the Bronx community has had 1.9 miles of waterfront made inaccessible to the public.”
·    Greenway and Waterfront Access:  As described in South Bronx Unite’s message to the Borough President, “Harlem River Yards is essential to a Harlem River Greenway as a necessary Bronx West - East connection from High Bridge and the Harlem River Greenway to the South Bronx Greenway and Randall’s Island.  The New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has been negotiating for some time with HRYV to create access to a pedestrian bridge, currently under construction, that will link the South Bronx Greenway to Randall’s Island and then to Queens and Manhattan (the “Connector”).  The Connector will provide a safe and legal means to cross an important waterway that unites the Bronx with the open space and green playing fields of Randall’s Island.  EDC is now granting more than $100 million in public subsidies to FreshDirect, some of which will be allocated to Harlem River Yards, when HRVY has so far refused to grant an easement to complete the vital Connector project through the Harlem River Yards.  Equitable land use, in accordance with the public trust doctrine, includes meaningful waterfront access and recreational opportunities in addition to the swift completion of the Connector.” 
With all of these concerns, members of “South Bronx Unite” would prefer “a community-led development plan that makes efficient use of nearly 100 acres of public waterfront land and incorporates sustainable development, living wage jobs, clean air and waterfront access for South Bronx residents.”  
A Better Solution
As for improving access to healthy food, landlord and developer Steve Smith has crafted a vision for a regional food campus at Oak Point in the South Bronx, that would provide access to “locally grown, locally raised, locally made” food for South Bronx residents and the larger NYC area.  While the plans are still under development, Paul Lipson, consultant to the project, presented at Bronx Health REACH’s February 2012 Nutrition and Fitness Workgroup meeting. Here's the story: 
A 2003 study gauged the unmet demand for local and regional agricultural products at upwards of $1 billion in the New York metropolitan areas.  The proposed 130,000 sq ft regional food hub would house GrowNYC’s Wholesale Farmers Market and would serve as a non-profit aggregator of growers so upstate and regional growers can have a space to access markets.  There would be an opportunity for store owners and community members to access produce directly. Co-located next to the largest wholesale grocery and restaurant supplier in the New York metro area, it would be convenient for middlemen and store and restaurant owners to do all their shopping in one location. The operation could include a “market within a market” allowing products to be sold directly to Jetro and Restaurant Depo, as well as bodegas, small to medium-sized grocery stores, and small (10-20 table) restaurants.
Plans include a kitchen on the second floor, which would create many jobs for artisanal food manufacturing.  They would also like to create a wash and chop facility – something sorely needed in the city – which would allow everyone – from bodegas to institutions such as the NYC Department of Education Office of SchoolFood – to make more direct use of local produce.
Smith hopes to add a rooftop hydroponic greenhouse operation serving grocery and grocery delivery chains in the New York metro area; an agricultural cooperative aggregating over 60 regional growers and producers; a borough-based brewer of beers and ales (the Bronx Brewery currently brews in Connecticut); a Bronx-based caterer and institutional food service providing meals for charter schools and senior centers; and a produce distributor serving NY metro area.
Moreover, this project would save a lot on carbon emissions, fuel and transportation costs due to streamlining of operations and logistics. Individual farmers would not have to send their trucks to the city, but rather the Oak Point facility could send its trucks to them to pick up their produce and then deliver “tropicals” and other items available only in the city to them on the return trip. 
Located on 9.6 waterfront acres, a ½ mile east of the Triborough Bridge and ½ west of the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center, there would be rail and deep water access, thus creating a means for a true regional food hub. 
This whole project is dependent on subsidies – albeit, a tenth of the price of the subsidies the City is planning on giving to FreshDirect.  While it may not “promise” as many jobs as the FreshDirect deal, the jobs would provide workers with living wages, and the regional food campus would have many benefits and implication for public health, including air quality benefits, improvements to institutional food, etc.
Steve Smith and Paul Lipson are currently looking to connect with small food businesses and growers cooperatives that would like to share a food kitchen.  They are seeking support from the City Council and other elected officials to provide public subsidies for the project.  Paul can be reached at paul (at) barrettobay (dot) com