New York City Food Policy Watch
July 2014
New York City Food Policy Watch is the monthly e-newsletter of the New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College. We keep an eye on food policy in New York City and on urban food policy around the nation and the world. We also provide updates on our own policy analyses and research activities and on the food policy activities of City University of New York faculty, students and staff. To subscribe to our newsletter click here >>>

 Like us on FacebookFollow us on Twitter  

The Advocate: 

 Interview with
Debbie Field, Executive Director, FoodShare Toronto

An ongoing series of interviews with food policy advocates
photo credit: Laura Berman,
GreenFuse Photography

Debbie Field became Executive Director of FoodShare in 1992, and has helped build FoodShare into Canada's largest food security organization. She believes passionately in the healing power of food, and the ability of food to strengthen communities and bring people together.

What motivated you to get involved with food policy and to become a food policy advocate? Was there a specific trigger or inciting incident?


I got involved when my son Joe, who is now 30, was six. There is no national food school program in Canada. When Joe moved from daycare to grade one. I asked him what he wanted for lunch and he said, "a salami sandwich, a bag of potato chips and a pop." I knew we could do better and I helped organize one of Toronto's first healthy hot lunch programs which is still operating today.


Time to Talk on
Added Sugar Policy 

Last month's  New York court ruling that the New York City Board of Health exceeded the scope of its authority by adopting the "Sugary Drinks Portion Cap Rule" means that this strategy of reducing diet-related premature deaths and preventable illnesses is off the policy table in New York for now.  But the defeat does not change the truth that all Americans would benefit from reduced sugar consumption.  Health professionals and the food movement have the opportunity and responsibility to consider  what policies and strategies  might be most effective and feasible in reducing added sugar in our diets.

Nicholas Freudenberg reviews the options and considers lessons from other campaigns to change harmful corporate practices. 

NYC Food by the Numbers: 
Farmers Markets 

It's farmers' market season across New York City and State. Here are some numbers that illustrate the impact that these markets have on residents, farmers,  communities and the local economy. 


  • In New York State, the number of farmers' markets has more than doubled since 2000, increasing from 235 in 2000 to 521 in 2012.  
  • This year there are 145 farmers' market across the 5 boroughs (2014)
  • 135 markets (93%) accept EBT and all markets in NYC accept Health Bucks  
  •  In 2013 there were 141 farmers' markets across the city and 83 of the markets were located in high and very high poverty zip codes.
  • Since 2006, the number of farmers' markets in high and very high poverty zip codes has increased by 71% but the proportion located in these neighborhoods has not increased much, reducing the opportunity for these markets to shrink inequalities in access
 Read more about farmers markets>>> 
Back to School with
Universal Free Lunch
for Children in
NYC Middle Schools
City Hall Demonstration in Support of Universal Free Lunch. Credit: Lunch for Learning

When school starts this September, school lunch will be served free of charge to any NYC middle school student who wants one. The free-for-all system will replace the current means-tested approach for the city's approximately 170,000 middle schoolers in all of its nearly 300 middle schools. I welcome this crucial first step first step toward providing universal free lunches to all NYC public school students. On any given day, there are  about a quarter million students in the city's schools who are eligible for free meals but do not eat them, and thousands more who are not income eligible but are still in need. Social stigma deters many of those eligible to eat free, and cost makes the meals out of reach for others.


The Lunch 4 Learning Campaign led by Community Food Advocates which has mobilized support for an end to the school food means test has achieved a major victory!  Much of the credit should go to the Public Advocate for her outspoken support, and to the NYC City Council, which, under the leadership of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, included funds in its budget to begin city-wide implementation of universal free meals.


Bringing Back Youth Bucks 
To East Harlem

In a neighborhood such as East Harlem where it can be challenging to locate and purchase fresh, affordable produce, Health Bucks are a welcome resource to encourage healthier eating. Health Bucks, coordinated by the NYC Health Department, are coupons redeemable for $2 worth of fresh produce at NYC farmers' markets and. Health Bucks can help support farmers' markets in underserved communities and contribute to the regional economy.


Several years ago,  former Manhattan Borough President, Scott Stringer launched the Youth Bucks program, which provided free $2 coupons for youth to spend at local farmers markets. Over the duration of the program, more than 11,000 children and teens received these Youth Bucks, providing youth in high-need areas of Manhattan such as East Harlem with access to high-quality, fresh produce.


The new Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer, now has the opportunity to continue and expand the Youth Bucks initiative by purchasing Health Bucks coupons from the NYC Health Department and providing them to organizations that serve youth.


Study maps EU school food policies
"Mapping of National School Food Policies across the EU28 plus Norway and Switzerland"

We ran across this and thought we would share.... 

As part of the European Commission's efforts to help reduce childhood obesity, the Commission's in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), has published the first comprehensive report on school food policies in Europe. It shows that European countries acknowledge the important contribution of school food to children's health, development and performance at school. All the countries studied (28 European Member States + Norway and Switzerland) have guidelines for school food, although these vary considerably. National measures aimed at promoting healthy diets in schools range from voluntary guidelines, for example for menus and portion sizes, to complete bans, including on marketing, of vending machines and sugar-sweetened drinks.
  • Over 90% of the policies studied contain food-based standards to ensure balanced menus. This is followed by portion size guidance (76%) and nutrient-based standards for lunch (65%).
  • Restrictions or recommendations related to the availability of beverages are very common (65-82%), the majority supporting (free) access to fresh drinking water and specifically limiting or banning (sugar-sweetened) soft drinks.
  • Improving child nutrition, teaching healthy diet and lifestyle habits as well as reducing or preventing childhood obesity are the primary general goals shared by most countries.
  • Sweet treats and savoury snacks are restricted in most policies, ranging from those that occasionally allow them to complete bans.
  • Measuring the outcome of the school food policy is required or recommended in 59% of the policies. The most common outcomes that are to be measured relate to the provision of food at schools and the percentage of children who eat at school.
  • Energy and fat intake are the most common parameters included in energy/nutrient-based standards for lunch (used in 65% and 56% of all policies, respectively).
  • Vending machine offers are restricted in about half of the countries studied. The measures range from those which recommend healthier food options for vending machines, passing through those which ban unhealthy foods from them, to those which ban vending machines from school premises all together. 

Download the report here>>> 

If you come across a food report or website that you would like to share with us, send us the details at 

Current Food Policy News 



White House asked to stay away from school nutrition summit

"The rebuke shows how ugly the fight has become between the first lady and her supporters, who want kids to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in their school lunches, and the organization that represents cafeteria workers and their allies who argue that the federal government is going too far in its push for healthier meals."

Read more here>>>  

"This study examined whether the association between obesity and non-specific mental distress has become stronger among the working-age population over time and whether a change in the association was moderated by particular socioeconomic characteristics. More than two million adults aged 20-55, from 1993 to 2010 (except for 2002), were analyzed using self-reported Mentally Unhealthy Days (a measure of non-specific mental distress) and Body Mass Index (BMI) from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System annual survey."

Read more here>>>     


"Sitting at her kitchen table in Houston, Bettina Siegel, a corporate lawyer-turned-school lunch blogger and mom of two, had no idea she had the power to spark a massive consumer uprising with her laptop. But that's exactly what she did. In March 2012, her petition on asking the Agriculture Department to stop serving "pink slime" to school kids drew nearly 260,000 signatures. The social media fire, fanned by ABC News and dozens of other media outlets, led retailers and schools across the country to drop the product, formally known as lean finely textured beef, or LFTB, from their ground beef."

Read more here>>>  


"A bill that would have made California the first state in the nation to require warning labels on sodas and other sugary drinks was effectively killed on Tuesday. SB1000 by Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, failed on a 7-8 vote as his fellow Democratic lawmakers doubted whether a label would change consumer behavior. It needed 10 votes to pass. Certain sodas, energy drinks and fruit drinks would have included a label reading, "STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay."

"The marketing of unhealthy food to children is on the Labour Party policy agenda up for consultation and among
the ideas "on the table" is that the advertising of unhealthy foods should not be screened before nine pm.
The current restriction on the marketing of unhealthy food and drink in the UK only covers children's television programmes. However, marketers can still advertise unhealthy products during some of the television programmes most watched by children, such as X-Factor.
This "loophole" was highlighted in recent research commissioned by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), as part of the Action on Junk Food Marketing campaign, which showed that children's TV viewing peaked at around eight pm.

"The hope is that one day most of New York's discarded food will make its way to composting sites, where it will benefit the environment, rather than be trucked to distant landfills, an undertaking that costs the city more than $300 million annually. A highly visible side effect would be to reduce the city's rat population. With less food in curbside garbage cans, the thinking goes, fewer rats should come prowling around in search of a meal."


Amy's Bread, a purveyor of high-end baked goods to gourmet chefs and upscale stores like Whole Foods and restaurants like Le Cirque, profits from a brand that professes to care about every detail of its products. Pages have been written about the texture and taste of Amy's artisanal breads, describing the crunch of the crust, the tangy interiors and the depth of the flavors. But few, apart from Brandworkers Amy's Bread, a purveyor of high-end baked goods to gourmet chefs and upscale stores like Whole Foods and restaurants like Le Cirque, profits from a brand that professes to care about every detail of its products. Pages have been written about the texture and taste of Amy's artisanal breads, describing the crunch of the crust, the tangy interiors and the depth of the flavors.   

Read more here>>>      

Food Policy Center News 

 With summer in full swing, Center staff continue our collaborative work with local and citywide community partners, ongoing research and evaluation projects and the redesign of our website.



The Center recently participated in All in East Harlem, a vision conference that brought together Hunter College faculty and students and the many individuals and organizations concerned about the future of East Harlem and the well-being of its residents.  The New York City Food Policy Center co-facilitated the Food Access, Promotion and Affordability Work Group where several East Harlem health and human service professionals discussed the health issues confronting our community.  The group also identified several actions that Hunter can take to promote collaboration and resource sharing among groups working to promote healthier food environments in East Harlem.


About the NYC Food Policy Center at Hunter College


The New York City Food Policy Center develops intersectoral, innovative and effective solutions to preventing diet-related diseases and promoting food security in New York and other cities.

The Center works with policy makers, community organizations, advocates and the public to create healthier, more sustainable food environments and to use food to promote community and economic development. Through interdisciplinary research, policy analysis, evaluation and education, we leverage the expertise and passion of the students, faculty and staff of Hunter College and the CUNY School of Public Health and other CUNY campuses. The Center aims to make New York a model for smart, fair food policy.  


Center staff include Hunter College faculty, staff and students:

  • Nicholas Freudenberg, Co-Director and Distinguished Professor of Public Health
  • Jan Poppendieck, Co-Director and Professor Emerita, Sociology
  • Charles Platkin, Editor, Food Policy Watch, Distinguished Lecturer, Public Health and Nutrition  
  • May May Leung, Assistant Professor, Nutrition
  • Diana Johnson, Director of Community Projects 
  • Michele Silver, Research Associate and DPH candidate 
  • Ashley Rafalow, Operations and Communications Coordinator 
  • Dory Kornfeld, Research Assistant
  • Natasha Eziquiel-Shriro, Research Assistant  
In This Issue
Debbie Field
Added Sugar Policy
NYC Food by the Numbers
Universal Free Lunch
Youth Bucks
Study maps EU School Food Policies
Food Policy News
Center News Brief