New York City Food Policy Watch
November 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 Jan Poppendieck, 
Policy Director,
NYC Food Policy Center
 at Hunter College

An ongoing series of interviews with food policy advocates

Janet Poppendieck, PhD, is Professor Emerita of Sociology at Hunter College, City University of New York and the Policy Director for the NYC Food Policy Center at Hunter College and the CUNY School of Public Health. Her primary concerns, both as a scholar and as an activist, have been poverty, hunger and food assistance in the United States. She serves on the Board of Why Hunger?, is the Vice Chair of the Board of Community Food Advocates, and is a member of the Leadership Council of School Food Focus. She is the author of Free for All: Fixing School Food in America (University of California Press, 2010); Sweet Charity? Emergency Food and the End of Entitlement (Penguin, 1999); and Breadlines Knee Deep in Wheat: Food Assistance in the Great Depression (University of California Press, 2014). Breadlines was recently re-released as a newly expanded and updated volume, updating the story of federal food aid in America.

Your 1986 book Breadlines Knee Deep in Wheat: Food Assistance in the Great Depression has been updated and re-released. Can you briefly talk about some of the new material and how it connects to the past release?

The original Breadlines is basically the origins story for domestic food assistance programs such as SNAP, school lunch, WIC and others.  All of these programs are direct descendants of the surplus commodity operations of the Great Depression, and their history has been very much shaped by the circumstances of their birth.  Over the last several decades, food assistance has become a major part of the American social safety net, reaching far more people than  "welfare" programs. Last year USDA administered more than 100 billion dollars worth of domestic food assistance, and one in four Americans participated in at least one of the Department's 15  food and nutrition assistance  programs.  The epilogue to the new edition, which updates the story of federal food aid in America, analyzes the reasons for the relative "success" of food assistance compared with cash welfare, and looks at the changing context of food aid, and the challenges ahead.


Community Partner Spotlight:

SCAN (Supportive Children's Advocacy Network) was founded in 1977 with a mission to provide at-risk families and children with integrated programming that uses a positive approach; harnesses individual strengths; and fosters responsibility, self-esteem, initiative, and the development of life skills.  


Tell us about your work?

The agency provides a variety of integrated supports to the highest risk children and families of East Harlem and the South Bronx.  Serving over 7,000 children and teens and 1,000 adults and families each year at 20 program sites, SCAN is the largest youth service provider in East Harlem and the South Bronx.


With programs as diverse as substance abuse treatment, violence prevention, literacy programs, afterschool activities and events, employment skills training, and youth leadership, SCAN's family-focused approach builds on individual and group strengths.

SCAN programs empower individuals and families, thereby fostering responsibility and initiative and enabling our community members to identify and achieve new goals.



Policy Brief:
Five Questions for the Food Movement After Berkeley Approves a Soda Tax 

by Nicholas Freudenberg


On Election Day November 4th, Berkeley voters made their town the first in the United States to approve a soda tax, endorsing Measure D to levy a penny-an-ounce tax on soda by a 3 to 1 margin, 76% for and 24% against. The victory came despite the fact that Big Soda poured $2.3 million dollars into the campaign, about $409 per voter that sided with the industry position. For the food justice movement, the win demands a careful analysis of the lessons learned.  


I raise 5 questions to get us started in this analysis. 


1. Everybody knows that Berkeley is the capital of the Left Coast but the town has set important national trends before. What are the characteristics of Berkeley and the campaign that may be generalizeable to other places in the US?

"We fully expect other communities to take on the soda industry and succeed," said Yes on D Co-Chair Dr. Vicki Alexander after the victory. "Berkeley has a proud history of setting nationwide trends, such as nonsmoking sections in restaurants and bars, curb cuts for wheelchairs, curbside recycling, and public school food policies. But many communities have the same ingredients that made Measure D possible in Berkeley: proactive parents and community leaders who care about the health of their kids."  Yes on D built a broad, diverse and inclusive community coalition.


Event Recap: 
The New York City Food Forum & Why Equity Matters to NYC and our Food System 

On October 10, 2014, 150 individuals from 100+ organizations came together to create a shared understanding of equity and explore ways to advance equity that will provide opportunity and benefits to all New York City residents.     


This workshop explored how we can collectively be more intentional in: 


1.    advancing food policies and practices that are meaningful and target benefits to communities most impacted by inequities; and,
2.    placing at the center the voices and wisdom of those who have historically been excluded in order to generate solutions and fully contribute as workers, innovators, leaders and entrepreneurs of the food system.


Why Equity Now?

Recent years have seen the rapid emergence and growth of activity within and across New York City's food system. While these efforts cross multiple sectors and issues, they have tended to be disparate and have not created the comprehensive, systemic change needed to dismantle the deepening racial and economic inequities experienced in many communities across New York City. Further, mounting evidence shows that our food system continues to exacerbate existing gaps in access, health, income, wealth, employment, and opportunity, and alienates and exploits historically marginalized communities.


NYC Food by the Numbers: 
Poverty and Food Insecurity 

New Yorkers' participation in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, increased 71.1% between June, 2006, before the recession, and June, 2013. This long term upward trend has finally reversed. Across-the-board benefit cuts that took effect in November, 2013 reduced the average grant per household, and increases in employment made some previous participants ineligible. We provide some figures to help clarify.

  • NYC SNAP participation, June, 2013:  1.9 million
  • NYC SNAP participation, June 2014: 1.78 million
  • Decline 06/13 to 06/14:  118,000 persons or 6.3%
  • Nationwide decline, 06/13 to 06/14, 2.6%
  • Decline in total NYC SNAP benefits, f.y. 2013-f.y. 2014: $244,000,000 (6.9%)
  • NYC SNAP participation, September, 2014:  1.74 million
  • NYC unemployment rate, August 2013: 8.8%
  • NYC unemployment rate, September 2014: 6.8%
  • Number of people in NYC homeless shelters:  October 2014: 56,000 (record high)
  • NYC poverty rate, 2012: 21.2%
  • NYC poverty rate, 2013: 20.9%
  • Proportion of NYC veterans using food pantries and soup kitchens: 30%
Read more about poverty and food insecurity in NYC>>> 
The National Academies Press Book
Sustainable Diets:
Food for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet: Workshop Summary (2014)


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

"One of the many benefits of the U.S. food system is a safe, nutritious, and consistent food supply. However, the same system also places significant strain on land, water, air, and other natural resources. A better understanding of the food-environment synergies and trade-offs associated with the U.S. food system would help to reduce this strain. Many experts would like to use that knowledge to develop dietary recommendations on the basis of environmental as well as nutritional considerations. But identifying and quantifying those synergies and trade-offs, let alone acting on them, is a challenge in and of itself. The difficulty stems in part from the reality that experts in the fields of nutrition, agricultural science, and natural resource use often do not regularly collaborate with each other, with the exception of some international efforts."

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 

"'How we produce and consume food has a bigger impact on Americans' well-being than any other human activity. The food industry is the largest sector of our economy; food touches everything from our health to the environment, climate change, economic inequality and the federal budget. Yet we have no food policy - no plan or agreed-upon principles - for managing American agriculture or the food system as a whole."

From pumpkins to policies: engaging in sustainable food behaviour (The Guardian) 


The disturbing ways that fast food chains disproportionately target black kids (The Washington Post) 


Next Time Someone Says Fast Food Isn't A Real Job, Remember This (Huff Post) 


With rising cost of college leaving some students hungry, University of Maryland plans a food bank (The Diamondback) 

Food Policy Journal Watch

Select food policy-focused peer reviewed journal articles from this month.     


Digital Junk: Food and Beverage Marketing on Facebook (American Journal of Public Health)

"We analyzed 13 international pages and 14 Australian-based brand pages; 4 brands (Subway, Coca-Cola, Slurpee, Maltesers) had both national and international pages. Pages widely used marketing features unique to social media that increase consumer interaction and engagement. Common techniques were competitions based on user-generated content, interactive games, and apps. Four pages included apps that allowed followers to place an order directly through Facebook. Adolescent and young adult Facebook users appeared most receptive to engaging with this content." Read the article>>> 


Also see: Report: Digital food marketing to children and adolescents: Problematic practices and policy interventions>>> 

In This Issue
Jan Poppendieck
Community Partner Spotlight
Five Questions after Berkeley
Event Recap: Why Equity Matters in NYC and our Food System
NYC Food by the Numbers
Featured Article
Food Policy News
Food Policy Journal Watch
Center News Brief
Upcoming Food Policy for Breakfast Seminars:

November 18
NYC Health Technology Food Forum: How Can Technology Help (and Hurt) Public Health Initiatives

8:45am - 10:15am
*Program begins promptly at 8:45, arrive at 8:30 for open networking.

Silberman Building
2180 Third Avenue @119th St
New York, NY 10035
*note new location


Please note the new date and topic below. If you previously registered for the 12/2 seminar you will automatically be RSVPed for the 12/16 seminar:

December 16
Food Policy for Breakfast: 80 Years of Federal Food Assistance Policy: Implications for Child Nutrition Reauthorization in Uncertain Times

CUNY Graduate Center
9am - 10:30am
365 5th Avenue @34th St.
9th Floor, RM9206
New York, NY 10016
*note new location

Food Policy Center News 

A spirit of collaboration is in the air. The Center has been working to identify areas of collaboration and to share knowledge and best practices with our citywide academic partners.

Earlier in October we had the opportunity to enjoy lunch prepared by culinary and hospitality students at Kingsborough Community College, and to tour their one-acre urban farm in Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn, NY. This event, the first of the CUNY Food Talks series, was hosted in collaboration between the Farm Faculty Interest Group at KCC, the Culinary Arts program at KCC and the Center and brought together faculty and staff from across CUNY around teaching and learning about food. The Food Policy Center  will be hosting a follow-up to this event later this semester.


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, Director of Operations and Communications 
  • Natasha Eziquiel-Shriro, Research Assistant 
  • Kyle Murray, Research Assistant
  • Apoorva Srivastava, Research Assistant
Upcoming Webinar
November 18, 2014
1pm-2pm EST

Healthy Food Service Guidelines in Worksite and Community Settings

Sponsored by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

More info>>>

Read our report on Institutional Meals in NYC>>>