City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has vowed to dedicate the next four years to food. She has a dream that the city can create jobs, improve food quality, support local farmers, and improve the environment by bringing NYC's "food infrastructure" into the 21st century. At a press conference to announce the city’s FRESH supermarket initiative, Quinn unveiled her big FoodWorks New York plan. Over the next six months, the Council will work with experts from a wide spectrum of fields to examine every step in NYC’s food cycle: production, processing, transport, retail, consumption, and post-consumption. During her remarks, Quinn said:
In the last few years, the DOE has started offering salad bars at many public schools - a great initiative we hope to expand. To stock those salad bars they spend nearly 300,000 dollars a year to buy over half a million pounds of Romaine lettuce. But the lettuce they serve doesn’t come from New York State. It comes from California or Maryland.
The problem isn’t that we can’t find lettuce in New York State. In fact we’ve identified a farmer in Orange County who grows Romaine lettuce, and would love to sell to the DOE. The problem is, there isn’t a facility in the area to wash, cut and bag that lettuce so it can be served in schools. We have the product. We have the demand. And we’re already spending the money. All we need to do is to bring that kind of wash, cut and bag facility to the five boroughs. And wouldn’t that be a great way to put some of our now empty manufacturing space to work?
New York lettuce for kids, jobs for grownups, and a glorious legacy for Quinn—then maybe Bloomberg will skip a fourth term and she can have her turn as mayor! Details are pretty vague about this FoodWorks plan, but that's because stage one involves studying the "food infrastructure" to target weaknesses. Quinn says the Council will be passing legislation to require city agencies to report back on food related measures, and this data will help set "ambitious but achievable goals."
In the spring, she'll present the comprehensive FoodWorks blueprint, containing a list of concrete policy initiatives. Dan Barber, owner of Blue Hill restaurant, was also at today's press conference, and in a statement he said this "is not just about food access, it's about accessing the right kind of food."