City Council passes Queens lawmaker’s bill ensuring New Yorkers have access to healthy, affordable food

File photo courtesy Vallone’s office

The City Council on Thursday, April 22, unanimously passed Councilman Paul Vallone’s bill regarding the production, processing, distribution and consumption of food which will assist the city’s goal to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to healthy, affordable food. 

The bill, Intro 1680, is a critical step in developing the equitable and transformative food policy strategies for tomorrow, Vallone said. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic struck our city hard and left many with the question of where their next meal would come from. In the greatest city in the world, we cannot stand idle while one in eight New Yorkers face food insecurity,” Vallone said. 

The bill will require the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability (OLTPS) to expand its annual Food System Metrics Report to include additional information regarding the following:

  • The number of people who are eligible for public food programs but not enrolled
  • The number of retailers who accept supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) or other public benefits 
  • The number of and percentage of sub-populations experiencing food insecurity, and the metrics charting progress toward reducing inequities in the distribution of food and diet-related diseases

OLTPS would also need to consider other sources of citywide data in developing the annual Food System Metrics Report and to express all data in absolute numbers and as a percentage.  

Food insecurity has been a persistent issue facing New York City since before the pandemic when over 1 million New Yorkers were considered food insecure and reliant on food pantries and soup kitchens. This has only been exacerbated by the current health crisis.

A study done by the Robin Hood Foundation indicated that 12 percent of New Yorkers were reporting food insecurity fears before the pandemic, and it rose to 32 percent by the end of 2020. In Queens, which became the epicenter of the global pandemic last spring, lines for pantries and soup kitchens were getting longer as more people became unemployed due to the pandemic. 

The bill, according to Vallone, is more vital than ever and providing food security will be a huge effort in the recovery era of the city. Providing food security was a key policy priority of Council Speaker Corey Johnson before the pandemic and the bill was an integral part of a larger strategy outlined in the 2019 report Growing  Food Equity in New York City

“Understanding the landscape of food resources available to our citizens on a city, state and federal level and how well adopted each of these programs is will be key to ensuring proper access and well-tailored, effective solutions,” Vallone said.

More from Around New York