Anti-Hunger Advocates, Nutrition Advocates, and Agricultural Advocates Join Together To Push For a State Food Policy Council

Legislation Sponsored by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz and Senator Cathy Young Would Create a Broad-based Council to Address Food Policies and Programs
May 16, 2006
(Albany, NY) – Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, (Brooklyn) and Senator Cathy Young (Olean) and advocates for a New York State Food Policy Council held a press conference today in Albany to highlight their bill (A10461/ S7618) to create such a Council. The legislators were joined by Mark Dunlea, Hunger Action Network of NYS; Meredith Taylor, Chair of the Board of Directors of the NY Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NYSAWG); Karen A. Ostrum, MS, RD, CDN, Chair of the Licensure Taskforce of the New York State Dietetic Association; Tom Foster, Foodlink, Rochester; Edie Mesick, Executive Director Nutrition Consortium of NYS; Julie Suarez, Manager of Governmental Relations New York Farm Bureau; and, others.

Experts in nutrition, food security, agriculture, food-based economic development and other similar areas believe that there is a need for a more comprehensive, less disjointed approach to responding to the problems of hunger, loss of farms and poor nutrition. One response is to establish broad-based Food Policy Councils at the State level to bring together the various agencies, service providers, businesses, advocates, and experts. The Council created by this proposal would include the State agencies that develop or implement food policies and administer food programs. The Advisory Board would consist of representatives from the key sectors affected by food policy

According to Assemblyman Ortiz, “For years I worked to improve nutrition, help low-income families, and expand markets for New York farmers. This new bill would help meet all three goals at once. When I sponsored the Farm-to-School Law we had to direct the State Education Department to work with the Department of Agriculture and Markets. That shouldn’t require a new law. It should be routine that government agencies and programs affecting food coordinate their effort to improve health, reduce hunger and support local agriculture. That is why we need a food policy council.”

“The establishment of a Food Policy Council will help create a coordinated effort between the agriculture industry, anti-hunger advocates and state government,” said Senator Young. “Our legislation seeks to implement a cohesive approach to responding to hunger and ensure the economic viability of farming throughout New York State.”

“Farmers have long been believers in the importance of improving childhood nutrition through increasing consumption of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, as well as dairy products. We're very pleased by this common sense initiative to get all interested groups and agencies together,” said Julie Suarez from New York Farm Bureau.

“We will not end hunger in our community without a thriving agriculture community. The Council would help create win-win situations, such as helping local farmers sell to schools and restaurants so consumers have better access to healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables. We need to ensure that we are getting the maximum impact from our tax dollars, promoting family farms while improving the nutritional diet of all New Yorkers,” said Mark Dunlea, Associate Director of the Hunger Action Network of New York State.

“The New York State Dietetic Association is pleased to support Assemblymember Ortiz and Senator Young in their effort to create the New York State Food Policy Council. With the rise of obesity, childhood obesity, diabetes and their association with other chronic diseases creative strategies for change are needed. The Council would provide the opportunity for cooperation and collaboration to enhance the quality, safety, nutritional value, and variety of food available and consumed by New Yorkers. Clearly, decisions made in the agriculture arena can and do influence the direction of nutrition programs and the status of the publics health," Karen Ostrum, MS, RD, CDN, New York State Dietetic Association.

“Creating a system where all people in NYS are able to eat a healthy diet and avoid hunger is an absolutely achievable goal, but it will take the collective commitment and coordination of all sectors. Establishing this Council is a visionary and an essential, practical first step towards reaching this goal”, said Edie Mesick.

A NYS Food Policy Council and Advisory Board would be able to address issues that cross over from one program to another, one agency to another, and one issue area to another. Food assistance programs could be better coordinated and operated more effectively to end hunger. Programs and policies could be developed to mutually benefit New York agriculture as well as nutrition, the environment, and the State and local economy. School meal programs alone bring over $700 million federal dollars into New York each year. The State could also help improve security, save energy, increase food safety, and lower costs by reducing dependence on imported food.