Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner

Summer Update from the New York State Council on Food Policy

Commissioner Patrick Hooker, Chairman

The NYS Council on Food Policy (NYS CFP) convened for a summer meeting on June 27, 2008 in the Capitol Building, Room # 250 from 10:30 am to 1:00 pm. The meeting was open to the public for observation. The meeting was broken into three segments: A. Hot Topics and Listening Tour Recap; B. Address from Deputy Secretary Judith Enck; and C. Working Group Discussion.

A. Hot Topics and Listening Tour Recap  
At the NYS CFP summer meeting the Council members received updates on programmatic changes in food, agriculture and nutrition fields, including a demonstration from the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance’s new myBenefits program (see “Hot Topics”) reviewed a general synopsis ofthe public recommendations from the “Listening Tour 2008” and discussed some recurring themes that emerged as they relate to the NYS CFP’s key food policy issue areas (see “LT Recap”).

B. Address from Deputy Secretary Enck   
Governor Paterson’s Deputy Secretary for the Environment, Judith Enck took this opportunity to address the Council. Deputy Secretary Enck expressed the Governor’s concern over the prevalence of diet related disease in NYS. Deputy Secretary Enck said:

“Food security is a priority for the Governor and children’s health, particularly related to childhood obesity and diabetes, is a priority for the First Lady.”
Noting that agriculture is one of New York’s largest and most vital industries, encompassing 25 percent of New York’s landscape and generating more than 3.6 billion for the State’s economy each year, Deputy Secretary Enck highlighted the need for the Council to work on food infrastructure:  getting food grown in New York to New Yorkers, as a way of supporting the New York economy, ensuring New York residents have a fresh and healthy food supply, and as a way to reduce food miles whereby reducing the amount of fuel and energy we use to get food to consumers. 

Deputy Secretary Enck highlighted the problem that many communities across the state are facing: lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables that are affordable.  The linkage between a poor diet and diabetes, obesity, and other health problems was discussed. On average there are 30% fewer grocery stores in the lowest-income neighborhoods across the state, compared to the highest-income neighborhoods and in the poorest areas of the state there is also the highest disease rate related to diabetes and obesity.  The Council was then encouraged to make access to supermarkets, specifically in low-income communities, a priority of their deliberations.

C. Work Groups
The proposal of forming NYS CFP work groups by Chairman Patrick Hooker was greeted with enthusiasm by the Council members. Members were delegated to one of four work groups organized by key food policy issue areas, based on their area of expertise and interests. These groups will gather to establish baseline data; deliberate and assess the feasibility of the public recommendations; and review local, state, and national food policy initiatives. Commissioner Hooker will serve as an ex-officio member to all work groups.

The preliminary structure of the NYS CFP work groups is as follows:

Key Issue Area 1) Maximize participation in food and nutrition assistance programs
OTDA (Commissioner / Representative); OFA (Director / Representative); Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (Willie Rapfogel); Nutrition Consortium (Linda Bopp)

Key Issue Area 2) Strengthen the connection between local food products and consumers
State Education (Commissioner / Representative); Farmers’ Market Federation (Diane Eggert); School Food (Ray Denniston); Food Industry (Liz Neumark); Food Banks (John Evers);CPB (Mindy Bockstein)

Key Issue Area 3) Support efficient and profitable agricultural food production and food retail infrastructure
Farm Bureau (Julie Suarez); CALS (Dean Henry / Mike Hoffmann); Grocery Workers Union (Bruce Both); Senator Young; Empire State Development Corp. (Representative)

Key Issue Area 4) Increase consumer awareness and knowledge about healthy eating and improve access to safe and nutritious foods
DOH (Commissioner / Representative); DOH Nutrition (Mary Cowans); Price Chopper Nutrition (Ellie Wilson); Cornell University Cooperative Extension (Cathryn Mizbani); Organic Production (Irwin Simon)

Next Steps
Throughout the summer and early fall, the NYS CFP work groups will be examining the public recommendations as well as state and national food policy trends to assist in formulating their initial recommendations to the Governor. Work groups will provide status reports to the Chairman by August 29, 2008. The NYS CFP will convene for a fall meeting on October 16, 2008 and issue a written report to the Governor on the first day of December.

For more information please email or
call NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets (518) 485-7728