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Breaking Down Food Security, Healthy Foods, Economic Opportunity, and Sustainability in the NYC Food System – One Green Planet

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New York City’s Office of Food Policy recently released a report, titled NYC Food by the Numbers, that highlighted the city’s strides in promoting food security, access to healthy foods, economic opportunity, and sustainability within the food system.

In 2023, New York City agencies served more than 219 million meals. This includes meals served in hospitals and public schools. During the 2022 and 2023 school year, New York City’s public schools alone served 136.5 breakfasts and lunches to students. On average, 255,000 breakfasts and 505,000 lunches were served per day. This represents a 35 percent increase in the average number of lunches served in school cafeterias each day, following the implementation of the Cafeteria Enhancement Experience. Some NYC schools also received funding and faculty to Support the enhancement of food education. Part of this enhancement includes providing training on cooking plant-based meals.

New York City hospitals are also committed to providing patients with healthy plant-based meals during their stays. These plant-based meals are the default meals provided to hospital patients as part of the H+H plant-based default program. During the year of 2023, hospitals served 602,844 plant-based meals. This led to a significant reduction in their carbon footprints, reported the NYC Mayor’s Office.

The report also looked at rates of diet-related disease and food insecurity. They found that both diseases such as diabetes and hypertension disproportionately affected Black, Latino, and Asian populations within the city. These groups were also at much higher risk for food insecurity than their white counterparts. The report identified and acknowledged structural racism as a driving factor for both adverse health outcomes and increased rates of food insecurity for these groups. 

Federal nutrition programs aided many New York City residents. As of June 2023, data showed that there were 1,739, 229 people receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in the city’s five boroughs. The borough with the largest percentage of SNAP benefit recipients was Brooklyn, followed by the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, and then Staten Island. There was also an average of 221, 764 participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program during each month of the fiscal year of 2023. The majority of these participants were children between the ages of one and four. 

New York City has expressed a commitment to expanding access to these programs, along with other crucial federal benefits. Additionally, the New York City Health + Hospitals Lifestyle Medicine Program will assist New Yorkers in improving their health. 

NYC Nutrition Security Programs also helped fight issues of food insecurity and access in the city this year. Programs such as Groceries to Go, Health Bucks, Get the Good Stuff, and Community Food Connection helped residents afford and access wholesome, nutritionally rich foods during 2023.

A program launched in 2009 called the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) programs helped New York City increase access to healthy fresh foods by providing zoning and tax incentives to property owners that built full-service markets retailing fresh foods in areas of high need. By improving access to fresh fruits and vegetables, the program addresses issues of access to healthy foods in low-income communities. As of February 2023, New York City had 30 fresh supermarkets, with another 21 opening soon. 

Lastly, the NYC Food Report by the Numbers highlights New York City’s commitment to sustainability. In 2023, the city pledged to cut carbon emissions related to food by 33 percent by 2023. To do this, they will highlight plant-based options over traditional animal products. This has proved an effective strategy for the H+H plant-based default system introduced at the city’s hospitals. Additionally, the city is also urging private corporations to cut carbon emissions from food by 25% by 2030. This program is called the Plant-Powered Challenge. So far, organizations that have committed to the program include Columbia University.

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