Last Wednesday, Borough President Eric Adams and Councilman Ben Kallos, the legislation’s sponsor, spoke about the need to make sure the food given to low-income families and seniors is healthier and more nutritious.
“We don’t have health care in our city, we have sick care,” Adams said. “We wait until people get sick and treat symptoms, not the underlying cause.
“Our city feeds the health care crisis through non-nutritional and sometimes unhealthy food programs, “he added. “Our tax dollars are used to make us sick.”
The borough president noted that meals fed to New Yorkers include chips, sodium-filled foods and other processed items. Instead, Adams suggested using foods like canned goods with vegetables, lentils and dried beans, which have a long shelf life and can feed families in bulk.
He said now is the opportunity to change habits and to be proactive in staying healthy.
“If we waste this opportunity, we’re going to find ourselves here once again,” Adams said.
Kallos said New York City has an “obesity epidemic.” More than half of adult New Yorkers are overweight, while 22 percent are deemed obese. The Manhattan lawmaker noted that it’s happening earlier and earlier in life.
He said candy and potato chips are “sometimes treats,” not part of a core diet that should be included in grab-and-go or home-delivered meals.
Kallos, who is Jewish, added that seniors trying to access healthy food are being offered non-Kosher foods.
“That’s just not a choice anyone should have to make,” he said.
The bill will set nutritional standards for city-funded meals. It will also ask public health experts to report on the food standards every year, Kallos said.
Dr. Yami Cazorla-Lancaster, a board-certified pediatrician, physician and health and wellness coach, said there’s evidence-based information that food has the power to reverse disease.
She said foods like lentils, fruits and vegetables can go far to help people optimize their immune systems to fight infections.
“It’s in the best interest of everyone to provide more whole-plant foods,” Cazorla-Lancaster said.
Dr. Dae Jones added that when people are receiving unhealthy food, it makes them feel that their health is not important and that they’re not being cared for.
“This bill will help people feel taken care of physically, mentally and emotionally,” Jones said.
Adams said he will meet with Department of Santitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia, the city’s food czar during the pandemic, to discuss a report her office put out called “Feeding New York.” He said he would urge Garcia not to allow “our food to be garbage.”
“It’s important for her to use this expertise to reinvent how we distribute food in the city,” Adams said. “This will be at the top of that discussion.”