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Transforming the Nation’s Food System: Lessons from the New Deal and Strategies for Today
Roosevelt House and Living New Deal’s NYC Chapter are pleased to present an expert roundtable to explore how federal policy initiatives can spur revitalization of regional agriculture, better conditions for farm and food-processing workers, more equitable food distribution, and improved nutrition for all Americans — measures that recall successful New Deal programs.
The trauma of the pandemic alone has not changed the underlying forces that have shaped the nation’s food supply chain over many decades, narrowly concentrating sources of food production, processing, and distribution. The emergency infusion of funding for SNAP benefits, food pantries, and charitable hunger-relief programs is abating, though food insecurity persists widely.
This year’s anticipated re-authorization of the federal farm bill is an opportunity to transform the nation’s food system. First enacted during the Great Depression, this omnibus statute encompasses a host of agricultural programs as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — the largest source of federal food assistance for low-income Americans. Recent federal actions address food supply-chain insecurity, support for small farmers, and SNAP program management.
Many of these measures resonate with successful initiatives of the New Deal era. These included hunger relief programs in rural and urban areas, including schools; construction of farm-to-market roads; rural electrification, facilities for farmer education and agricultural research; and housing for farmer resettlement. New Deal programs funded construction of urban farm market structures, some of which survive today in New York State and elsewhere.
The experts gathered for the March 2 roundtable will explore current challenges and opportunities and reflect on the legacies of the New Deal for today’s policymakers.
Jeff Gold is a New York City-based urbanist and editor, chair of the Metro NY Health Care for All Campaign, and director of the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility. Gold serves on the NYC Working Group of the Living New Deal. He has coordinated community needs planning sessions with local residents of distressed smaller cities to find solutions to ‘food deserts’ and other serious food supply problems.
Kate MacKenzie is Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy (MOFP) and advises the Mayor on all issues related to food policy and the City’s food system. She leads the City’s Good Food Purchasing commitments, focused on increasing access to healthy, sustainable foods for the over 238 million meals and snacks served daily by City agencies, from public schools to senior centers. She oversees Food Forward NYC, the City’s first ever 10-year food policy plan, which lays out a comprehensive policy framework to reach a more equitable, sustainable, and healthy food system by 2031. She came to the MOFP with over two decades of experience fighting for food security and broader anti-poverty solutions in New York City and nationally in non-profit organizations and academia, including senior executive roles for City Harvest where she worked from 2007 until 2019 when she was appointed by Mayor DeBlasio to lead the MOFP. Mackenzie taught at Columbia University’s Teachers College as an Adjunct Professor from 2010-2013.
Annette Nielsen is the Acting Director of the Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center. Until recently, she led the New York City office for the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Representing the Department, she provided a touchpoint for the agricultural and food industries in the greater metropolitan area, while supporting statewide efforts to build resilient food systems. Her portfolio included facilitating the Commissioner’s statewide Community Gardens Task Force and the NYS Advisory Group for Improving Urban and Rural Consumer Access to Locally Produced Healthy Foods (Procurement Advisory Group). From production to consumption, her work has included launching an incubator kitchen, collaborating on an 8,000 sf community garden, facilitating farm-to-institution initiatives, serving on the inaugural health and wellness committee as an elected member of an NYS board of education, as well as significant work in agricultural tourism, mentoring nutrition students, and teaching culinary nutrition and food systems to medical residents. She has published numerous articles and is a member of the Policy Committee for the Food Ed Coalition at the Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University, and the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance.
Jan Poppendieck is a Professor Emerita of Sociology at Hunter College, a co-founder of the New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter, and a senior fellow at the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute at the CUNY School of Public Health and Health Policy. Her primary concerns, both as a scholar and as an activist, are poverty, hunger, and food assistance in the United States. She is the author of Breadlines Knee-Deep in Wheat: Food Assistance in the Great Depression (Rutgers,1986, University of California Press, 2014), Sweet Charity? Emergency Food and the End of Entitlement (Viking, 1998, Penguin, 1999) and Free For All: Fixing School Food in America, (University of California Press, 2010. Jan is a recipient of a 2011 James Beard Foundation Leadership Award and appears in the documentaries A Place at the Table and Lunch Lines. She serves on the Board of Directors of Community Food Advocates, and the Advisory Committees of Wellness in the Schools and the Hunter College Welfare Rights Initiative, and she is a member of the Global Alliance for Food, Health, and Social Justice.
Myron Thurston is the Food Supply Chain Marketing Specialist for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County and is a Senior Resource Educator in the Cornell System. His most recent position was in Agriculture Economic Development at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Madison County, and he worked with farmers there to help them prepare for expansion, diversification, and financial protection for their agribusinesses. He also is a grant reviewer for the USDA. Myron has a significant background in grant research and grant writing as he was in nonprofit fundraising and development for over a decade before coming to Cornell. He also served as the head of marketing for two nonprofits in Central New York. Myron grew up on a 100-year-old family dairy farm that milked some 350 cows and farmed on 2,000 acres in Oneida County, NY.