The report, Growing Food Equity in New York City, highlights the City’s hunger problem and offers solutions so all New Yorkers have access to healthy, affordable food

Brooklyn, NY– Today, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson shared his plan to address food inequity in New York City. The Speaker’s report outlines the City’s current hunger problems, including a lack of access to healthy and affordable food for New Yorkers in low-income communities and communities of color. The report also discusses how to improve urban agriculture and reduce food waste. Solutions include empowering the City’s Office of Food Policy, improving school food programs and expanding effective initiatives such as Health Bucks.

“New York City is one of the richest cities in the world. Yet more than one million of our residents are considered food insecure. That’s unacceptable. Food is a human right, which means as a city we need to establish food policies to help ensure that none of our residents are going hungry or relying on unhealthy foods to survive because they don’t have the means or access to nutritious meals. These proposals are my vision for food justice for New York City. I want to create a better New York where equitable food policies are front and center in everything we do,” said Speaker Corey Johnson.

Below are key recommendations in the Growing Food Equity in New York City report:

The City must improve food governance and replace the current patchwork approach to food policy. The City Council will consider legislation to empower the Office of Food Policy, currently a bare-bones office with minimal authority. The expanded Office will oversee the vast food policy work happening at almost every City agency and develop a citywide food plan.

The Council will work to expand successful food programs, including:

  • The Health Bucks Program, coupons that are distributed to low-income New Yorkers to buy fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets;
  • Deli-style cafeterias in middle and high schools that have dramatically increased fruit and vegetable consumption among students;
  • Nutrition programs in schools; and
  • Scratch-cooked meals at public schools.

Do more to promote the summer meals program. The Council will consider legislation requiring that information about summer meals be sent home to families and will start a pilot that will allow their parents to get free meals as well.

Address college student hunger. In the Fiscal Year 2020 budget, the City Council allocated $1 million under the Access to Healthy Food and Nutritional Education initiative to fund a pilot program to increase food access to CUNY students experiencing food insecurity. Hunger in higher education is a serious problem, with almost half of CUNY students recently surveyed indicat­ing they were food insecure in the past month.

Make sure every neighborhood has outlets providing affordable healthy food. The Council and the Department of City Planning are working to expand the list of neighborhoods that are eligible to receive the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) zoning bonus, to more closely align with the areas of highest need where the financial incentive is mapped. A new Supermarket Needs Index (SNI) is being created to inform expansion.

Expand urban agriculture. Community gardens provide communities with cultural, educational and health benefits, and they reduce heat-related effects due to climate change. But there is more we can do to help them thrive. The City Council will consider legislation creating an Office of Urban Agriculture to ensure that the ecological, economic, and health benefits of urban agriculture are given due value in our city planning.

Empower community gardeners. Community gardens provide economic opportunities. The City Council will advocate for the City to make it easier for com­munity gardeners to earn income from produce grown or education provided on community garden land.


“Urban agriculture is the most underutilized tool we have to close the freshness gap in low-income communities. But momentum has been building, due in large part to the city’s existing infrastructure of community gardens, rooftop farms, and indoor hydroponic farming. Together, we have been building a movement that demands our right to eat, and to eat well. I passed legislation that set up an urban agriculture website to create a one-stop-shop for information to support local farms. The website helped outline our vision, but it was only the first step in starting the conversation. Last month, we held a hearing on the bill that will require the city to come up with a comprehensive urban agriculture plan. We’ve clearly done the work, but we’re far from finished. Today, I’m proud to stand with the Speaker to announce that not only will we have a plan, but we will have an Office of Urban Agriculture to enact that plan,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal 

“I am proud to join Speaker Johnson and be part of a historic announcement on food initiatives. The Office of Food Policy shall develop a 10-year food policy plan that will include input from agencies, community based organizations, community leaders, and other stakeholders that focus on food policy, food equity, food justice, and food security,” said Council Member Vanessa Gibson. “This plan will aim to reduce hunger, improve nutrition, increase access to healthy foods, reduce food waste, increase urban agriculture, and much more. By expanding the Office of Food Policy, having this 10-year Plan, for the first time New York City is taking a comprehensive approach to tackling food issues and addressing hunger in our City.”

“Today, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers live in food deserts or food swamps. In my district, there is only one source for local fresh food—a farmers market that’s only open five months out of the year,” said Council Member Francisco Moya. “The FRESH program promotes access to fresh and healthy food options in the communities that badly need them and I wholeheartedly support Speaker Corey Johnson’s efforts to expand this initiative.”

“Too many New Yorkers, especially those in disadvantaged neighborhoods, struggle to afford food with high nutritional value for themselves and their families, said Council Member Adrienne Adams. “I am proud to work with Speaker Johnson and my colleagues to enhance food equity in New York City, as access to healthy food should not be determined by income. As a part of this comprehensive package, my bill will require HRA to provide information regarding usage of the Health Bucks program at farmers markets to all individuals that receive or apply for SNAP benefits. Increasing the awareness and accessibility to healthy food options is life-changing and should be shared across our city.”

“With one in seven older New Yorkers facing food insecurity, it is clear that the City must do more to ensure our seniors enjoy access to healthy meals,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin, Chair of the Committee on Aging. “By creating an aggressive outreach campaign—run by the Human Resource Association and the Department for the Aging—targeting and enrolling isolated older New Yorkers in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), my bill will expand the nutritional safety net for our seniors at a time when they need it most. I am proud to join the Speaker and my colleagues on the City Council on this effort addressing food insecurity at every level in New York City.”

“Purposeful and innovative food policy in New York City has the power to improve the health and life of millions of people,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Having a food policy office dedicated to promoting access to healthy food while coordinating with other agencies and non-profits on sustainability will help address New York City’s growing obesity epidemic and food insecurity problems. Thank you to Speaker Corey Johnson for taking this package of legislation and making it a priority.”

“On a daily basis across the city, neighborhood stakeholders weigh in on the community benefits of rezonings in their district,’ stated Council Member Rafael Salamanca. “While the need for deeper affordable housing and community space are often the focus, zoning incentives through the FRESH program allow communities to use rezonings to create and preserve access to healthy food sources. As so many areas of our city lack access to full-service grocery stores, I applaud Speaker Johnson for recognizing the value of FRESH and for addressing the food inequality happening in New York City.”

“In the greatest city in the world, we cannot stand idle while one in eight of our New Yorkers face food insecurity,” said Council Member Paul Vallone. “This bill will allow us to take an in-depth look at food production, distribution and access in the five boroughs, a critical step in developing the equitable and transformative food policy strategies of tomorrow. I thank City Council Speaker Johnson for bringing attention to this important issue and I am proud to collaborate with him on this impactful piece of legislation.”

“Existing FRESH locations are literally bearing fruit and vegetables!” said Department of City Planning Director Marisa Lago. “The Supermarket Needs Index empowers communities to directly assess their need for fresh food retailers – and then advocate for FRESH designation. The FRESH program works, so DCP is especially pleased to be working with the Deputy Mayor’s Office and the City Council to make FRESH even better, ensuring that more families have easy access to good, healthy food.”

“The CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute welcomes the new food governance bills discussed by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. These bills will assist New York City to continue to be a national leader in creating a healthier, more equitable and more sustainable food system,” said Nicholas Freudenberg, Distinguished Professor of Public Health and Director, CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute City University of New York School of Public Health and Health Policy


“GrowNYC is grateful to the Speaker for his work in promoting a more just and sustainable food system for New Yorkers,” said GrowNYC President and CEO Marcel Van Ooyen. “Thanks to City Council support, we will soon break ground on the New York State Greenmarket Regional Food Hub, a 75,000 square foot distribution facility, which will dramatically expand access to fresh local food in underserved New York communities. We are thankful to partner with the City Council in our efforts to expand food access, build school gardens, and provide nutrition education to our City’s youth.”


“All New York City students deserve equal access to healthy, sustainable, and culturally responsive food and nutrition education, yet not all students have these opportunities. Thanks to funding from the City Council for a NYC Food-Ed Hub, we can work alongside our food and nutrition education colleagues to identify a collective agenda, with the goal of attaining access to high-quality programming for all New York City students,” said Dr. Pamela Koch, EdD, RD, Research Associate Professor and Executive Director, Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy, Program in Nutrition, Teachers College, Columbia University


“Speaker Johnson has been a true champion for ensuring increased funding for anti-hunger programs in the City budget and for standing up against the Trump Administration’s cruel, counter-productive proposals to take food assistance away from children, seniors, working people, veterans, and people with disabilities. We are grateful for the Speaker’s steadfast leadership,” said Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a nationwide nonprofit advocacy and direct service organization headquartered in New York City.

“The intersection of food and land equity in New York City can not be underestimated. Community gardens are sources of fresh produce in neighborhoods where there is none. All too often we name these areas food deserts. Let’s call it what it is: food apartheid. Food apartheid looks at the food system through the lens of race, geography and economics. What New York City and the country as a whole needs are people like City Council Speaker Corey Johnson to examine the root causes of hunger and poverty. Only then we can begin to address the root problems of food equity,” said Aziz Dehkan, Executive Director, New York City Community Garden Coalition (NYCCGC)

“With NYC’s deepening divide between people chronically struggling to meet their most basic food needs and people who enjoy the world class food scene, Speaker Corey Johnson is the taking the bold and comprehensive approach to begin to close that gap. The Speaker’s policy platform on food equity will transform everything from public school cafeterias to the NYC’s public procurement of food by legislating the Good Food Purchasing Program. His speech today makes it clear that he and the Council are committed to leading this charge,” said Liz Accles, Executive Director, Community Food Advocates

“Just Food is delighted the New York City Council is increasing the visibility of community-led Farmers’ Markets and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and neighborhood small businesses throughout the five boroughs. The New York City Council’s call for a Community Food Hub Incubator will complement Just Food’s ongoing efforts to strengthen the solidarity economy within our region and ensuring all community members and businesses have the information and ability to eat, grow, and sell fresh food,” said Qiana Mickie, Executive Director, Just Food