NEW YORK — Mayor Michael Bloomberg, together with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, has proposed legislation that would promote fresh fruit and vegetable consumption in designated low-income neighborhoods throughout New York City.
The Green Cart proposal, recommended by the Food Policy Task Force, would increase the number of food carts that sell fresh fruits and vegetables only. The carts will be located in neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs where access to fresh fruits and vegetables is limited.
“New Yorkers want to eat healthy foods, but far too many low-income neighborhoods lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Quinn.
“This Green Cart legislation will help get nutritious produce onto the streets and into the hands of the New Yorkers that need it most. I'm proud to once again be working with Mayor Bloomberg to make this a healthier and more equitable city.”
If the proposal is accepted, it will call for 1,500 cart permits to be phased in over two years throughout the city's five boroughs. The Bronx and Brooklyn will each get 500 permits, Queens will receive 250 permits, Manhattan will have 200 and Staten Island will receive 50.
The lack of access to supermarkets poses a challenge in many low-income urban areas in cities throughout the country. A recent study by the New York City Health Department compared the low-income neighborhood of Harlem to the upscale Upper East Side, and found that supermarkets in Harlem are 30% less common, and that only 3% of bodegas/convenience stores in Harlem carry leafy green vegetables, compared to 20% on the Upper East Side. The Green Cart legislation covers neighborhoods where at least 12% of adults reported, in Health Department surveys, that they had not eaten any fruits or vegetables on the previous day.
Bloomberg and Quinn also announced a new partnership with The Food Trust and the Food Bank for New York City that will work with supermarket operators to develop policies encouraging them to locate in neighborhoods in need of improved access to healthy foods.
The Food Trust has been working with the Philadelphia City Council since 2004 on a similar effort. Faced with a city that had the second-lowest number of supermarkets per capita of all major cities in the nation, in December 2004, Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell announced that the state would invest $4 million in an economic-stimulus package called the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative. Essentially, these funds have gone to help finance supermarket development in underserved communities when infrastructure costs and financing needs can't be met solely through loans from banks or other conventional financial institutions. The program has since been praised by city planners and policy analysts throughout the country, netting awards from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, as well as the National Governors Association.
The details of how the New York City partnership would work are still very preliminary, according to Anthony Hogrebe, spokesman for Quinn's office. “I would imagine that within the next couple of months, [the proposal] will go through the hearing process,” Hogrebe told SN. “It's a got quite a bit of support within the council, so we hope that it'll pass out on a full council pretty quickly.”