News from the
Assembly Task Force on
Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy
|Assemblyman Rivera welcomed participants to the Forum on Hispanic Immigrants in Rural New York Communities (see story, click here).|
|José Rivera, Chair • Sheldon Silver, Speaker • Summer 2006|
In February I was appointed the new Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy by Speaker Silver. Although I represent an Assembly District in the Bronx, as Chair of this Task Force I am supportive of farmers in rural New York, food businesses in our cities and suburbs, and the nutritional needs of children, seniors and families across the State.
The Assembly completed a successful session in June which included significant new laws and budget items to help improve our schools, revitalize the State’s economy, and make our communities safer. The Task Force advocated for additional funding for food assistance programs, health and nutrition programs, such as diabetes prevention and control, and additional funds for locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables for school children. We were successful in getting the Legislature to add $1 million of additional funds for diabetes and $350,000 for hunger prevention programs such as food pantries and soup kitchens. Unfortunately, we are waiting for the Governor to agree on the Legislature’s funding (TANF) for services to low-income programs which includes the additional hunger prevention funding.
It is a shame that we still have hunger and food insecurity in our State, but the Task Force will continue to work to help all New York families and seniors have access to nutritious food so that everyone can reach their full potential and live healthy, productive lives. We will also continue to work to improve the health and nutrition of our families and communities. In New York City, I plan to join with my son, Joel, the City Council Majority Leader and Chair of the Health Committee, who is very committed to improving access to high quality, nutritious foods in areas like the Bronx. Together we will explore ways to encourage stores and restaurants in communities where obesity and diabetes are common, to carry more New York produced fresh fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
In this newsletter you will find information about this year’s legislation, budget work and meetings sponsored by the Task Force. Please feel free to contact us with your ideas and suggestions. I look forward to working with all of you to improve the quality, accessibility, safety, and affordability of food for all New Yorkers.
The following Food, Farm and Nutrition bills sponsored or co-sponsored by Assemblyman Rivera were introduced this year. For more information on these and other bills, please click here and type the bill number under quick bill search, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at 518-455-5203.
A.10461 – Would establish the New York State Council on Food Policy to develop coordinated, comprehensive state food policies with the goal of providing a plentiful, accessible, affordable, safe and nutritious food supply, comprised of locally produced foods as much as possible, so that all citizens of the State are able to eat a healthy diet, avoid hunger and have the opportunity to support a vibrant local farm and food economy.
A.10467 – Would enact the “food allergy and anaphylaxis management act” which directs the Commissioner of Health to develop a voluntary food allergy management policy and make it available to schools.
A.10712 – Would provide Medicaid reimbursement for care and services provided for obesity in children.
A.10713a – Would provide State-funded Food Stamps to legal immigrants who are not eligible for Food Stamps under the Federal program because of their immigration status. (Passed Assembly)
A.10729 – Would combat childhood obesity by restricting the availability of foods of no or minimal nutritional value in vending machines, school stores, and a la carte luncheon lines on school grounds or property.
A.10866 – Would provide schools with State payments for the purchase of fresh or minimally- processed fruits and vegetables, grown or produced in New York whenever possible. School lunch, breakfast, or other school feeding programs would be reimbursed five cents per federally- reimbursable meal.
The Task Force sponsored a Forum in June at the Legislative Office Building in Albany where Cornell University presented research and perspectives on issues affecting year-round immigrant workers and their employers. Dr. Max Pfeffer from the Department of Developmental Sociology at Cornell and Pilar Parra from the Division of Nutritional Sciences provided a statistical portrait of the wave of Hispanic immigrants who are changing the face of many communities in rural New York. For example, in 1990 the percentage of immigrant farmworkers who briefly visit the State as seasonal migrant workers was 85% but by 2000 that had dropped to 40%, while the percentage of farmworkers who remain in the State between growing seasons grew from 15% to nearly 60%. Many of these year-round workers are bringing family members with them. The result is rural communities with Spanish-language church services and new businesses such as Mexican groceries. The research also touched on the cultural and language barriers that create problems for the workers and employers, and concerns among long-time residents.
The New York dairy industry is increasingly hiring these immigrant laborers and a New York dairy farmer who came to speak at the Forum praised the work ethic of his Mexican workers and credited them with keeping his operation viable. A Mexican immigrant who came to western New York to work on a dairy farm, and eventually became a citizen, told his story and offered suggestions about what type of help the workers and farmers could use, such as English and Spanish language training or the ability to legally drive.
Finally, Mary Jo Dudley, the Director of the Cornell Migrant Program, described the research and Cooperative Extension services her program provides. Students in the Program are currently providing English language training for farmworkers. Cooperative Extension provides Spanish language education on agricultural production topics, and the Dairy Services Program provides safety training, including Spanish translations.
Clearly, the trend in dairy, as well as other agricultural sectors, is toward more full-time Hispanic farm labor. The Forum helped policymakers understand these trends and learn about the program and policy implications for agriculture, rural communities and the workers.
Bronx Kids Learn Where Their Milk
In April, over 40 children and chaperones from the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition and the Kingsbridge Community Center After-School Program visited a dairy farm and New York City reservoir in Upstate Schoharie County with Assemblyman Rivera, to learn about the issues facing farmers and where their water supply comes from, and the relationship of these farms and the reservoirs to the food they eat and the water they drink.
According to Rivera, “When I met with the children from my District regarding their after-school program, I told them about my appointment as the Chair of the Task Force and how I would be working to improve nutrition programs, such as school lunch and after-school meal programs that they and their families may use. I also talked to them about improving the quality of food available in our community, including more local, fresh food from nearby farms. When I was explaining this to the kids, they expressed interest in visiting a farm. Fortunately, during my time in Albany I have developed a good relationship with New York farmers and I organized a visit to a Schoharie County dairy farm and the nearby reservoir which provides drinking water for all of us in New York City. I was pleased that the City recently decided to fully repair the Schoharie Reservoir dam so that our friends in Schoharie do not have to live with the threat of dangerous flooding. We need to work as partners with the farmers Upstate to maintain our food supply and our drinking water.”
The dairy farm known as Crossbrook Farm is operated by the Prokop family. Sandie Prokop is also the Director of New York Farm Bureau Foundation for Agricultural Education.
Assemblymember José Rivera
Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy
Room 536 Legislative Office Building • Albany, New York 12248 • (518) 455-5414
New York State Assembly
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