Albany, NY – State Senator José M. Serrano (D-Manhattan/Bronx) expressed strong support for Governor Paterson's plan to fund healthy food markets in low-income neighborhoods, which was announced in today's State of the State address. He praised the Governor for listening to legislators and constituents, and responding with action and energy.
The revolving loan program for markets was part of a five-point Healthy Food / Healthy Communities Initiative, an effort to combat the epidemic of obesity and preventable disease in New York; according to the Governor, the state currently spends an onerous $6.1 billion in health care related to obesity. The initiative will also work statewide to ban trans-fat in restaurants and junk food sales in schools.
"Food policy is of tremendous concern in my district, which includes East Harlem and the South Bronx. Last year, I convened a task force of community leaders and residents to address the growing food desert," said the Senator, who had also co-sponsored several trans-fat workshops with the city's Department of Health in 2007.
"Access to affordable food has been severely threatened by the economic crisis. But affordable food also holds the key to economic revitalization. There is a great demand for nutritious food in my district, and targeted investment by the public and private sectors will fuel growth and workforce development.
"My office mapped out the closure of at least six or seven East Harlem supermarkets in the past couple of years. Additionally, we encouraged the State Council on Food Policy to hold a public hearing in Harlem and, through a strong organizing effort, were able to draw a great number of local residents to testify at the event.
"During that time, the State Commissioner of Agriculture Patrick Hooker was gracious enough to participate in a walking tour of the community, familiarizing himself with our unique and ever-growing needs. The irony is that my district registers some of the highest obesity rates in the state due to the very lack – not the abundance – of nutritious food.
"Rather than subsidize fast food chains, the Governor is helping to refocus our priorities on institutions that provide affordable and nutritious food."
The Senator added that tight collaboration between the city and state will ensure success. "Having met with Mayor Bloomberg's Food Policy Coordinator, Ben Thomases, I am confident that we can work together to identify the areas of greatest need, and make sure we allocate taxpayer money with utmost transparency and accountability."