Mayoral candidate Kathryn Garcia discusses food insecurity in the south Bronx

COVID-19 Food Czar, Kathryn Garcia and mayoral candidate discusses plans to fix food insecurities in the south Bronx.
Courtesy of Kathryn Garcia

As COVID-19 Food Czar, Kathryn Garcia helped provide more than 130 million meals in 2020 and has done her best to keep stomachs full throughout the pandemic.

However, the former sanitation commissioner and mayoral candidate has noticed that while Hunts Point serves as the distribution hub for the rest of the city’s food, the Bronx continues to suffer the most from food insecurity.

In her role as Food Czar, Garcia worked with Hunger Free America to set up an office in the south Bronx.

She recently laid out a plan that will help those struggling with food insecurities, especially those in the south Bronx.

Key points include:

  • Fund fresh and culturally relevant food—not just canned goods. Garcia will expand the emergency food (EFAP) program to provide fresh food for the most vulnerable New Yorkers.
  • Fight food waste. Garcia will incentivize donating unsold food—and levy fines for non-compliant businesses.
  • Support and grow urban agriculture. From rooftop gardens and hydroponic systems to schoolyard green spaces and production farms, New York City will need a resilient urban agriculture system that provides opportunities for green infrastructure, green jobs, stewardship and education.
  • Construct the GrowNYC Regional Food Hub to provide much-needed modern and energy efficient cold storage to serve local food distribution.
  • Encourage the adoption of the Good Food Purchasing program across the region and fund the New York State Farm to School Purchasing Incentive.

“Fundamentally, food insecurity is about income inequality,” Garcia said. “Choosing the food that you want to eat is the freedom everyone needs to have. The Bronx is the hub of our food supply chain; however, the borough suffers from the highest rates of food insecurity per capita. This is unacceptable. Even if we produce enough food, we need better jobs with higher wages to ensure workers don’t go to bed hungry. We will double down on job growth and economic mobility to address the root of the problem.”

She told the Bronx Times that even before the coronavirus countless people in the south Bronx waited on long lines at food pantries, lacked Wi-Fi and were unemployed. The pandemic has only exacerbated the problem.

During the past year, Garcia has seen firsthand how difficult it is to survive in the south Bronx and access food. With the highest diabetes rates in the city and very few quality supermarkets, she knows things must change.

Garcia explained that not only needs to be more food pantries and farmers markets, but better employment opportunities.

“Why can’t you afford to buy the food you need to buy?” she said. “It’s because you don’t have the income to support that.”

According to Garcia, revitalizing the south Bronx and solving their food insecurity will not happen overnight and will take outside of the box thinking.

The mayoral candidate understands this is a digital age and people should be learning how to do jobs on computers such as programming and coding. Every public school should have access to laptops or Chromebooks every year, not just due to the pandemic, she said.

“We can’t be the wealthiest city in the country and allow this (high food insecurity) to be true,” she stressed. “How do we fix it and make it so people aren’t waiting on long lines. How do we make it so they can get access to food?”

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