Food Works in New York City

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christine Quinn, City Council Speaker, and Dan Barber, executive chef and owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, talk about “Food Works,” a comprehensive plan unveiled by Speaker Quinn last month that calls for a more sustainable food system—a ground-to-garbage approach unprecedented in the history of New York City. The proposals focus on combating hunger and obesity, preserving regional farming and local food manufacturing, and decreasing waste and energy use.


Dan Barber and Christine Quinn

Comments [30]

cynyc from manhattan

Might y'all have a recipe for making green eco-friendly cookies out of dust and 1 cent?

Dec. 11 2010 12:35 AM
cynyc from Ground Zero

Sigh. NPR has turned into the Cookie Show.

And I guess that's where Quinn belongs. Gods only know she hasn't responded over the years to the problems of being a FEMALE WTC GZ initial responder; I tried to tell her.

It got worse for me. ACS took my kid away a few weeks ago for--you ready--CLUTTER. Not Hoarding like the popular TV show--clutter.

Super-fast forward: Taxpayers 400K. Problem: 500 bucks. HRA doesn't do 500 bucks. HRA doesn't do single mothers ('Heroes"--tongue in cheek) who are essentially in wheelchairs and are being punished--lives destroyed--children damaged--because, well they're in wheelchairs.

Very short version.

Quinn is a faux feminist and sometimes I think she is a faux dyke.

They can reach me if they want, but they won't.

Dec. 11 2010 12:31 AM
David Selig from nyc

Thank you for a great show, in fact thank you for all the great shows! I am in the food industry in nyc and share the enthusiasm for this "social movement" based on food and our relationship to our "daily bread". Amongst the many relationships to food that are experiencing growth, is the influx of employable youth trying to make a living in the food world; this new, enthusiastic "labor force" seeking careers in this "healthy"industry are being regulated in their employment relationships by the Labor Departments Laws for manufacturers that do not accommodate all the variables and vagrancies of making edible food. It seems that for fair and meritorious job opportunities to exist, this re-invigoration of the food industry might benefit from labor laws that are re-invigorated as well.

Dec. 10 2010 01:00 PM
Andrew Kessler from Brewster, NY

Folks interested in composting should attend the U.S. Composting Council's annual conference - (late January 2011). Lots of municipalities and commercial composters will be discussing best practices and lessons learned.

Dec. 10 2010 12:53 PM
William from Manhattan

I live in Sugar Hill / Harlem in an area with a number of housing projects and private housing that is occupied by the so-called "economically disadvantaged" or whatever term we are using these days to describe the poor. I see a lot of EBT-cards in use on a regular basis. I badgered the owner of the my corner grocery to carry more, and a wider variety of, produce for about a year. He finally started, but he had to stop after a few months. It almost drove him out of business. Basically, given the opportunity to buy fresh produce - even with EBT - the residents of the neighborhood, apparently, preferred not to, and the store owner had to throw much of it away on a regular basis. Sugary snacks, salty snacks, and soda make up the majority of what I see purchased with EBT cards at that location. Ms. Quinn's belief that she can affect changes in people's health through zoning changes that will bring grocery stores to neighborhoods without them is just more evidence of how completely out of touch she is with both the causes and the potential solutions to the unhealthy eating habits of many New Yorkers - especially the poor. It is easy to eat healthfully no matter where you live in NYC . . . people just make unhealthy choices. Limiting what can be purchased with an EBT card to items that actually constitute "food" (as opposed to anything that is edible) would do much more to promote healthy eating than monkeying around with zoning. Please . . . get real.

Dec. 10 2010 12:49 PM
Julian from Across the Hudson in NJ

I'm so pleased to hear people like Speaker Quinn are out there making a difference and are so passionate about what they do! Refreshing.

Dec. 10 2010 12:39 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Glad to hear Speaker Quinn wants to get rid of styrofoam cafeteria trays. I called I-don't-remember-which place that used those trays & they said they used them before they were the cheapest & they couldn't afford to use something more eco-friendly.

I like many of the ideas mentioned. It might also be helpful to offer low-cost *basic* cooking lessons, just covering the general principles. I get the impression a lot of people in the city don't know how to cook much that isn't heat-&-eat.

Dec. 10 2010 12:34 PM
S Block from Manhattan

editing error below, i left sentence hanging...

the idea that it is inefficient and damaging to the environment... to transport food long distances has been thoroughly debunked, thoroughly debunked by left wing environmentalists with good credentials, card carrying members, but ones who are earnest and educated. not simple minded political opportunists.

Dec. 10 2010 12:34 PM
Shawn Shafner from Ditmas Park, Brooklyn

I am so happy to hear about this report from Speaker Quinn, and will definitely be checking out Food Works. I run an organization called The People's Own Organic Power Project ( that uses art, performance and humor to get people out of the "flush and forget it" mentality, to rebrand the way we think about all waste in our society. I love the way this report takes the entire cycle into account.

Dec. 10 2010 12:31 PM
Girl from Astoria, Queens

I'm so happy to hear that you are trying to have the distribution factor based here. I participate in a CSA whose farms are from Long Island and Upstate NY. Best thing I ever did and will probably never stop. Back to distribution - I have been trying to figure out how this great food can be more available and also more affordable to the general public.

Also caller right now is talking about getting people to cook. A whole generation has lost this "essential" for living. Most people don't know how to cook. Maybe programs to show people how to cook these great vegetables?

Dec. 10 2010 12:31 PM
Helen from Little Neck

What about the waste of food in the public schools and the unhealthy foods that are being fed to our children? How can this program change these problems?

Dec. 10 2010 12:31 PM
Andrew Kessler from Brewster, NY

The Food Works report reads like our business plan, and we welcome the City's leadership in this area. I think it is key to recognize that composting, anaerobic digestion, local food production are happening around the world and around our country. NYC can apply lessons learned for the benefit of all stakeholders. We welcome the opportunity to be part of the solution.
Andrew Kessler, Turning Earth (

Dec. 10 2010 12:30 PM
Kim from Harlem

The city has a huge rat problem. Will the roof and backyard gardens simply be supplying them with food?

Dec. 10 2010 12:29 PM
Sonali from NYC

I study climate change at CU and work at the Greenmarkets. How are you addressing climate change impacts to Northeast agriculture and impacts to other regions that currently import to NYC (such as CA)? Sustainable includes providing production into the future - which is subject to change under global warming by storms, erratic rainfall, heat waves, etc. What role is there in this project for Northeast US climate scientists?

Dec. 10 2010 12:29 PM
Mike from Tribeca

Some interesting information and ideas, but one of your guests mentioned something about how one program would be a good thing "psychologically." Personally, I don't need or want my government involved in any sort of morale-boosting or uplift. We've all heard that empty rhetoric before.

Dec. 10 2010 12:29 PM
eric from harlem

Speaker Quinn made a great point - The fingerprinting requirement for food stamps is extremely harsh, and makes people who are already in a desperate situation feel even worse. After loosing your job, exhausting the good will of friends and family, this is a totally unnecessary hurdle which prevents people accessing these basic services.

Dec. 10 2010 12:28 PM
Nurah Amat'ullah from Bronx

Kindly talk about rethinking work in the emergency food, hunger relief and food security sector - moving from it being volunteer work to a viable local economy stimulator employing local folks in their neighborhoods at a living wage

Dec. 10 2010 12:28 PM
Supacha from Somerset County

Boy do we we need all subjects on this program in NEW JERSEY!

Dec. 10 2010 12:27 PM
Eric from Brooklyn

Wow... I'm very impressed by City Council Speaker Quinn's comprehensive thinking on this. On another key issue: clean energy, is she familiar with the comprehensive approach being taken in Cambridge, MA? If not, i recommend she take a look at the site: . There approach would work here too.

Dec. 10 2010 12:26 PM
Wayne Surber from Brooklyn, Bed-Stuy

Thanks for responding to my comment, but I said "future small business owner" which is an important distinction, because the distribution network from small farmer to guys like me is what makes it extremely challenging to make goods truly affordable in the NYC market.

Are their any online databases that the city is using or looking at building to ease the communication between farmer and buyer? And would the city be willing to staff such an entity to gather and maintain this kind of information or community?

There are already private institutions like and, but I think the city could establish a resource and relationship with these and create something that could be replicated nation wide.

Dec. 10 2010 12:25 PM
Jeanne from Katonah, NY

I wish I lived in NYC so I could vote for Christine for mayor when she runs! These ideas are fantastic!!!!

Dec. 10 2010 12:24 PM
S Block from Manhattan

omg i thought from all the idiocy that this was some random advocate... it's an elected official? and you are all sympathetic to what she's saying?

economists solved these issues a looooong time ago, and not the way comrade quinn suggests.

if fuels cause pollution (eg carbon) then you tax them and build the cost of the pollution into the price of the fuel. then you let the market decide how to spend money, whether to driving lettuce around is more efficient or processing it locally. the idea that it is inefficient and damaging to the environment

dan barber gets a pass because he's a good cook and of course it makes sense to run a farm in NYC and serve some of the most expensive meals in the city (worth it! make me a sammich please!)

but the idea that school lunches should be grown by the parents of the kids is basically asking to take us back about a millenium; in fact it's the system employed where all the undocumented workers came from, comprendes? completely absurd, though it would solve the problem of illegal immigration. of course, NYC as a megalopolis exists where it exists because the erie canal brought the rich productivity of midwest farms out to the seaport here, where the finance, exchanges, insurance, et al industries are based around trade, not spending casual friday weeding the company garden. so basically, the councilwoman is advocating that NYC cease to exist, despite that it is one of the most ecologically efficient places on earth. quinn was no doubt educated in the NYC public schools...

Dec. 10 2010 12:24 PM
Mia MacDonald from Brooklyn

Great, but what about reducing consumption of animal products? This benefits the environment, global warming, resource use, public health and animal welfare. Shouldn't this be at the center of sustainable food policies?

Dec. 10 2010 12:21 PM
Sarah Lansdale, executive director, Sustainable LI from Long Island

Sustainable Long Island’s a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote economic development, environmental health, and social equity for all Long Islanders.
One of our newer initiatives is exploring the issue of food equity - the notion that access to fresh produce and healthy food options is not universal and that some communities are at a disadvantage in the regional food system.
Molding New York’s food system to be more sustainable is key in combating the problem of food access that thousands of New Yorkers, from upstate to Long Island, face on a daily basis. A sustainable food system can provide fresh, affordable food options to low-income communities while also creating hundreds of jobs that benefit New York’s economy.
If we all work together, and incorporate planning efforts, as a region the goal of a sustainable food system is possible.

Earlier this year, Sustainable Long Island has partnered with the local community partners and the Long Island Farm Bureau to establish two youth-run farmers’ markets in North Bellport and Roosevelt, which have brought fresh, nutritious foods to these communities, historically underserved by food retailers and markets.

The markets have provided jobs to local high school students in each community, promoted nutrition and education to residents, contributed to a sense of place, given community members’ greater choice of fresh produce and healthy food options, and helped boost the local and regional economy. Simultaneously the markets have allowed farmers to devote more time to tending their farms rather than traveling back and forth, spending time at the markets, making participating in community farmers markets more appealing and financially sound for farmers.

Dec. 10 2010 12:20 PM
Mike from Brooklyn

A little off subject, but can the city provide tax breaks for citizens and companies that compost?

Dec. 10 2010 12:18 PM
Brad from NJ

What about the environmental and energy costs of raising food crops in the cold northeast as opposed to the warm south? For example greenhouses are wrongly named, they need heat and lights, and a lot of food crops need to start in a greenhouse. Sometimes we forget that the carbon footprint of a truck can be a lot lower than the alternatives. Food production is a complex process, and applying simple thoughts to a complex system will always result in a wrong conclusion

Dec. 10 2010 12:17 PM
Jennifer from Williamsburg Brooklyn

I am a prolific at home baker - I am looking for commercial kitchen space to rent - but do not have much to spend. What do i need to do to get involved in hot bread kitchen??

Dec. 10 2010 12:15 PM
April from Manhattan

Christine Quinn for Mayor! Or VP to Nancy Pelosi for prez. NOT Mayor Wall St. Bloomberg.

Dec. 10 2010 12:13 PM
Wayne Surber from Brooklyn, Bed-Stuy

Thank you to Speaker Quinn and your staff for writing this report. As a future small business owner, an affordable farm-to-market small grocery, I'm excited to hear the work planned for re-building the distribution network in the NYC regional food shed. How can people like me get involved in pushing for this issue and all the others that I've read about in your FoodWorks plan?

Dec. 10 2010 12:10 PM
Mike from Tribeca

I trust your guests will explain what "sustainable" means in this case. Your description of the subject above sounds like typical bureaucrat-speak.

Dec. 10 2010 12:05 PM

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