On the city's first annual Food Day Monday, an array of tempting foods and delicacies were on display at Baruch College. Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Christine Quinn marked the day by attending the first city-sponsored food manufacturing expo.
Over 100 food manufacturers attended the expo, representing the kind of small businesses that Mayor Bloomberg said were critical to the city’s economic recovery. New York entrepreneurs from around the world were the focus of the expo.
Immigrant-owned businesses are the most numerous amongst the city's new food-related ventures, said Seth Pinsky, president of the city's Economic Development Corporation, but they have a higher rate of failure than their non-immigrant counterparts.
“Immigrant businesses tend to have very good local networks," he said, "but because by definition the people that own them haven't been in the country as long as non-immigrants, those networks are not as strong nationwide."
The food expo event was one attempt to address that problem, according to Pinsky.
The expo also launched a new competition open to New York City immigrant entrepreneurs. Four businesses will be chosen to receive sponsorship from the city's Economic Development Corporation to attend the National Association of Specialty Food Trade Summer Fancy Food Show next June in Washington, D.C.
Almost a year to the day since the launch of Speaker Christine Quinn's FoodWorks initiative for a sustainable food system, Quinn said she was eager to promote improvements in the food sector as a path to job creation and economic development.
“Food is one area particularly with our immigrant and ethnic focus that the mayor mentioned where we could be doing much better than we’re doing,” Speaker Quinn said. "We can put people to work through food. And the best way to end hunger is to get somebody a job that gives them enough money to feed their family."
Quinn said she wanted to see an increase in the food sourced in New York through initiatives to bring food production and manufacturing home to New York State. She added that after the U.S. military, the government of New York City was the second largest food purchaser in the world, which gave the city enormous purchasing power.
Some products, like romaine lettuce supplied to schools from California-based manufactures, are brought in from other parts of the U.S. because New York lacks necessary manufacturing facilities.
Quinn said the city’s exported just 7 percent of goods and services compared to the national average -- 12 percent.