Political Eats

Manhattan Borough President Wants YOU to Eat Local Legumes

Photo: Patrick McMullan

While Christine Quinn announces a new food policy to the City Council this morning, Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer is asking his e-mail list to sign an NYC Food Pledge and Charter. Each signee vows to “eat in a manner guided by the environmental, economic, and health consequences of my food consumption,” and to “create a food system consistent with the principles set forth in the NYC Sustainable Food Charter.” Hmmm — a politician asking his constituents to sign a food pledge? That’s a reversal of the trend! So what are those ten principles you should keep in mind when deciding what’s safe/healthy/ethical to eat?


Food has a profound effect on the health and well-being of a community. The purpose of the NYC Sustainable Food Charter is to set forth the values and principles essential to a just, vibrant, and sustainable food system, and to spur the creation of such a food system for all New Yorkers.

1. Human Right
Access to nutritious, affordable, and culturally appropriate food is recognized internationally to be a basic human right. New York City should fully develop its foodshed and improve distribution systems in order to ensure easy access to healthy, sustainable food in all communities, particularly those with limited resources or at high risk for diet-related illnesses.

2. Equality
The harmful environmental, economic, and health consequences of the existing food system fall disproportionately on low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. New York City should erase this disparity and should combat hunger, obesity, and diabetes.

3. Health
It is indisputable that diet affects health. New York City should be committed to a food system that promotes increased preparation and consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and tap water. New York City should encourage moderation in the consumption of food, such as sweetened beverages, high fat animal products, and highly-processed food, which contributes to obesity, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases.

4. Environment
The food system, largely due to the livestock industry, is estimated to cause one-third of the world’s global warming. To lessen environmental harm, New York City should reduce greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the production, distribution, storage, preparation, sale and disposal of food, and should increase the amount of food produced and processed regionally by farmers using sustainable practices.

5. Economy
Strong local food economies lead to prosperous and healthy communities and are the key to building truly sustainable food systems. While national and international food systems will continue to co-exist alongside local systems, New York City should support the creation of a robust regional foodshed by working with farmers, processors, distributors, and retailers to harness our urban buying power.

6. Labor
The food industry is one of New York City’s largest employers. New York City should invest in improving and creating new local and regional employment opportunities in food production, processing, sales, distribution, and disposal. Employees in sustainable food systems should work under safe conditions, be paid a living wage, and be exposed to opportunities for entrepreneurship.

7. Education
Education regarding nutrition, agriculture, cooking, and the environmental impact of food choices, leads to healthier communities. New York City should provide to all residents the skills, training, and knowledge necessary to participate in the creation of a sustainable food system.

8. Community
New York City’s food culture is as diverse as its population, and the region possesses a rich agricultural history. New York City should support farming, food preparation, and distribution practices that preserve community traditions, cultural diversity, and cherished diets, within a food system that fosters personal and public health, and local agriculture.

9. Collaboration
To advance the development of a sustainable food system and thereby improve the health of residents, communities, and the environment, New York City should encourage open and vigorous dialogue among government agencies, community organizations, educators, healthcare providers, food industry representatives, local and national businesses, non-profit advocates, faith communities, and residents.

10. Food Policy
New York City’s government institutions at all levels should engage in ongoing development of food policy aimed at ensuring individual and community health, climate change mitigation, economic development, and equal access to healthy food. These policies should be grounded in core principles refined and adopted through democratic debate

Manhattan Borough President Wants YOU to Eat Local Legumes