In a recent piece for CITY Magazine, editor David Andreatta detailed plans for a proposed Food Policy Council in Rochester. The council would address the city’s so-called food swamp – “an urban area with an abundance of food that is unhealthy and where healthy food is hard to find or afford.” Food swamps can lead to systemic unequal access to food, perpetuating the structural inequalities that already exist in a community.

So what would a Food Policy Council do? How would it work? Our guests discuss those questions and more:

  • David Andreatta, editor of CITY Magazine
  • Mark Winne, senior advisor to the Food Policy Networks
  • Mike Bulger, healthy communities project coordinator for Common Ground Health
  • Luvene Ford, tenant association president at Keeler Park Apartments, and member of the Food Policy Council planning team

One of the highest rated restaurants in the world, Eleven Madison Park in New York City, is removing all animal products from its menu. Eleven Madison's chef says the current food system is not sustainable, and his focus will be on a world-class menu that is entirely vegan. Is this a one-off, or a harbinger of more change? Even fast food restaurants now offer meatless burgers.

New York Times columnist Ezra Klein argues that vegan and vegetarian options are still harder to find and often not very good. We examine the landscape with our guests:

CITY file photo

Much like many restaurants amid the pandemic, Kainos Restaurant owner Jeff Scott has been taking a beating. For months, dine-in service wasn’t an option but he was able to offer take-out through third-party delivery services like Grubhub and Uber Eats.

But the fees those services charged him were so steep — sometimes as high as 30 percent of the bill — that delivery sales ended up costing him money. Faced with what he saw as an overwhelming burden, Scott severed ties with Grubhub and Uber Eats, bought a van, and began making deliveries himself.

Beth Adams/WXXI News

The concept of a citizen-led council to inform the community's approach to health and food equity has been discussed in Rochester for decades, according to City Councilman Mitch Gruber.

Now, Foodlink, Common Ground Health and the city of Rochester say it's time to create a food policy council.

"We do not have any designs around what this should be," said Gruber, who is also Foodlink's chief strategy officer. "We're going to use experts and consultants from places like Johns Hopkins to help us figure out makes sense here."

Max Schulte / WXXI News

Cars were backed up a block at times as people came to the Boys and Girls Club Thursday to pick up food. 

Most people came by car, while others walked with laundry or shopping carts. Three hundred people were registered for this one and hundreds more for similar events around the area.

From millions of pints of milk being dumped down drains in Britain, to strawberries meant for markets in India being fed to cattle, the pandemic has exposed weaknesses in the international food trade. The global food system is built around countries specializing in specific products -- think cocoa in Ghana and potatoes in Belgium. But when borders close and demand drops, the system goes awry. People go hungry while food rots. So what's the solution? Experts point to the surprise boom experienced by small local farms and regional food hubs. They argue that an increase in diverse local food production creates more sustainable systems.

This hour, we're joined by the team at Headwater Food Hub to discuss its work building a sustainable food system in Rochester, and what that looks like during a pandemic. Our guests:

  • Chris Hartman, founder and president of Headwater Food Hub
  • TC Washington, farm to school program manager, and emergency food assistance program manager at Headwater Food Hub
  • Stefan Schwartz, director of “Headwater at Home,” and value-add merchant at Headwater Food Hub

The Atlantic Monthly has boldly proclaimed, "Foodie culture as we know it is over." The pandemic is "no time for snobbery," the magazine asserts, perhaps missing the entire point of so-called foodie culture in the first place.

So what are we learning about ourselves during this pandemic, as it pertains to cooking? And dining, and food, and our expectation?

Our guests this hour are local chefs who debate it, and they offer their own recipes for dishes you can probably cook at home during a quarantine. Our guests:

Betsy Brightly

The owners of an area farm say the nation needs to strike a balance between public health concerns and getting the economy going again, as many farms struggle during the COVID-19 crisis.

Dean and Betsy Brightly run Brightly Farms in Hamlin and have around 4.5 million pounds of cabbage and hundreds of tons of butternut squash in cold storage. With restaurants and schools closed, the product isn't moving.

It's a similar story for many dairy farms which have had to dump milk; other farms had to plow over crops.

One of the few activities that remains entirely appropriate during the pandemic is time outdoors, and for many people, that includes planting / gardening / growing. As the weather slowly warms, our guests explore all the things we can do to grow our own food; improve our landscape; and more.

But first, WXXI health reporter Brett Dahlberg joins us for an update on the state of COVID-19.

Our guests:

  • Brett Dahlberg, WXXI health reporter
  • Petra Page-Mann, co-founder of Fruition Seeds
  • Nathaniel Mich, urban farming and edible education specialist at Foodlink
  • Pamela Reese Smith, community garden coordinator for the City of Rochester

A team of journalists, chefs, and food lovers have united to launch a new online publication called RochesterFoodNet. It's intended to be a source for all things food: reviews, photos, blogs, videos, and podcasts.

We welcome guests from the new project to discuss their work, their goals, and the food scene in Rochester. In studio: