food access

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

In 2015, Jackie Augustine lost her bid for mayor of Geneva by just 14 votes. Then, she dusted herself off and launched a 501c3 called BluePrint Geneva, designed to create new solutions for old problems. The organization has worked on environmental and economic justice, from composting to a food cooperative.

Augustine joins us to discuss why it can be so difficult to see old problems in new ways -- and how to pull together diverse groups to make change.

  • Jackie Augustine, founder and executive director of BluePrint Geneva, and member of Geneva City Council for 16 years

Foodlink’s emergency food box distributions are going on throughout the Finger Lakes region. 

There are three distributions in Monroe County this week, two in the city of Rochester, and the other at the East Rochester Municipal building. 

But distributions are also taking place in Genesee, Ontario, Livingston, Seneca, Wayne, and Wyoming counties. 

Foodlink said a typical box includes pasta, canned goods, cereal, among other items.

All distributions will take place in large, open spaces like parking lots in order to maintain social distancing. 

A recent op-ed for the New York Times criticized the federal government’s approach to emergency food aid during the pandemic. The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program includes $3 billion for purchasing fresh food for food banks and other organizations serving people in need, but the piece argues that those organizations don’t have the infrastructure to handle the volume currently required. Instead, the article’s authors say the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)’s existing structure is equip to handle the situation.

This hour, our guests explore current emergency food aid, what the situation looks like locally, and what experts say the federal government should do to serve as many people as efficiently possible. Our guests:

We discuss the future of grocery stores with writer Jon Steinman. His book – "Grocery Story: The Promise of Food Co-Ops in the Age of Grocery Giants" – focuses on how consumer-owned food cooperatives can impact food systems and economies.

Steinman is in Rochester as a guest of Abundance Food Co-op, but first, he joins us on Connections. 

Ryan Zunner / WBFO News

Wegmans has become the latest grocery store in New York to accept a new way to pay for food.

The grocery chain now accepts eWIC, a government assistance program designed to give women, infants and children the money they need to purchase staple foods.

Previously, the WIC program had required users to match specific paper checks with specific foods and buy all of the eligible items at once. The state health department recognized that was inconvenient, and some WIC participants found the program embarrassing.

President Trump wants to reduce funding for food stamp programs and change the way the SNAP program works. Critics have called it the "Blue Apron of food stamps," arguing that people in poverty deserve choice, and can't always accommodate specific food preparation needs. The White House, and Republicans in Congress like Tom Reed, point to the need to crack down on fraud and waste.

We explore his proposal and hear from people in the food access movement. Our guests:

There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks about food deserts, and now so-called food swamps, and what's really going on with food access in America's cities. That's been a strong focus of Foodlink, whose chief program officer was just sworn in as one of Rochester's new members of City Council.

We discuss how to make good food available for more people -- what works, what doesn't, from corner stores to SNAP to the farm bill. Our guests:

  • Mitch Gruber, chief program officer for Foodlink and member of Rochester City Council
  • Julia Tedesco, executive director for Foodlink

*Note: You can read the Atlantic Monthly article mentioned during the show here.