Quinn calls for major changes in Hunts Point Market in the Bronx—a major distribution point for the city’s food, in fact, the largest food distribution center in the world. More than 2.5 billion pounds of produce pass through this epicenter that is home to over 200 businesses and provides 12,000 jobs.
“If you eat something in New York City, there’s a good chance it passed through Hunts Point,” said Quinn. She calls for massive expansion. The overcrowding has forced vendors to pollute the air by using overflow storage in diesel trucks.
“It’s no wonder the Hunts Point community has the highest asthma rate in the city,” said Quinn.
She proposes new rail terminals, even a few of which she said would eliminate millions of truck miles. Though she admits to not having all the answers today, she maintains the importance of revamping Hunts Point Market: “This is one of the biggest infrastructure projects in a generation. If we only get one thing right in our whole plan, this needs to be it.”
To the Table
The last step in the food cycle before consumption is the supermarket. Obesity and hunger are both problems in our city, both issues relating to the availability of healthy food.
“Six billion dollars. That’s the amount we spend each year on obesity-related medical expenses in New York state. … Nine dollars. That’s the amount of food stamps the average family is expected to make last for a full day,” said Quinn.
Though food stamps are increasingly accepted at farmers markets, Quinn calls on the city to stop fingerprinting food stamp recipients—a process that she said is time-consuming and has deterred many from getting these federally funded dollars to pump into the local economy.
“Some New York neighborhoods have high-end supermarkets on every corner. Other neighborhoods—like Jamaica, Central Brooklyn, or the South Bronx—have such little access to healthy food, they’re known as food deserts,” noted Quinn.
Quinn jested about her own figure, saying that she doesn’t always choose salad greens over fast food.
“The Post recently said that I looked slim lately,” she said.
Quinn hopes to continue with the successes met in the previous year of the FRESH program, which provides financial and zoning incentives for grocery stores to be built in these communities.
Packaging and food account for a large portion of waste and the city spends millions of dollars to ship to landfills and incinerators. Packaging aside, food itself accounts for more than a fifth of the city’s garbage.
Composting drop-off services at Union Square Green Market currently bring in 300 tons of scraps annually. By expanding the program to the five boroughs, the City Council expects to almost double that mass of fertile ground. What once cost money to ship to the dump, will yield bountiful crops to feed the city.
It’s not just about saving money on waste disposal, but also capitalizing on the gold that can be sifted out of the garbage dump.
Biofuel is a budding industry. The city is home to over 20,000 restaurants. The opportunity to draw the industry to New York is ripe, claims Quinn. The council recently passed legislation to increase the market for this fuel in the city as well. All heating oil sold in the city must now contain at least 2 percent biofuel.
As far as packaging goes, Quinn is confident that if the city said they want less packaging, businesses that want a piece of the New York market will comply.
“And remember—we’re the second largest food buyer in the country. When we say we want something, businesses tend to listen,” declared Quinn.
If Quinn’s ambitious plans are realized, it may indeed ripple outward to affect the food industry in the nation or the whole world.