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Cleopatra Fitzgerald

In New York City, 1.2 million residents were food insecure prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that number has increased to around 2 million. How would you decrease poverty and end hunger in New York City?

Poverty brings about all sorts of ills such as hunger, crime, deteriorating health, homelessness and more. The COVID19 pandemic brought limited resources and the closure of businesses that were essential for the poor. Pantries, soup kitchens, hunger hotlines, charities, non-profits, philanthropists, organizations, food banks, etc all need to raise the effort and money to be able to reach millions of unemployed and the hungry. The root causes of poverty can be reduced significantly by: every person having an education, vocational training, etc and by raising women’s wages, the minimum wage, by investing in varied job fields, poverty zones, better childcare, seniors, make sure workers have paid family and medical leave. Reform the criminal incarceration system where discriminatory 

practices leads to biased sentences. Laws against discrimination. Laws for worker’s rights. Make streets safe from crime. Fix the healthcare system. Eradicate corruption in every sector. More eco-friendly. Prevent conflicts/war. Discounted products make consumers save more money. The increased cost of living is keeping people in poverty -there has to be a set of resolutions in the budget to make it affordable to all. New plans to be set up.

What specific steps will you take to increase the participation of eligible New Yorkers in federally-funded programs such as SNAP and WIC?

It was discovered that immigrants were afraid to enroll in SNAP and WIC and many others were dis-enrolling because they feared deportation. Thus, eligible non-citizens are missing their opportunity to feed their children, families, or themselves. There are certain SNAP non-citizens who are eligible with no waiting period including victims, refugees, children, tribes, etc. WIC serves low-income, pregnant, postpartum, breastfeeding women, infants and children up to age five. Therefore, getting eligible persons to participate in any of the various federal funded services can be done through demographics. If millions are already enrolled in SNAP and WIC they can use that data to distribute brochures according to zip codes, districts, nearby institutions like grocery stores, human services offices, DMV, schools, organizations, centers, etc. Volunteers can reach out to immigrant communities and educate them on the benefits of joining or re-joining the SNAP/WIC or other. Another option is creating a campaign in general media in various languages, make it accessible to disabled as well telling them to join the program. Make laws that protect the immigrants from deportation if they are using SNAP or others. The National Immigration Law Center can allay immigrants fears by explaining their rights to them.

Would you increase the administrative power of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy or would you provide a different structure for New York City food oversight? Please specifically include how your plan would a) enhance mechanisms for community engagement and direct democracy and b) unify the City’s public policies related to food (that are currently split among many different agencies and many massive, private, non-profit groups)?

I would combine and accommodate them both if the effects are positive and efficient. If not I would discard

the old ones or modify them. The policies are also from other past Mayor’s administration that get passed down by the next Mayor. The trouble comes if the policies are not modernized, enforced or they are avoided due to the lack of funding or adequate resources. Direct Democracy and community engagement goes side by side. It is the participation of the community making a government more Democratic through electing the leaders fairly, Through enacting policies, making a true difference in their communities. Food oversight is essential. The governments oversight subcommittee discovered baby foods had “dangerous levels of toxic…” -Thus, the research and investigation paves the way for more investigations. The US Food Safety System comprises of many federal

agencies and committees – state and local groups, organizations, the FDA, FSIS, CDC, EPA, NMFS, all work in tandem at times to aid in the food safety process. Legislation regarding food system is observed by the federal, state, local, global laws and what we import, export, affects us as a whole. Every locality, state, etc has their laws. Overall, it is the informed public and supporters of food justice who will make the policies change and even form newer ones. My plan which will be detailed more in depth will certainly give more power to the people and how food is a necessity that will be enhanced by these choices. 

How will you ensure the lived-experiences and expertise of communities of color are incorporated into the development and implementation of policies to build a more equitable food system? How will your policies approach the structural racism that exists in our food system?

Communities of color have witnessed racism since earliest of times in history. As land laborers and slaves they toiled to produce food for the masses. Today, people of color (non-white) in the food industry are paid low wages, are discriminated and many live in poverty. The Food Justice Movement centers on the issues of food oppression, nutritional racism, food apartheid, and racial justice. It is the consequences of those injustices that we see poor nutrition, junk food marketing, food swamps, food deserts, and poverty, diseases, and mortality. Activists, lobbyists, journalists, groups, attorneys, etc can ask the government to change the laws, to educate the people on the dangers of bad nutrition and how big companies are profiting. An example, is how tobacco, alcohol was being marketed in poor communities and producing a cycle of oppression and poverty. To understand the root of the problem people need to read the history and timeline of how this is still continuing. I will ask and listen to communities of color of how they are being impacted by this and distribute surveys where they can suggest the laws or policies that should be changed or created. I will hire staff that are from the community of color so they can be part of the process of transforming to good our economy. I will set new policies that take into consideration the challenges people of color are facing. The policies and laws will be a renewal that will bring to light the truth and recover our economy.

How do you plan to invest in long-term food sovereignty in NYC that moves away from the current investment in Emergency Food as a response to systemic and long term food insecurity?

By analyzing the principles of food sovereignty one by one, appropriate actions to remedy the recurring problems can be taken. For instance, one principle mentions non-violence as a method to prevent genocide, racism, and poverty due to violence in wars, ethnic conflicts,. This violence can be mitigated by preventing violence with laws and policies that give equal access to tribal, or marginalized communities. The disadvantaged can instead of conflict find the factors that more likely can resolve the food insecurity. Not only due to racial differences but look towards: Seniors, disabled, children, etc -how to offer services, grow their own healthy food, recreation, affordable housing, transportation, new infrastructure, all these and more. It is not only funding but diminishing corruption, more accountability, honesty, investigations.

Approximately 230 million meals are served annually by our NYC agencies. The Good Food Purchasing Program, which is currently in the early stages of implementation here in NYC, uses the enormous strength of our City’s food procurement power to improve the local and regional food systems in the areas of workers’ rights, environmental sustainability, local economies, nutrition, animal welfare, and meaningfully infuse racial equity and transparency practices into the food system. We want to understand your commitment to maximizing the impact of the Good Food Purchasing Program in your administration. Can you speak to the resources that you would harness to make this happen?

The Good Food Purchasing Program seems like a reasonable diversified policy, suggestions, guidelines, principles and the agencies collaboration makes it more unified in the mission to help reduce hunger. I would strengthen the good food project by adding more policies and partners in participation. Connecting with the local, national organizations, agencies, sectors, teams, that are making this a reality. I would construct a system that monitors the progress of

the program and make it accessible to the general public -so others can pitch in and even donate. New technologies are also needed.

It is important for students to have access to food that fuels them and helps them succeed in school. Students deserve school meals that are a respected, valued part of the school day as well as a wide range of food options, including Halal, Kosher, and options for people with extreme allergies. How important is school food to you? What would you do to improve the school meal quality, experience, and options?

It is extremely important, billions of lives are affected on the state, local and global level. The options of school food is not only about how palatable the meal tastes but of its overall nutritional value. Students should have a positive food experience where they remember positive memories instead of horrendous ones. Culturally appropriate food in schools introduces students to cultural diversity and new tastes. As I emphasized before, funding should go to invest in the continual improvement of the food industry.The attorney general, school nutrition specialists, organizations, associations can pair up for the cause. Food quality assurance, food grading, school lunch guidelines, etc..should be examined regularly and updated as needed. Offer reduced, discounted or free meals such as by the National School Lunch Program. Schools can give out brochures, courses, nutrition education to teach kids and parents about healthy foods and parents can decide to prepare or purchase their kid’s lunch. Without proper nutrition grades fail, students can become sick and their well-being endangered. Each school district can be analyzed for: nutritious food, cultural food, food safety, how it is being processed and delivered to the students. Even call 311 for school food complaints regarding its cost, menu quality/quantity and so on.

What would you do to improve the quality and nutritional value of institutional meals provided by City agencies (e.g. school food, senior meals, etc.)?

Institutional meals are meals served at institutions such as schools, senior centers, hospitals, day care, clubs, ships, airports, correctional facilities, jails, shelters and more. The food sector to begin with should make sure foods being

produced are healthy for the population as a whole. Unhealthy foods leads to diseases, and serious health

problems even death. Lack of food leads to violence and crimes, such as theft and rioting. Parents, health experts have claimed that schools are providing children with junk food (non-nutritional) making children obese, to have heart attacks, etc. That is why complaints were brought up to the FDA and USDA and changes were made in schools. Prison foods are said to be highly unhealthy and taxpayers then have to pay the costs if prisoners get ill. Taxpayers pay billions in healthcare for prison inmates. Even hospital food is said to be uneatable. The quality of food, food safety and nutrition are part of what makes food to be graded. Nonetheless, a food must be safe and nutritious not merely taste delicious. Each department (dept. of education, federal bureau of prisons, dept. of homeless,….) should be aware of the statistics of food nutrition and a sustainable food system. Countless lawsuits in diverse sectors shows the urgency of this world food system health crisis. Instead of institutions wanting to cut costs by purchasing bulk foods, processed foods, without proper nutrition – they should switch to foods not detrimental to the health of

the person. Eating healthy is said to be NON-GMO, organic, fair trade but more studies are needed to prove it. The funding should go to foods that are beneficial. Big food as numerous newspapers say is making people sick and as long as the industries are profiting, health is at risk. That is why state, local, federal laws need to point on the evidence of how unhealthy foods are creating an economic and health crisis.

How will you work to better support and expand the capacity of non-profit community-based organizations and their staff who are serving meals to older adults through the Department for the Aging, including Senior Center and home-delivered meal providers? (For context, in normal times, these chronically underfunded systems serve roughly 20,000 and 30,000 older adults respectively, and could be better utilized to expand their reach.)

Millions of people are seniors and if one sees the data of senior centers and non-profit community based organizations we can see they are scattered by district and some are faring well while others are in need of more

assistance in funding. Funding for infrastructure, events, meals, activities, plans, etc. Likewise, home delivered meal providers need funding from donors, groups, the city, federal funds. It depends on the situation and policies of who to receive funds from. Now due to COVID19 and more technologically savvy persons, the home delivered meal service is helping millions and the online meal kit delivery generates billions in revenue.

If there are organizations or meal providers that are at risk of losing their business they can merge with others 

and expand their services. They can pair up with other senior centers, grocery delivery services, etc. There should be volunteers or paid persons making potential customers aware of the business. Check demand and supply, consult with an industry specialist to see if it all is correct. The safety and laws to follow. With the pandemic people will see new methods to handle this and take preventive and profitable ways to get the system working again.

What would you do to ensure food workers are treated equitably?

Food workers consist of workers in varied categories such as waiters, fast food workers, cafeteria servers, and more within the food industry. Their problems are various specially when they are discriminated due to their color, disability, age, gender, societal level, immigration status, etc. Multitudes are not given fair wages nor paid sick leave,

many are not promoted, are harassed, and work in unsafe conditions. The worst outcomes they have are: Severe work injuries, death, deportation, exploitation, unreasonably long hours of work, inhospitable work environment, etc. First, I would want them to be treated with respect and equality regardless of their salary or other. Workplace rules should enforce the rule strictly with penalties for disobedience. Lawsuits have shown how workers have taken action against those injustices. However, some are afraid to come forward due to their undocumented status or fear of losing their jobs. There should be a whistleblower protection law that includes all workers and that each workplace follow the worker’s rights laws and permit unions to organize. Laws to increase wages and offer paid, emergency sick leave particularly during COVID19 when numerous workers were infected and others sadly passed away. Workers can join alliances, unions, associates, organizations, that will help them in whatever necessity they have encountered. In order for laws that protect workers to be followed there has to be agencies or supervisors, surveillance cameras, investigative teams, checking if in reality the laws are taking effect.

How would you fortify and expand community-driven efforts towards an equitable, sustainable and resilient food system?

I would gather all specialists in the diverse sectors to give their recommendations, suggestions, knowledge, on how best to formulate plans that work. It starts by local, national, global laws to change the food system and inequalities. We need a system that delivers healthy, affordable, multicultural food that covers all types of persons and

their individual needs. We need big food companies to become accountable for the health of the masses. Therefore, the marketing directed at children and disadvantaged communities can exacerbate the problem. We can see it in the global markets of tobacco and alcohol and how the industry had to display the warning FDA labels regarding cancer. In the same manner, food should have warning labels. The label ordinance was battled by the food industry versus judges, attorneys -the bills if passed could make companies change the unhealthy ingredients.

What did you have for breakfast this morning?


One word you would use to describe the food system?

The one word is “Production” since the food system is continually producing a wide array of foods but other words could be transportation, processing, investing, environment, nutrition, partnerships, laws, policies, demographics all that results in the ongoing circulation of the system itself.

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