BY MICHAEL RICONDA
Nyack – New York State Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee announced her selection to chair the State Assembly’s Task Force on Food, Farm, and Nutrition Advocacy during an appearance at the Winter Farmer’s Market at the Nyack Center.
Joined onstage by Rockland Meals on Wheels President Barbara Kohlhausen, writer and food policy expert Joan Gussow, and Rockland Farm Alliance President John McDowell, Jaffee spoke to a crowd local food-providers, farmers, and customers. She praised the efforts of local farmers and food-providers and explained her own goals of enhancing food quality and access.
“Promoting New York food and farm products, growing our farmer’s markets, our farm-to-school programs, and food based economic development is so beneficial to our urban and suburban consumers and businesses, as well as, of course, our essential rural farmers,” Jaffe said.
The assemblywoman pledged to support legislative line items promoting measures such as food assistance for residents, local farm assistance, and farm-to-school programs while sharply criticizing cuts to the Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program.
Pointing to a study from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health which found that expanding nutrition programs for children can reduce emergency room visits, she lauded the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, which provides fresh fruit, vegetables, and other essentials to low-income children and mothers.
“The science is there. Now is the time to act on the hard evidence and invest wisely in what we know, so we can reverse the crisis of childhood obesity and diabetes in our state,” Jaffee said.
Jaffee announced that she had already penned a letter to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for funding expansions to the WIC program. According to her, similar savings may also apply to food assistance for the elderly, keeping them healthy enough to retain their independence and lowering state Medicare expenditures.
“I will be looking closely to see if our programs truly provide efficient supplies of fresh, nutritious food to keep our seniors healthy at home instead of in hospitals and nursing homes,” Jaffee added.
Prior to extensive suburban development, Rockland County was a major food producer in New York State, providing a significant amount of New York City’s food products until recent decades. Today, farms are dwindling in the county and often require county and state aid to continue operations.