Secondary Navigation

Transcript: Mayor Adams Makes School Food-Related Announcement

June 6, 2023

Kate Mackenzie, Executive Director, Mayor’s Office of Food Policy: Morning, and it's still, I think an even more beautiful morning to see all of these faces here with smiles. What a day. And I just want to start by acknowledging the school that we are in. Principal George, Superintendent Kamar, the teachers, everyone that hustled to make this day happen, thank you. Our students, thank you for everything that you do and especially for being here today. I can't wait to learn more from you.

My name is Kate MacKenzie. I'm the executive director of the Mayor's Office of Food Policy. We are here today to highlight the city's commitment to something that far too many people, especially our young people, don't understand enough about, and that's food.

In a city like New York, it's too common for kids to think that food just comes from a grocery store. They really don't understand and think about how it got to that grocery store. In a city like New York, it's not uncommon for a child's dinner to appear at the sound of a buzzer in a bunch of bags from a local restaurant, without thinking about the people that actually cooked that meal in that restaurant. And it is not uncommon for dinner to not appear on the tables of many of our families because school breakfast and lunch is the only meal that those children get at all. In a city like New York, that's our reality.

Food education throughout a child's time in New York City public schools is essential. Through comprehensive food education, students can build an understanding of food's role in our so many cultures in this city, the role of food in our relationships, our history, and our environment. This knowledge can help our children make healthy choices, because when we're bombarded with marketing and media, making those easy choices is not easy.

This day is a long time in coming. Today, with the release of this roadmap, the Adams Administration is acknowledging the role that food education has for our students.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I am so pleased to introduce New York City's mayor, Eric Adams, and thank you for making this moment possible.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you, Kate. You and your team, you have been amazing. I have the Green Bronx Machine that's here, of their entire team, and just really, I think that this is really what Chancellor Banks talks about all the time, about the full development of our children.

So far, so often we ignore all of the aspects of our children in their development on what we need to do. And so, I just really want to thank everyone that's here, as we roll out this ambitious program of how do we look at food and what we should do to make sure our young people and children are prepared. We focus on academic achievement, but we don't focus on the emotional development of a child and the health and welfare of a child. We have been feeding the healthcare crises in our city and in our country, and these young people are so ready.

It's challenging. This is a really, it's time to eat your broccoli moment. We may complain about it in the beginning, but then we do a reflection of our healthcare needs and realize that mama was right all along, eat your vegetables. But we should also make sure food must look good, it must be good, but it must taste good. And we have to focus in the cultural norms that are attached to eating.

And what Kate and her team are doing with the Department of Education and the amazing food service workers is how do we put in place programs like Plant Powered Fridays, Meatless Mondays, how we allow our young people to be part of choosing their meals and finding the right assortment of meals to do so. But it also incorporates the learning opportunities that's with it. So what they learn here, they will take out into their communities and at home, and start educating their family members of making better meal choices.

Many of the chronic diseases that we are seeing, they're food related. And we are breaking away from the belief that it was in our DNA. No, it's not. It's in your dinner. It is what you are serving at home. It's not your lineage. I like to say it's your lunch. It is not where you born, it's your breakfast. And the two primary meals of breakfast and lunch that are served in our school system, they become the foundational meals for many of our children. If they don't get quality meals in our school buildings, they're not finding them around their community. Particularly in Black and brown communities, where you don't have healthy food, you have fast food that's latent with fat, sugar, over-processed, and it really impacts their overall, not only physical health, but their mental health as well.

My mother was a food service worker. She served children every day in Amsted Daycare Center. She was in the kitchen. She understood how important the meal was for the children that came before us.
Little did we know that the food we was placing on the plate of our children was adding to some of the chronic diseases that they were growing up and they were living with. We're turning that around. This is a bold, ambitious step that I believe that's going to lead the nation on having us think differently about the food we are serving our children.

And I want to just thank the Chancellor for being willing to look at all of these aspects of how do we make sure our children are prepared for tomorrow. This is not easy. When you start talking about examining food, children stop me sometime on the street and say, "I want my pizza and my hot dog again. What are you doing?" These are tough times, tough times to make these tough decisions, but there's going to come a time where these young scholars are going to look back at this moment and they're going to say, "This was the right thing to do at the right time," as all of us are now leaning into the attachment of the food that we serve and how it is feeding the healthcare crisis we are facing.

Childhood obesity, childhood diabetes, or some of the mental health issues that we are seeing, science is showing us over and over again of the relationship between what we eat and how it impacts our body. I know firsthand. Many know of my story of reversing my type 2 diabetes because of changing my diet. We can do this together. This is a bold step and we are proud to take this step together and ensure we start having healthy food and education in our school system. Job well done.

MacKenzie: Thank you, Mayor. One of the things about food is that it just draws out stories, and I have learned so much about Chancellor Banks through stories about food. I've learned how he grew up, his relationships with some foods. I think his grandmother was a food service worker.

Chancellor David Banks, Department of Education: Yes, she was.

MacKenzie: To have this man, not just as our chancellor, but my kids' chancellor, means something really important to me.

Chancellor Banks demanded that we take our time with this roadmap, to talk to principals, to talk to parents, to talk to superintendents, to make sure that we got those perspectives. I adore Chancellor Banks and welcome to the podium.

Chancellor Banks: Oh, Katie, thank you so much. I appreciate that. Wow, what a wonderful, wonderful way to start the day. Good morning everyone.

Audience: Good morning.

Chancellor Banks: It is so good. In fact, mayor, this is one of the best things about when you're in an elementary school, the kids sing to you.

You say, "Good morning," "Good morning, Chancellor Banks," and the smiles that you get. Man, just look at this. Look at this little one next to you. Isn't that priceless? All of them. And this is part of the reason why I enjoy this role so much.

I want to thank everybody who did organize for today's event. Katie, you talked about the hustle. They hustled. Well, they really hustled this morning. Because mayor, before you got here, they were all set up outside for an outdoor event. And then the rain came and we saw everybody hustling inside. And so, kudos to everybody who shifted from the outdoor to the indoor to make this event happen. And that's about the resilience of what it means to be educators. That's the resilience of being community. Working together, shifting as we need to shift on behalf of our kids and making it all happen.

I was so impressed outside to see all of the food that is being grown outside. So they just said to me, all the food education that is taking place, kids are learning about how to grow healthy food.

I could not agree with the mayor more. If you want to shift this process of an unhealthy populace, it has to start at the youngest ages. Absolutely. It is very difficult to get adults to change their eating habits, because it's cultural and it's physical. If you've grown up eating ham hocks, it's hard to stop doing that.

But for me, I will tell you, just personally, I started to read and learn about nutrition myself when I was in the 11th grade. I was in high school and I read a book, Back to Eden. This is going way, way back. About, basically there are herbal and natural remedies to anything that ails us. I read a book called Cooking with Mother Nature by Dick Gregory. I know, I'm going way back. And I read that. Nobody directed me to read it. I read it on my own. And it talked about the harmful effects of food if you're eating the wrong kinds of food, what it actually does to the body. And as an 11th grader, I made my own decision to stop eating red meat. That was me. I have not eaten any red meat since the 11th grade.

But as a result of that, my four children have never had red meat in their lives. So they didn't even... They've never missed it because I made sure that they had healthier alternatives. Now, there's a lot of other stuff that I eat that I shouldn't eat, but as the mayor would say, we are perfectly imperfect. This is still a journey for all of us, and that's what this blueprint really represents. It is a journey that we want to put all of our kids on because before you blink... Look at that face. Before you blink, she's not going to be a little girl anymore, and she'll be older.

But if we can look back as an administration and say that we put these beautiful children on the right path to healthy eating it can transform their lives, and it will transform generations because they will ensure that their children are also going to be on a path to healthy eating, not just because mommy said it, but because they learn for themselves why they should eat healthy. When you change the mind, then you will change behavior in a way that will be sustained.

Kate, I thank you so much for leading this work. I thank all of you who are here, especially my friends from Wellness and Schools who I've known now for quite some time. Your partnership and all of you has made all the difference. But I will tell you, I thank the mayor most of all because the mayor, his own personal narrative, his own personal drive is the reason why we are doing this. It's not me as a chancellor. He found a welcome ally in this, but it has been the mayor who before he was even the mayor, said, "If I get to be mayor, we are going to make sure that this is going to be a healthier New York, and it's going to start with our children." Mayor, I thank you so much on behalf of all the young people in New York City. Appreciate you, man.

MacKenzie: We are all growing up, but you know what else I want to say? Because also in the part of growing up is recognizing that we have a lot. This movement, this food education has grown up thanks to so many of the advocates behind me and in this room. From Wellness In The Schools, Marian is here, this school, you all are benefiting from some of the great recipes and trainings that Wellness In The School provides. I have just learned this morning that this school will be receiving the cafeteria enhancement experience that Liz Accles and Community Food Advocates made really possible for the City of New York. There's also from Spoons Across America, Coalition for Healthy School Meals, and so many of these organizations behind me.

But I really want to spend a moment here because I'm going to bring up a woman from the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food Education and Policy. We have a gem in this city, and I'm an alum of that program at Teachers College that is so important to food education. This program has evaluated many of the premier programs and curricula across the city. It has a food education coalition and hub that organizes more than 100 different other city advocates in the city. So Jen Cadenhead, Dr. Jen Cadenhead, if you would please come and say a few words.

Dr. Jen Cadenhead, Executive Director, Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education, and Policy: Hi, thank you to Principal G, your staff, definitely hustling this morning, but importantly your students for hosting. And thank you to Mayor Adams for your vision and Chancellor Banks for supporting all of this and the whole administration, especially Kate and her team for choosing children's health. I have to say that school meals 30 years ago are not the same as they are today. We actually, in this country, have very strict standards for food and nutrition in the schools, and we actually have the healthiest meals of all Americans in school foods. And New York City actually has stricter standards than almost any city in the nation. And yet on any given day, if you walk into a school cafeteria, no matter how beautiful the meals are, you'll find kids choosing to eat junky ultra processed snacks instead of the really nourishing meals that are being provided. Frankly, they really need to eat the school meals.

I've actually eaten the meals recently and they're pretty good. And I mean, I don't know, Mayor Adams, you're saying it's a stretch, but they're actually really good meals. So those meals are important not just for body development, but also for brain development. And that's why we're super excited at the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food Education and Policy at Teachers College Columbia University because our program in nutrition started the field of nutrition education, evidence-based nutrition education in 1909, and we've been advocating for this day for decades. So kudos to everyone involved. 

Everything about this program really builds on the work that this mayor's administration has already rolled out, cafeteria enhancements, offering plant-based, scratch cooked, culturally appropriate meals, which are in partnership with Wellness In The Schools, and so many more things. I'd just like to thank again them for the visionary, just efforts to be able to bring this into this schools. And I'd also like to thank the City Council, especially Council Member Brewer, who has a long history with my family and council members Joseph and Abreu for their support of Teachers College and the Food at Hub Coalition because with their support, we're able to do research advocacy and bring together a citywide coalition. And if anyone's interested in learning more about what's happening right now in New York City schools with food and nutrition education, please come to our conference this Friday at Teachers College Columbia University, and I'm really looking forward to this blueprint and this future. Thank you.

MacKenzie: Thank you, Jen. And thank you. I also want to recognize the City Council and their efforts to support food education and all things food. Council member, Gale Brewer, I've known for a very long time. In fact, my first job in New York City, my executive director said, "You got to meet Gale. You got to meet Gale Brewer." And whether it is fighting for school meals, fighting for emergency food, fighting for local food, I adore Gale Brewer, and I want to thank her for being here today.

City Council Member Gale Brewer: Thank you very much, Kate. I want to give the mayor credit. We were borough presidents together and we had five borough presidents. And we would go for lunch, but we would eat our food, and then we'd have to spend, Melissa and I, the women did the organizing for the lunch. There were two women out of five borough presidents, and we had to make sure we would go into the cafeteria or into the restaurant and say, "Do you have the right food for borough president from Brooklyn?" So to his credit, to his credit, his absolute credit... And I'm also here to say thank you to PS 75, whether it's Mr. G or Jen Zunt or all of the cafeteria workers, teachers, parents, and there are a lot of wonderful migrant families here in this school, and the entire neighborhood has come to support them. Thank you, PS 75.

I'm also a big supporter of Kamar Samuels, who is a superintendent. He lives in the neighborhood. His kids go to the schools in the community, and he's a great superintendent. Thank you very much, chancellor for appointing him.

So yes, I do have a long history. The kids will love this. So when previous administrations not this one because I believe not only in nutritious food but fresh foods. And I also believe strongly in the green market, and I believe strongly in the farmers who are upstate, who need to be part of our economy because we need to purchase from the upstate farmers. So when I was in the previously in the city council... I've been around for a very long time, but when I was in the council before we passed local law 50, which basically says the City of New York, including DOE, needs to purchase locally. And DOE has been the best in doing that. Thank you very much, Chris. Thank you.

I'm all for plant-based if it's fresh from the upstate farmers. That's when I'm for fresh. I also, I want to thank Wellness In The Schools, the deal we really selected the most wonderful organization. Nancy Eason and I met 18 years ago, and I could see all of her work up to now. And you have picked a terrific organization, and I want to thank the mayor and the chancellor because I know that you're not only putting chefs in the cafeterias with the workers together. Everybody has to work together. But also you're redoing the cafeterias themselves at 50 million now, and you're going to do more than 117 already done. It has to be a combination of food and how the cafeteria looks, and that all takes a lot of effort. And I thank you very, very much.

I also want to say that we have a bill of the City Council pending on nutrition, which we look forward to working with you on. And I want to say that we have worked every single day. We have GrowNYC. We have food for the seniors on the west side, and you'll love this, chancellor. Just recently with high school on the Brandeis Campus, Green Careers. Now we have a garden. You have no idea how long that freaking garden took to make. We have a garden. The students built a beautiful, beautiful display for the fresh fruits and vegetables from Grow NYC. They're growing them. We have chickens, we have fish, and we have bees. And we're all there in this one garden.

Now, we have a youth market on June 13th. We have four so far. We had 60 strollers outside purchasing the food seeing the chickens in the coops. They get the kids like the bees and love the fish. That's what New York City can offer, and it's so special. So I am a big believer in what you're doing. I just hope it comes from our upstate farms. Thank you very much.

MacKenzie: Thank you so much. And speaking of gardens and local food, I want to acknowledge our director of Urban Agriculture, Qiana Mickie is here. We have a new grant that's going to bring even greater volumes of New York State food into the schools. And, I think we want to bring up the carrots and the corn, and then we'll do some Q&A.


Question: [Inaudible.]

Mayor Adams: I didn't get the first part.

Question: As we speak right now, there's a [inaudible] report about a bribery scheme having to deal with the cafeteria.

Mayor Adams: Right. And, you want me to speak to what?

Question: [Inaudible.]

Mayor Adams: We understand that rebuilding that trust is crucial. And this is a multi-billion dollar agency where we not only have a high quantity of food that's purchased, but just materials. And, the chancellor has really dug into, with his team, making sure that any purchasing power that we have is done effectively.

I'm not familiar with that exact case, but we started out from the beginning with the chancellor looking over how we're purchasing items? How do we make sure that there's no fraud or abuse inside our system? And, today's announcement is an extension of that. We want to make sure we have good quality food in our school system. And, looking at what Councilwoman Brewer stated about how do we purchase locally, how do we make sure that our children are educated around food? And, again, we strongly believe that that trust must be built on many different levels.

Question: Do you have a timeline for when you achieve goals [inaudible]? Because, I know there are various [inaudible].

Mayor Adams: You want to talk?

MacKenzie: Sure. Thank you for that question. Centering food education is our first step. And drawing that line in the sand today, we know that food education can happen in science class, in math class, in reading class, an afterschool program, and just the culture of the school itself. So, we want to make sure we're doing some baseline understanding of where schools that are offering food education that's happening. And, we'll make sure that we're looking, also, from an equity lens at making sure that schools that are not doing enough, and we'll focus on those schools over the next several years to bring them into the fold with prioritizing food education.

Mayor Adams: And this is a long process of the food system in our country. It has been moving in the wrong direction for so long. And this is a herculean task. And people ask us all the time, why are you doing it? Why are you taking up this challenge? Like we've done in so many challenges. And we know it's not going to be perfect. All of a sudden, you're not going to go from hamburger to health. That's just not a reality. But, it has to start. And, that is what this chancellor's willing to do.

The chancellor's saying, "If we start here, we show the good results, we match it what we're doing in health and hospital with plant-based meals as a default menu, we match it with what we're doing in every place that we're feeding people, it will continue to grow and we will see the results we're looking for."
But, it has to start. And so many people have been afraid to start because how large the task is. And, there's so many other issues we're dealing with that we'd rather say, "Let's just ignore that and let's just focus on the grades of students." No. What good is a student with an A grade that is breathing out of a pump because of asthma? Or, that's dealing with the continuation of taking insulin because they have type 2 diabetes? Being economically healthy, but physically unhealthy is not what we want to produce. We can do it all at the same time.

Okay. Do some off-topics? All right. All right, Chancellor. Thanks a lot.

Question: Hello, Mr. Mayor. Do you support Correction Chair Dwayne Sampson's failed efforts to unilaterally appoint his own executive director yesterday, in violation of board rules, and his larger apparent effort to weaken oversight at city jails? Do you stand by your appointment of him?

Mayor Adams: Say that again? Dwayne Sampson, he…

Question: So, yesterday, he divorced or rebelled against his efforts to unilaterally appoint his own executive director in violation of board rules. And then, more broadly, they accused him of trying to weaken the board's oversight of city jails. So, I'm just curious if you stand by your appointment.

Mayor Adams: Yes. I'm not sure of the particular incident you're talking about, but I'm a big believer you appoint the board members and you don't interfere with the activities that they do. All the boards that I appoint, they will all tell you that the mayor appoints us, and he steps back and allow the boards to carry out their jobs.

Let's be clear, the Department of Correction has, historically, been a dysfunctional system, and we must be willing to sit in a room. There are going to be moments of debates, moments of disagreements, moments of very heated conversations, but it's healthy. That's what our society is about. Our society is about healthy debates. We could disagree without being disagreeable. I think that Mr. Sampson is bringing a level of experience on how to run a board, and they're going to go through their moments. I go through my moments with myself. So, why are we not going to go through moments with others?

And so, he has to navigate that. The board has to navigate that. We need to fix the Department of Correction. And, when you look at the success we have carried out under Commissioner Molina, we are going to continue to get there. In a growing process there are painful moments. We must turn pain into purpose, and that is what this administration is doing.

Question: As part of your plan to have migrants in private residences, how much will you pay [inaudible], and will you be taking migrants into your own home?

Mayor Adams: So funny you say that, because I was speaking with the staff to see if I can put a few families into Gracie Mansion. I'm a big believer in leading from the front. And, if it doesn't go against legal protocols, because there are protocols that are in place that I can't use the building any way I want. But I don't have a problem if I could put a migrant family in Gracie Mansion. Because I want to lead from the front. That's the type of leader I am. I'm in the subway system talking to people who are homeless, because I lead from the front. I slept in a HERRC, because I lead from the front. I'm on the train riding the subways so they can be safe, because I lead from the front. I want to eat healthy so that people can eat healthy, because I lead from the front.

Generals don't send their troops into battle and ask how is the war? They lead their troops into battle. I'm a general that leads my troops into battle. So, yes, I'm more than willing to use whatever space I have to deal with this crisis. We are looking at the plan of how do we take the $4.3 billion, $4.3 billion, and go into local communities. If someone is struggling in their mortgage and they have a spare bedroom, and we could find a way to say, "How do we help you pay your mortgage because of whatever economic challenge you're going through?" By, at the same time, helping the migrant crisis, we're willing to do that. I'm trying to deal with this crisis with all the tools that we have available to make sure we resolve it.

Question: [Inaudible.]

Mayor Adams: What we're doing with the churches is $125 a night, and we are looking at the same version of how do we do it cheaper than what we are paying now. And so all this is part of the concept. There are multiple level of things that are happening. And so, while we're looking long term as looking at private residents, we're dealing with what we have in front of us right now. So we're not just focusing on one aspect of this. We're thinking long term ahead if we don't get the help that we need from the national government. I got to solve this problem. That's what I want people to really understand. I must solve this problem no matter what help I get from anywhere in the country. I'm the mayor of New York City, and I have to solve the problem that's facing New Yorkers.

Question: Can I ask you about this report yesterday from the court-appointed monitor about the Neighborhood Safety Teams.

Mayor Adams: Yes. 

Question: It found that it was still stopping and frisking a lot of people [inaudible] percent of the [inaudible] unconstitutional. Are you concerned with the [inaudible]?

Mayor Adams: Okay. I was one of the leading voices of the abuse of stop and frisk. We need to be really clear on that, and we need to look at the history of this. I testified in federal court, the federal judge mentioned me in her decision on why she ruled against the New York City Police Department. We were experiencing, at the height, 684,000 stops and frisk a year. We are down to around 15,000… 684,000 that Eric testifies in federal court, we're now down to 15,000. Over 90 percent of the people who are the victims of gun violence and homicides are Black and brown. Over 90 percent of the people who are carrying the illegal guns are Black and brown. And so we are going to make sure that constitutionality is protected. We're going to use public safety and justice. But I think that lost in these numbers of this substantial decrease is what I carry today. This. This is what's lost in the numbers.

This young girl, her name is Claudia. And I'm going to use my moment today to talk about Claudia because she's often missed in this conversation. Claudia was 17 years old, born in Queens, promising career. Her biography, everyone should read it. This young, beautiful child, an African immigrant came here, volunteered at a young age, started tutoring children, learned how to volunteer. She was very courageous, outgoing, authentic in the love that she showed. The skills she learned, she passed on to other children. She joined the Boys and Girl Clubs of Queens. Her interest was in giving fashion and showing young people how to use fashion to improve her life. Young Claudia, 17 years old, this beautiful child was shot in the head while sitting in the car, unintended target. These are the people, these are the children I'm talking about.

So when the monitor writes her report, we should also talk about how many of the almost 10,000 illegal guns we removed off our streets. My first month in office, I lost Officer Mora, Officer Rivera. I went to a hospital where an 11-month-old baby was shot in her head. I've been to more crime scenes than any other mayor. I spoke to more parents that lost their children to gun violence. So it's good, great, be your statistician, but I got to stop Claudias from losing their lives. And that's what I hear from the public. And I'm going to do it. We're having public safety and justice. We went from 684,000 stop, search, and frisk to around 13, 15,000. We're doing a successful job, and we're going to continue to improve, but I got to keep this city safe.

Question: [Inaudible] any changes to the Neighborhood Safety Teams?

Mayor Adams: We're constantly a change in motion, constant change in motion. But I hear people say they want to get rid of the Neighborhood Safety Teams. It's not about the teams. It's about ensuring the proper enforcement of the laws in our city. And that's what we're going to do. So it doesn't matter what team you're on, we're all part of team New York, and team New York means public safety and justice. We could have them both. And when you look at the numbers, the numbers don't lie. 684,000 when I fought against the abuse of stop, question, and frisk, now down to 13, 15,000. I don't know the exact number, but we have a substantial decrease in the numbers.

Any tool that's abused is the wrong tool to be abused. We are not going to allow any abuse of the tools. But I never want us to forget why we're doing this. We're doing it for Claudias in this city. Too many young people are using guns. Too many young people are the victims of gun violence, and no one seems to care that is constantly doing a statistical analysis. I got to do the analysis of over 90 percent of the people who are using guns are Black and brown. Over 90 percent of the victims are Black and brown. That's a real number that we cannot ignore.

Question: [Inaudible.]

Mayor Adams: Without services?

Question: [Inaudible.]

Mayor Eric Adams: I'm sorry. Say that again.

Question: [Inaudible.]

Mayor Adams: We need to look at that analysis in that report of the issues that we saw was around child care for those with disabilities, which we came in and changed the scenario to make sure that we had seats available for those with disabilities. I don't know about the lack of services. I will have to look at that report and see exactly where that information came from. Okay. Thank you.


Media Contact
(212) 788-2958