Bolstering the civic engagement of food access organizations across NY state.
Equity Advocates is working to ensure that all New Yorkers, regardless of race or income, can access and afford healthy food. We partner with food access nonprofits in NY and provide them with the tools they need to be more civically engaged, including policy education, advocacy training, and coalition building services. Through this work, we will help build a nonpartisan grassroots coalition of powerful advocates and leaders within the food movement.
A problem we can solve
Disparities in healthy food access
Too often race and socioeconomic status impact who does and does not have access to healthy food. There are two key factors that contribute to a lack of healthy food access in a community and we’re working to address both of them:
Almost 1.5 million New Yorkers live in areas with limited supermarket access. Accessing healthy food is especially challenging for those living in lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color. For individuals in these communities, getting to the supermarket can mean traveling long distances—a feat that can be expensive and prohibitive without a car. Even when healthy food options are available in these communities, the quality and variety are often lacking. There is a statistically significant link between the ethnic makeup of a neighborhood and the number of fast food restaurants. In the US, there are 2.4 fast food restaurants per square mile in majority black neighborhoods compared to 1.5 fast food restaurants per square mile in majority white neighborhoods.
Even if low-income individuals have physical access to healthy food, they often can’t afford it. Disparities in social determinants such as wealth, poverty and low socioeconomic status exist across racial and ethnic lines and can contribute to poor health outcomes. In 2017, the average black household made $39,490 while the average white household made $61,372. Studies have shown that convenience stores like bodegas found in large numbers in cities across New York typically charge 11 percent more than larger supermarkets for the same good. Researchers at Harvard have also found that healthier diet patterns—for example, diets rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts—cost significantly more than unhealthy diets. On average, a day’s worth of the most healthy diet patterns cost a person about $550 more per year than the least healthy ones.
A critical lack of representation
All across New York, a dedicated community of nonprofits are working to combat the disparities in healthy food access. And yet, the voices, priorities and needs of these organizations and the communities they serve are not being adequately included in the policymaking process. Although many of these organizations include civic engagement as a part of their missions, they often lack the necessary resources, knowledge or connections they need to gain a seat at the policymaking table. Despite deep knowledge of their communities and food systems expertise, the leaders of these organizations—often women and people of color—are missing out on opportunities to influence critical policy and funding decisions. Further, the type of community based solutions to food access problems that these organizations are championing are not receiving the public investment or attention that they need from policy makers to truly make a significant impact.
We’re building a powerful coalition
We will help organize food movement leaders into a Coalition of Advocates that will:
Influence significant policy and program decisions.
Our government representatives decide where and how to direct resources. They can offer incentives, support and assistance for programs. They can write new policies or change them. But they can’t know what’s best for our communities without our input. That’s why we need to have a strong voice in government – to ensure that officials are working to create policies and programs that support food equity.
Affect vital funding decisions.
Every year, our government representatives make decisions about how to divide budgets to best serve the needs of their communities. By having a seat at the table, we can make sure the key decision-makers have our partner’s and their communities needs in mind as they sit down to make their funding decisions.
Create a more inclusive and diverse policy-making process.
We believe in the expertise of food nonprofit leaders. However, they and the communities that they serve not being adequately represented and included in the policy making process. EA’s high touch and personalized training program and services are focused on leveraging our partner organizations’ food system expertise and providing them with the technical assistance, skills, resources and back-end support they need to be civically engaged and advance their missions through policy change.