New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced a sweeping new proposal to change the way food is grown, distributed and consumed by New York City during a Nov. 22 speech at the Food and Finance High School, a Cornell University Cooperative Extension-NYC (CUCE-NYC) site.
Speaking on "Food Works: A Vision to Improve New York City's Food System," Quinn highlighted Cornell's involvement at the school -- home of a CUCE fish farm, hydroponics lab and rooftop garden -- as an example of the new thinking she'd like to support. "Cornell scientists are showing us how to grow food outside of traditional farms," Quinn said. "These ideas may eventually lead to the discovery of the next big breakthrough to feed people all around the world."
In opening remarks, Lazarus Lynch, a junior at Food and Finance, told an audience of New York City council members, food-policy experts and food professionals that the CUCE program is shaping his future. "Through Cornell's hydroponics lab, I'm learning about the latest technologies in food production and preparing for my professional career," Lynch said.
Jessica Mates, CUCE coordinator for Food and Finance, said it was significant that Quinn's announcement was made at the school. "Quinn's proposal outlined a new strategy," Mates said, including healthy eating, supporting local farms and utilizing green technology. "By growing food locally, we can create jobs, cut down on energy use and maybe reduce traffic on the roads," Mates said.
After Quinn's speech, Philson Warner, founding director of CUCE hydroponics, led a tour of the high school. Standing in a typical-sized classroom, Warner told the group "the technologies used in the labs are unique." Several large water-filled tanks, each attached to a filtration system, contain 1,000 tilapia (a common farm-raised fish) apiece. "We can raise enough fish to feed our students and sell in the local community right here," Warner said.
Cornell partnered with the New York City Department of Education to develop Food and Finance on West 50th Street in Manhattan, site of the Park West High School. In August, officials from the school and CUCE-NYC announced $1.37 million in funding had been pledged by Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and New York Sen. Tom Duane to construct an additional 4,500-square-foot rooftop "green revolution" at the school. Warner said the facility will be used for teaching, food production and as a science hub for the New York City area.
More than 400 students prepare for college and careers in the food industry at Food and Finance. The school believes "food is fundamental to personal, social, economic and ecological health." Cornell, as lead partner at the school, "brings expertise in science, sustainable food production, nutrition and other topics," according to the school.
"Food and finance isn't just teaching me how to be a successful chef," said Lynch, who hopes to attend Cornell after he graduates. "It's teaching me how to be a successful leader."
John Mikytuck '90 is a freelance journalist in New York City.