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Mayors getting involved with nutrition policy with new food policy task force

Mayor Thomas Menino
Mayor Thomas Menino
In a sign that mayors are going to get involved in the setting of nutrition policy in the farm bill, the U.S. Conference of Mayors has established a food policy task force headed by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

In a speech in Washington today at the group’s first meeting, Menino noted that more than $960 million federal farm bill dollars have been spent in Boston over the last five years, representing nearly $1.5 billion in economic activity.

Menino noted that the money is spent through food stamp benefits, school meals and the food bank and pantry system as well as the special nutrition program for women, infants and children. The farm bill has the opportunity to play a major role in the economic health of the city, not only in terms of jobs, but in terms of health-related costs, he noted.

“As the president develops his budget plan and the Congress looks at funding levels for the farm bill, we want to make sure that this legislation is also a ‘food bill’ that will enhance the health, the economy and the well-being of America’s cities,” Menino said.

The mayor has enacted a number of policies to promote health and nutrition in Boston. In 2004, he banned sugary beverages from Boston Public Schools and his office said consumption of sugary beverages is down. He launched the Boston Bounty Bucks program to double the value of food stamp money at the city’s network of farmer's markets.

Last year, Boston launched a “Re-think Your Drink” campaign, removing sugar-sweetened beverages from city properties, including police and fire stations, libraries, municipal buildings, and food trucks on city streets.

“All across our cities, a local food revolution is taking place — we see it at our farmer’s markets, in community gardens, in our schools and in small and growing businesses — from food trucks to incubators for new food producers and caterers,” Menino said today.

“I see this revolution in Boston every day and I see how these initiatives bring people together to build stronger, healthier communities. As mayors, we must ensure that all of our residents take part in this revolution.”