Mayor Adams joked on Tuesday that his efforts to get healthier foods into New Yorkers’ diets is “political suicide” because city residents are so enamored with eating junk food.
“Every time I take away a hot dog, I lose a vote,” Adams quipped Tuesday morning at Gracie Mansion. “You can’t do this if you’re desire is to pander to parents.”
The mayor was speaking to reporters after a closed-door meeting with members of Congress and health experts where they discussed how to overhaul the nation’s eating habits and what to recommend when President Biden convenes the first White House conference on food policy in 50 years in September .
Among those in attendance for the meeting were Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan), Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) and Dariush Mozaffarian, a professor at the Tufts University School of Medicine.
Espaillat, who represents Washington Heights and Harlem floated the idea of bringing chefs to city schools to make healthy fare more appetizing for kids’ notoriously picky palates, predicting that such a policy would be a “smart investment.”
“We often go to a nice restaurant because we liked the way the chef cooks,” Espaillat said. “Why not have a chef in every school drive the menu for the children in a healthy way, a productive way? This is a smart investment and one that I think will make improvements for our communities.”
On Tuesday, Adams described Biden’s conference on food issues as a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to reset how Americans approach food and to reverse the ill-effects that unhealthy eating causes.
It’s an event that also coincides with his own policy goals. The mayor has made reforming the city’s food policies a priority for months and often speaks about his own nutritional awakening after suffering from diabetes.
One month after taking office, he introduced so-called vegan Fridays to the city’s school system — a move that’s taken heat from kids who’ve complained about the new offerings.
But Adams said Tuesday that he believes his efforts are starting to make a dent in getting New Yorkers to think more critically about how they eat.
“We have to start with our children. They learn healthy ways,” he said. “They go home to mommy and daddy and they teach mommy and daddy healthy ways.”
When asked about how the city is approaching parents directly to change their habits, Adams compared his approach to the Karate Kid.
“People think they’re washing the car and all of a sudden they realize they’re learning karate,” he said. “Do you know right now at Health and Hospitals, we have the default for plant-based meals — a default, you get that automatically? If you don’t want it, then you ask for something else … We must not feed the chronic disease. We must feed ways of healing.”