As part of an effort to bring fresh fruit and vegetables to parts of New York City where they are difficult to find, the city is planning to issue 1,500 new food cart permits to vendors who agree to sell produce in designated neighborhoods.
Mayor Bloomberg and the speaker of the City Council, Christine Quinn, who teamed up on the effort, said yesterday the new produce carts would help improve the health of New Yorkers.
"By bringing in these green vendors, bringing in fruits and vegetables, we'll connect those residents with access to high-quality food that will help address the hunger in those neighborhoods and also help address the obesity problems in those neighborhoods," Ms. Quinn said.
A lobbyist for the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, Richard Lipsky, a critic of the plan, said the proposal doesn't take into account a lack of demand for fresh produce in parts of the city. The produce carts would be in competition with stores he represents.
"It's putting the supply cart before the demand horse," Mr. Lipsky said. "If you don't generate the demand, putting more sources of access out there will not address the problem."
A study by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found that 3% of bodegas in Harlem carry leafy green vegetables, compared to 20% of bodegas on the Upper East Side.
Mr. Bloomberg said there is demand for produce even in areas where consumption is low, and he argued that small bodegas have a tough time finding the space to display and refrigerate fruit and vegetables.
The new permits will be divided among the five boroughs, with 500 going to the Bronx, 500 to Brooklyn, 250 to Queens, 200 to Manhattan, and 50 to Staten Island.