The world is preparing for normalcy as the number of fully vaccinated individuals increases and hospitalizations due to Covid-19 decrease. Strategists with strong leadership skills and innovative designs are needed to help in adapting to the return of pre-Covid experiences.
With the restaurant and foodservice industry looking for a new vision, Shaun Donovan offers an impressive portfolio. The Harvard University graduate has authored an extensive Food Manifesto as he campaigns for the City of New York’s next mayor. His three-pronged food policy platform focuses on ensuring the food industry, including the hospitality sector can thrive, bringing fresh, healthy food to local communities and finding innovative solutions to reduce waste through the city’s food system. The plan to aid the restaurant industry includes partnering with landlords to create affordable retail leases that will allow restaurants to run a profitable business and make it easier for new businesses to open.
Growing up in New York City, Donovan witnessed a suffering economy, poverty, and insufficient food resources around him. He was inspired to help advocate for change and often volunteered in homeless shelters during his college career. “I went on to work for a nonprofit that was rebuilding the same neighborhood I had seen burning as a kid. This was just the start of my interest and involvement in neighborhood revitalization,” he shared. Donovan additionally worked for 5 years for Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the wake of 9/11 and became a budget director just before the Ebola breakout. “There’s no question that in the midst of a crisis, again and again, Shaun has displayed true leadership qualities,” noted Loews Hotels CEO Jonathan Tisch.
A passion for food and community influenced Donovan’s energy during the start of quarantine. Having deep relationships with individuals in the food industry in New York, he listened to the problems the industry was facing and analyzed potential solutions. “I grew up with Dan and David Barber and when Covid-19 hit, I heard from them and others in New York’s food world about the endeavors the food industry faced. With my experience in crisis management, I knew our current emergency food system would not be up to the task with the number of people who would be food insecure.”
Shaun Donovan soon launched the Common Table program, raising over $1 million dollars. “Within a week, we were able to get restaurants in five of the hardest-hit neighborhoods cooking again,” he said. These restaurants were able to serve hot and fresh emergency meals to surrounding communities.
The Common Table program additionally developed an app that allowed emergency meals to be delivered to individuals’ homes or to nearby restaurants for easy pick-up. This way, no one was waiting in long lines or putting themselves at risk of Covid exposure. A sense of community was reestablished as restaurants that were able to reopen put their energy and time into how to help local neighborhoods.
With the right leadership, Donovan believes that the city could get hundreds of thousands of dollars into the restaurant industry with FEMA funds. Thinking long-term, he trusts that once New Yorkers and tourists fill the streets of the city once more, the food industry will quickly gain the support and funding needed to thrive. “As the city prepares for more restaurant and retail reopenings, I plan to fill vacant storefronts with pop-up restaurants. This will give smaller businesses the opportunity to advertise their brand and gain attraction.” With regard to regulatory structure issues, Donovan plans to streamline the startup of small businesses and provide them with easy access to technical and financial support through nonprofit organizations.
Technology has undoubtedly proved to aid all industries throughout the pandemic’s endeavors. Donovan promises a real commitment to ensuring that all technology resources are being put in place to ensure people feel safe. “The key is to advertise this to the world and showcase the safety measures at hand. If someone is flying into LaGuardia I want them to be able to open an app and have access to all safety precautions and vaccination updates.”
Shaun Donovan has made impressive strides in reducing homelessness and led the strategy for President Obama. He shares that street homelessness isn’t just a problem concerning shelter, but concerns mental health, substance abuse, and criminal justice as well. “What solves this is supportive housing; permanent housing with on-site services. The street homeless community needs a place where they can get their medication or substance abuse counseling. The coordinated entry system directs them to supportive housing as soon as they leave the hospital, setting them up for success.”
With Covid, underlying health disparities across neighborhoods were huge due to a lack of access to healthcare, health insurance, and fresh food. Donovan’s 15-minute neighborhood plan hopes to increase access to fresh food resources. “This plan would allow every New Yorker within walking distance of their front door, access to everything they need for a life of opportunity– great schools, jobs for their family, parks, and fresh food,” he said “There would be a focus on where there is access to farmers markets, green carts, and other means of getting fresh food quickly.” Donovan envisions implementing more food programs across the city and increasing partnerships with nonprofits to expand awareness of food insecurity.
“I recognize that our food system is regional and so building partnerships with growers across the region to strengthen our regional food system is important. There were hurdles at the beginning of Covid, but I have hope we can rebuild and gain access to fresh food for the community.” As people return and/or look for work, Donovan encourages people to take advantage of Biden’s unemployment resources and reach out to healthcare resources for vaccine availability information.
For more information about Shaun Donovan’s campaign visit his website