Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. Thank you so much. No matter where you are, when you hear this song, you got to just sort of… And you can tell by my attitude, I’m from New York. And I really want to thank Rachel and the entire team because just think about it for a moment, sometimes we take it for granted. Think about the relationship you had with… It could be an auntie, an uncle, or your mom, your dad, someone that no matter what, when you went to see them, they wanted to feed you. It was their way of saying, “You matter.” And no matter what economic status they may have been in, they wanted to take whatever they had and they wanted to bring it to you to say that I love you and you matter.
Food is so significant. It’s not something merely that you put in your mouth and nourish your body. It is an expression, it’s a cultural expression. It is a way, how we share ourselves and so much goes into it. And special people do special things for people by using food to express to them that they matter. The number of people we’ve had under this big tent here at Gracie Mansion, I wanted to just say, we have to pause for a moment and say thank you to the food service workers of this city. It doesn’t matter who’s the mayor, it doesn’t matter who’s the commissioner, all you know is I have people in front of me who are in need. I have people if I’m in ACS, if I’m in the Department of Correction, if I’m a DOE employee, all I know is that I have people in front of me who are in need.
And believe it when I tell you, there are some people that you prepare food for, if you did not give them the meal, they would not have a meal to eat for the entire day, and you do it. I remember during the height of Covid, going to the schools and watching our food service workers prepare meals and do the handout meals. I recall going on Rikers Island visiting the correction officers and inmates and watching how you’re concerned about making sure people are able to eat. There’s a special breed of people in this city that are food service workers. Why are they important to me? Because my mother was a food service worker. She worked at Amistad Daycare Center. She was in the kitchen. All the children knew her and there were children who she knew. In her little Tupperware containers, she would pack food for some of the children that were the leftovers after she finished for the day so they can go home because she knew that little Johnny, little David, little Barkim did not have food at home.
I knew what the children ate that day because mommy would pack those Tupperwares aluminum foil, their plastic bags and she’ll bring it home to feed us. That woman was the food service worker that worked hard, that took care of those children, that was committed to her six children. And because I saw her get up every day like your children see you get up every day, it instilled in me the responsibility that it didn’t matter, Eric, that you were dyslexic. It didn’t matter. You made mistakes and you were arrested, you were rejected. Eric, you stay focused, you can be elected to be the mayor of the City of New York. That is what your children are seeing. Your children are seeing that, don’t think they don’t notice that. Don’t think that they don’t recognize the diligence that you are doing.
And then there’s a final analysis to the food part that was a wake-up call for me that some of you know, and I take my hat off to Dr. McMacken from Bellevue Hospital who first introduced what we’re doing with lifestyle medicine. And when hit with diabetes, vision loss, nerve damage, doctors telling me I was going to be on insulin the rest of my life, following the same course that mommy followed, watching her inject herself with insulin, going through the painful moments of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and all the other ailments that are prevalent in our community only to understanding that it was not my DNA. I like to say it was my dinner. Just eating differently changed the game for me, allowed me to reverse my diabetes, allowed me to reverse my nerve damage, my vision loss. It allowed me to trim down. I was so overweight.
I went from now I don’t have a six pack, I have a case, my body’s tight. But it’s the food. And you don’t have to do it drastically, a little at a time. And what I enjoy the most, I could not cook at all, But I’ve learned how to look at the power of spices and what it means. I learned how to look at the power of different foods and have my southern cuisine used in a healthy way, and you just feel different when you know what you’re putting in your body. My son said to me when I first told him I was diabetic, he says, “Dad, I watch you drive around from service station to service station to put the best gas in your BMW. You mean to tell me you don’t put the best food in your body. You’re investing more in your car than you did in yourself?” That was a wake up call.
We must turn this around one meal at a time, one different recipe at a time, one conversation at a time, so that we can turn the city into a healthy place. All of us in here, all of us, we all know someone that is going through a chronic disease. And when you go through a chronic disease, it hijacks your life. You think about it often. You worry about the next test, the next episode. You worry about how you are going to be able to provide for yourselves. Right in our hand, right on our plate is an opportunity to turn that around. Now, I want you to be part of this movement. This movement is so important and you are in the front line of this movement as food service workers. And so just as I used to say to mommy when she would make those meals for us, I want to say to you, thank you.
Thank you for what you do. Thank you for being part of the city. Many of you are DC 37 members. When I sat down with Henry Garrido and people were talking about what we should do in your contract and how we should settle it and what we should provide, I said, “Let me be clear, when I make this contract deal, I’m not only doing it for those who are working now, I’m doing it for mommy who was a shop steward. I’m doing it for those who deserve to be paid a wage that they can live in their city, a city that they feed every day. They should not be worried about how they feed their family.” You did it for us, I’m going to do it for you. Thank you so much for what you do every day. Thank you.