When Grandma Says “Eat Your Vegetables,” She Means Business
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New Yorkers living in poor neighborhoods have a hard time getting fresh food. Without a healthy diet, they can suffer significant health problems, including chronic conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension. To combat this problem and to take advantage of Mayor Bloomberg’s commitment to expand the availability of nutritious, affordable food, The Trust, working with the Atlantic Philanthropies, United Neighborhood Houses, started Healthy Food, Healthy Communities, a program that recruits older adults to help people in low-income neighborhoods eat better.
In 2010, with matching grants from the Atlantic Philanthropies Community Experience Partnership, The Trust made $334,000 in grants to United Neighborhood Houses of New York, Isabella Geriatric Center, United Community Centers, and the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project. The groups have started and managed projects in which volunteer elders and youth work on urban farms, run a wholesale fresh food buyers’ club, sell food at local farmers markets, and grow food on public housing grounds. They serve as community advocates, planners, planters, and chefs, helping the people in their community find and prepare healthy (and delicious) food.
Rey Pinder, a radio host and community gardener in East New York, Brooklyn, says, “The closer to the table the food is grown, the better.” He helps manage one of the gardens and teaches local children how to plant and harvest crops. Lena Saldana, a volunteer with Isabella Geriatric Center’s YUM Fresh Food program says that you can eat more nutritiously at home than you can at a restaurant—and at a much lower price. Joan Bryant a resident of the Ingersoll Houses in Fort Greene, explained the importance of building community cohesion through the program. “We have been living here for years and…we didn’t speak. We just went about our own business. Now it’s quite different . . . [residents] see us in the gardens and they ask questions.”
The program quickly took off in the first three sites. In the first year, 111 seniors and 25 young people volunteered, elders led more than 30 healthy cooking classes and started or improved 25 community gardens and farmers’ markets. Overall, 50,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables were distributed throughout Washington Heights, Inwood, East New York, and Fort Greene.
This year, the Trust has awarded three additional grants to organizations in the Bronx, Queens, and one that works city-wide, extending the reach of Healthy Food, Healthy Communities to all five boroughs. We expect to double the number of volunteers and significantly increase the amount of fresh produce for families in poor neighborhoods. Seven grants totaling $543,000 were awarded in 2011 to the agencies below to sell affordable fruits and vegetables, expand community gardens and farmers’ markets, establish new fresh food distribution sites, and involve more local agencies and community members in efforts to increase access to fresh, affordable food in their community:
- Bronx Works: $70,000
- Just Food, Staten Island, and citywide:$70,000
- United Neighborhood Houses, citywide: $123,000
- Isabella Geriatric Center, Washington Heights/Inwood: $70,000
- Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project, Brooklyn: $70,000
- Queens Community House: $70,000
- United Community Centers, Brooklyn: $70,000
In addition, The Trust also continues to support the Food Bank for New York City with a grant of $700,000 to provide food to feeding programs and to make grants to 10 programs that help people apply for public benefits.
On June 23, 2011, Mayor Bloomberg proclaimed “Healthy Communities Through Healthy Eating Day”:
“As we strive to create a greener, healthier New York, we are proud to celebrate the local organizations that encourage the vitality of our city’s residents and promote the benefits of fresh and nutritious food. That is why we are so pleased to join The New York Community Trust, Atlantic Philanthropies, and United Neighborhood Houses in supporting Healthy Communities Through Healthy Eating…All across the city, Healthy Communities Through Healthy Eating is helping older New Yorkers cultivate local food eating and growing…These programs not only serve current city residents; they also will enable future generations to learn how to plant, and cook with delicious fruits and vegetables.” Read the entire proclamation >>