“We have a public health crisis in Cypress Hills and East New York, and we must combat that crisis with preventative measures that start with a healthier diet and smarter food shopping,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams.
According to reports, 34 percent of East New York residents are overweight and 38 percent are obese, compared to 32 percent and 24 percent respectively for the city has a whole. Additionally, adults in East New York are twice as likely to have diabetes as the average adult in New York City.
Since January 2005, the Healthy Bodegas initiative, now renamed Shop Healthy NYC, has worked with more than 1,000 shops in East and Central Harlem, the South Bronx, and Central Brooklyn to promote healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain bread, low-fat milk and dairy products, and low-salt and no-sugar-added canned goods.
The program is working: Last year, Shop Healthy NYC increased access to healthier food options in 99 local neighborhood, effectively expanding its reach in over 80 percent of bodegas and supermarkets across Cypress Hills and East New York.
On Wednesday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams joined NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Associate Commissioner and Director of the Center for Health Equity Dr. Aletha Maybank outside of Luna Grocery, a bodega in East New York, to recognize with citations those stores — 21 total– that reached all seven of Shop Healthy NYC’s criteria.
“Access to healthy foods and beverages varies from neighborhood to neighborhood in New York City,” said Dr. Maybank.
“More often than not, communities of color are faced with limited options for fruits and vegetables, while junk food and sugar-sweetened beverages are readily available. By working with community organizations, residents, and businesses, the Shop Healthy NYC program [has worked] to improve opportunities to purchase healthy foods and beverages for the East New York community.”
Michelle Neugebauer, executive director of the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, says her organization has seen the impact that the program has had on the neighborhood. Residents are now looking for and wanting to cook more with fresh foods, vegetables, grains and fruits and small businesses are becoming more and more open to trying out new fresher produce, she said.
“To achieve our goals of healthier and happier Brooklynites, all residents need easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain carbohydrates, as well as healthy beverages like bottled water,” said Adams. “I am proud to work with DOHMH on this important initiative that is building up our communities the right way.”
Adams said he looks forward to building on the success of Shop Healthy NYC by exploring how urban farmers and community gardens can connect their produce with participating stores.