On Thursday, June 2, Brookdale Hospital and Live Light Live Right, a non-profit organization that tackles childhood obesity, hosted a conference on “The Healing Power of Food.” With lecturers, a panel discussion and close to a dozen vendors, the day-long conference aimed to change the way the people of East New York and Brownsville approach nutrition
Sarita Dhuper, MD,Live Light Live Right founder and cardiologist at Brookdale Hospital has led several events on nutrition before. But she says this is the first time this conference was hosted at the hospital. Bringing it the hospital, she says, she hopes will generate a community-wide dialogue about food justice, food security and the importance of food for health in general.
For Dr. Dhuper, this dialogue is crucial: “I’ve been here for 21 years at Brookdale, and I just see what’s happening to the kids. Some of them are going for dialysis; some of them are getting diabetes; some of them are getting high blood pressure, and it’s terrible,” she said. “I never saw this in my life and I see this rampant here. I just thought it was my obligation to do something about it.”
The first thing Dr. Dhuper and others from Live Light Live Bright did that morning was educate participants. Live Light Live Bright CEO Mark Tony reported to a stunned crowd at the conference that 30 percent of adults in East New York and Brownsville are obese. That is ten percent higher than the citywide percentage. According to Dr. Dhuper, this is not a result of laziness, but instead “genes that are misfit for genes today.” She advocated cutting back on fatty foods and getting more movement throughout the day in order to keep those genes in check.
Vendors in the Community Marketplace offered more methods to tame those “misfit genes,” in addition to wellness ideas they shared with the Brookdale Hospital staff and community residents who attended the conference. Conference attendees sampled chicken quesadillas packed with vegetables, were assisted in locating their nearest farmer’s market and several took part in a dance workout led by the Let’s Move! Initiative and Live Light Live Right.
Barbara Adamson, a member of Isabahlia Ladies of Elegance Foundation who dished out vegetable stir fry from her table, was happy to share her knowledge and stir fry recipe with the community.
She said, “I think being here is good because we’re actually coming to the community as opposed to waiting for the community to come to us.” Adamson hoped that the event would inspire people to at least attempt to eat healthier.
The day’s lessons certainly made an impact on residents.
“This is proof that regardless of anything, you still can cook healthy and the food tasted pretty good,” said Kenya, 54, an East New York parent who attended the conference. “We have a tendency of over-seasoning our food. But this is just showing us that that’s not what they’re doing; it’s not overcooked and it’s not over-seasoned and it still tastes good.”