What don't you see enough of in the South Bronx
On April 4, I attended a conference at Lehman College in the Bronx entitled "Community Food Assessments: A Tool for a Healthy Future"
, hosted by the Public Health Association of New York City
, which is a division of the American Public Health Association
Community Food Assessments
(or CFAs) have been used by communities to look at the ratio of establishments that purvey healthful food versus those that don't, and to determine how a community assesses its own food needs. As most of the panelists at the conference noted, in New York City this effectively meant that people of color in poor communities were disproportionately likely to have fewer healthful food options available to them: more fast food joints and bodegas selling only canned goods; fewer food coops, supermarkets, CSAs
, and other sources of nutritious food.
What was striking to me, however, was the energy from the approximately two hundred people in the room, who represented all sorts of grassroots groups around New York City. There were folks from Just Food
, West Harlem Environmental Action Trust
, the Food Research and Action Center
, the Community Food Security Coalition
, Family Cook Productions
, Hungry Action NYS
(PDF link), the East New York Food Policy Council
, as well as city agencies such as the Harlem District Public Health Office
, and folks from East New York
, the South Bronx, Central Harlem, Williamsburg, and all over. Long-time activist Hilary Baum of the Baum Forum
also showed up.
What became clear to me is that there is an incredible amount of energy around food security, anti-obesity and anti-diabetes activism, CSAs and healthful opportunities in low-income and communities of color, but that it's still somewhat fragmented.
I learned that the new City Council head, Christine Quinn, is making food issues a priority. To that end, she is proposing establishing an Office of Hunger and Nutrition. Quinn, says, that the aim is, "by working across agencies, this office will also find solutions to the high rates of obesity that are plaguing our City, in particular low-income communities and children. This Office will work to bring healthier foods to all New Yorkers—through increasing the number of farmers' markets and making sure they can accept food stamps, and support programs that encourage physical activity for our children."
The fact that this is coming from the City Council, and that the Mayor's office has expressed interest, is a start. But dealing more effectively with the epidemic of illness and lack of food security in the City will require bolder and more drastic action. Stay posted.