Klein, Crespo bills fight obesity

by Patrick Rocchio

Two local lawmakers are calling on Gov. Cuomo to sign three bills aimed at curbing the scourge of obesity in the borough and throughout the state.

Senator Jeff Klein and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo held a press conference at the Bronx Y.M.C.A. on Friday, Sept. 13 urging Cuomo to sign the bills, which have already passed the state legislature, that they believe would increase the availability of fresh produce in areas with high rates of obesity, encourage green gardens that grow food to sprout up on vacant tracts of city-owned land, and expand wellness and education programs.

Klein sponsored all three bills in the Senate, while Crespo sponsored the wellness bill in the Assembly.

“The research is clear,” said Klein. “Nothing poses a greater health risk to children than obesity.”

He noted that the Bronx’s obesity rate is well above average, and continuing to grow.

“Making healthy, affordable food options readily available to high-risk communities, while increasing access to physical exercise are critical to reversing this trend,” he said. “These bills will not only streamline coordination between state agencies to better address obesity, but will also create food and marketing campaigns targeted at high-risk populations.”

Crespo said that Latino communities were suffering tremendously, with a disproportionate amount of children overweight or obese.

“The obesity and diabetes numbers are out of control,” he said, adding that 40% of of Latino children between the ages of two and 19 are either overweight or obese, compared with 31.7% of all children, and that one in two Latino children will suffer from Type Two diabetes at some point in their lives.

The legislators were joined by Paloma Hernandez, CEO and president of Urban Health Plans; celebrity personal trainer Donovan Green; 596 Acres and New York Community Garden Coalition’s Karen Washington; and Bronx YMCA teen coordinator Yoko Lirano in making the case for passage of the bills.

Lirano said that reaching out to youth in settings like the YMCA can encourage them to better manage their eating and exercise habits.

Green, a celebrity trainer to Dr. Oz, made the case that awareness is important to encouraging youth to lead healthier lifestyles.

Hernandez said anything that gives community members, especially youth, tools to adopt healthy eating habits is critical to fighting obesity.

Washington called it a blessing when she can tell and show a child that a tomato doesn’t grow in a supermarket.

She said in an interview that food manufacturers selling processed foods have been targeting youth with advertising for years, and that urban farms give youngsters a chance to learn where food comes from and can see it grow.

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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