NYC Health Dept. launches new Bronx health program

Almost 100,000 residents in three Bronx neighborhoods are being targeted by a city Department of Health program to increase their access to healthy food.

Already in place in West Farms and Fordham, the department’s Shop Healthy NYC program is expanding to Mott Haven, Hunts Point and Longwood.

Over the past year, Shop Health NYC has worked with community organizations and food retailers in West Farms and Fordham to improve a neighborhood’s food environment by making sustainable changes at all levels of the local food supply.

Suppliers and distributors are encouraged to offer and promote healthy options to retailers who stock stores with their inventory.

The Health Department educates food retailers about healthy foods and helps them stock and promote these foods with tools including in-store prompts for healthy foods and free-standing baskets for fresh produce.

The initiative is funded by the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity, a unit of the Mayor Bloomberg’s office that designs and tests innovative anti-poverty programs.

The expansion comes at an interesting time as the borough’s obesity rate, 30.5%, is the highest in NYC.

In addition, of the 10 community districts with the highest rates of diabetes-related mortality, five are in the Bronx.

“More than 1 in 6 adults in the Bronx is now overweight or obese, and has developed or is at risk of developing related illnesses like diabetes,” said Health Commissioner Thomas Farley. “It is crucial that we address the issue of access to healthy foods in high needs areas. Shop Healthy NYC’s approach acknowledges that we must work on multiple levels to change our environment so that healthy foods are easily accessible to all people.”

The first wave of Shop Healthy NYC launched in June 2012. As a result, 175 store owners in Fordham and West Farms began promoting healthy foods in their stores and changing the ratio of unhealthy to healthy ads.

Forty-five stores received proclamations from Borough President Ruben Diaz and Senator Gustavo Rivera for meeting all seven criteria, which include promoting healthy food and beverages with Shop Healthy marketing materials, offering fruits and vegetables at the front of the store or the cash register, displaying water and low-calorie refrigerated drinks at eye-level, offering and promoting a healthy sandwich or meal combo at the deli counter, stocking low-sodium canned goods and canned fruit in 100% juice, stocking at least two healthy snack items, and removing all advertising from the entry door.

“So many families in the Bronx struggle to buy fresh, healthy food on a regular basis,” said the borough president. “I am excited that Shop Healthy NYC is helping the Bronx become a healthier borough by expanding into the South Bronx.

“This is good news for all our residents who are yearning for access to healthier affordable foods in their neighborhoods,” Diaz continued. “Getting more healthy food options into the hands of Bronx consumers has been a major goal of my office and I thank Shop Healthy NYC for being our partner in helping Bronxites take first steps towards better health.”

“I learned to read a food label because of Shop Healthy. Now when I buy things to carry in my store I look at the food labels,” said Jose DeJesus from Stop One Grocery in Fordham. “People recognized Shop Healthy and were looking for healthy items because of the signs and my participation in the program.”

The initiative is funded by the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity, a unit of the Mayor Bloomberg’s office that designs and tests innovative anti-poverty programs.

Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at (718) 742-3394