Two Bronx City Council members are taking strides to ensure that New Yorkers stay fed while also transforming food deserts into neighborhoods where residents can get nutritious, cost-effective food.
After citing some dismal Bronx health statistics, including the high obesity rate in the south Bronx versus downtown Manhattan — 42 percent and 4 percent respectively — Councilman Ritchie Torres along with Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson announced a $38,000 investment aimed at providing south Bronx residents affordable access to healthy food.
The funding will go to the NYC Department of Health to distribute health bucks throughout the south Bronx to be used at green markets throughout the borough and city.
Those coupons, which are part of the city’s SNAP program, allow residents to redeem $2 worth of either fresh fruits or vegetables at these open air markets such as the west Bronx’s Poe Park, where the announcement was made.
“To live in the Bronx is often to live in food deserts…in a place like east Tremont and Belmont, for every supermarket there are 37 bodegas,” Torres said.
“There are virtually no super markets that offer fresh food options to residents in the Bronx, who are often surrounded by fast food restaurants that sell food that is essentially glorified poison,” he added, calling on more access for green markets and affordability for fresh food.
In Gibson’s district, which consists of both housing developments and homeowners, she wants the green markets to be expanded towards food desert areas west of Highbridge, saying, “there’s an opportunity, there’s an appetite there.”
Currently, there are 29 green markets spread throughout City Council District 16.
The councilwoman also addressed on the lack of supermarkets throughout the borough.
“We struggle with that, there’s a reason why there’s no Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in the Bronx,” saying that many major supermarkets don’t see an avenue for profit.
“It’s about the mindset I believe, it’s about people believing that there is a market here in the Bronx,” Gibson added.
She’s also pushing to extend the cold weather lifespan of green markets, which close in late November.
For residents in the west Bronx, the Poe Park green market is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays until Nov. 24.