Nutrition for Underserved Communities

Last summer this blog reported on the opening of a new farmers market in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx at 138th and Cypress Avenue. Recently, a study published in American Journal of Public Health shows that vouchers that permit low-income women to shop at a local farmers’ market increase fruit and vegetable consumption in poor families. Rules for the federally-funded WIC program are being changed so that more purchases of fruits and vegetables will be allowed under the program.

Now, the New York Times reports on a new initiative proposed by the City to license a fleet of 1000 fruit and vegetable carts that would operate in sections of the city where people in very low income neighborhoods currently consume very little fresh produce. (Additional coverage in the Daily News). The proposal immediately drew opposition from trade groups representing Korean-owned small groceries, citing unfair competition. Representatives from those groups did acknowledge that there were few options for fresh produce in parts of Uppper Manhattan and the Bronx that would be affected by the program, but stated that “Eventually,” Mr. Park said, “they’ll find out the reason why there are no grocery stores where they are. And sooner or later, they’ll be tempted to move to where there are other grocery stores,” implying that there are reasons businesses don't want to operate in certain neighborhoods. For additional coverage of community reactions on the issue, Read More.

Recently I had a chance to ask a community activist from Central Brooklyn who's hoping her organization will open its own farmers market what she thought of the plan. Her organization is nuetral on the idea, but her main insight was that this plan would be most succesful in hispanic neighborhoods. "This kind of thing is something people are used to in Latin American countries."

And, in the Daily News' "Voice of the People" section, one reader had this to say: "Fresh fruit and vegetable wagons and carts used to be very common. You would hear the fruit man calling out the goods he had and the prices. "String beans, 10 cents a pound," he might say. String beans don't sell for 10 cents a pound anymore, and people don't buy their produce at curbside either. If there were people who wanted to buy produce from a street vendor, there would probably be plenty of street vendors already out there selling to them."

Here is a summary of some other efforts across the country to increase the supply of fresh food markets in underserved communities. Finally, don't miss this humorous video documentary about the staple of Bronx diets: the Bodega (mildly offensive language).


Anonymous said…
nutrition education has to play a larger role in getting people in low income communities to eat better. Limited food access is not always the problem. People need to be reminded that they are not alone when fighting poor eating habits society has its' part to play.