Sunday, July 26, 2009!

Congress is abuzz with legislation for a healthcare reform bill right now, that would ideally provide a public option plan in addition to the traditional option of private health insurance. This would help ensure many more Americans would have access to healthcare than currently --namely the poor and people of color, who are already subject to institutional racism within the healthcare system. And as I've written before, healthcare is -- and should be -- a universal right.

This bill may not be perfect, but it's better than what we have now. And about the cost? As Tim Foley, healthcare blogger for notes, "if we fix health care, it won’t bust the deficit; if we don’t, it will." For those worried about their own taxes going up to pay for this bill... if you make less than $350,000 per year you don't have anything to worry about. According to Tim, "if you make less than $350,000 a year, your taxes won't go up, and you can keep your employer health care as long as your employer decides to keep the plan (which is totally up to the employer, as it is now)". For more detailed information as to the cost of the bill he recommends this website.

To help this bill get passed, please sign this petition from Credo Action and help NYC for Change tell others to contact their representatives by helping out with their phonebanking work this week.

Reforming healthcare right now is very important. And it's also important to keep in mind that as Robert Kenner, Director of Food, Inc. said on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart [start at 15 min], "We're not going to be able to fix the healthcare system until we fix the food system."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Health Disparities (or "Medical Apartheid") and Bronx Health REACH

I just read an article in the NY Times about Obama's comments regarding the arrest of the Harvard director of African American studies. It seems as though people are angry that Obama is speaking out about racism, because this may mean he is not speaking on behalf of all American people - just about his own people. But this is untrue. President Obama is speaking out about this instance of racism (even though he may not have known all of the facts about the situation) because he knows about the issue of institutional racism. Just because this episode happened with the arrest of a perfectly innocent man doesn't mean it's just a one-time occurrance. It just happened to gain publicity because Mr. Gates is the Harvard director of African American studies. Mr. Gates was mistaken for another "black man" breaking into his own house, and was not even shown the police officer's badge when Mr. Gates asked to see it.

No - I think this is what Peggy McIntosh was talking about when she wrote White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack 20 years ago. There is indeed institutional racism, and Blacks, Latinos, and other "minorities" suffer because of it. As a matter of fact, Bronx Health REACH filed a complaint with the Attorney General last year regarding the issue of separate but unequal care among teaching hospitals in NYC. CNN recently got wind of this story and decided to feature the issue on Anderson Cooper 360. Here is the clip.

Bronx Health REACH is a CDC-funded organization which functions under the auspices of the Institute for Family Health. I've been interning with Bronx Health REACH since February, working on the formative research for a social marketing campaign, in order to understand children's attitudes towards eating vegetables and fruits and change these attitudes to improve consumption of these healthy foods. The goal of the social marketing campaign is for children to be involved in developing a "brand" for vegetables and fruits that can be more easily "advertised" and promoted among peers, in order to change the culture of unhealthy eating habits in the South Bronx. It came about because our Nutrition & Fitness Workgroup realized traditional strategies for improving eating habits among children weren't working. I started a blog for Bronx Health REACH with many food and nutrition resources that I've come across and been using during my work with REACH.

Another thing - Bronx Health REACH is actually a nationally recognized Center of Excellence in the Elimination of Disparities, and has the opportunity to fund other Coalitions that want to do similar work as us. The Request for Proposals for new Coalitions is now out, and can be found at the bottom of the page on the Bronx Health REACH website ("Legacy Project Funding Opportunity").

Monday, July 20, 2009

Foodprint NYC - Please help now!! Call your City Council member!

Hi Friends,

It’s with great excitement for our possibility of addressing the current state of the environment and our food system that I’d like to tell you about the NYC Foodprint Resolution and ask for your help. The "FoodprintNYC" initiative, which was introduced to the City Council on June 30, 2009, would create greater access to local, fresh, healthy food, especially in low-income communities as well as city-run institutions. By increasing the availability of local, just and sustainably-produced food, New York City can decrease its ecological "Foodprint" - our food system's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change through the production, processing, packaging, shipping, storage and disposal of food. The resolution could help the city meet its goals of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, while increasing access to local, healthy food to NYC, particularly underserved communities.

The resolution was pushed for by the NYC Foodprint Alliance, which is made up of dozens of non-profit organizations such as Just Food, Oxfam Action Corps NYC, Slow Food USA and World Hunger Year. It proposes “FoodprintNYC,” a citywide initiative designed to lessen the impact the City’s food choices and production systems have on climate change through the launch of a public awareness campaign, greater access to local, fresh, healthy food, and the mobilization of the financial and technical support needed to sustain these efforts, especially in low-income communities as well as city-run institutions. It is meant to build on PlaNYC, which aims to reduce global warming and encourage environmental awareness, yet does not address food and farming as it stands now. The resolution also builds upon the environmentally-friendly policies and programs recommended in the Manhattan Borough President’s 2009 report “Food in the Public Interest.”

If you’ve seen movies like Food, Inc. or What’s On Your Plate?, or read books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma, then you understand the impact that decreasing food miles and supporting local, sustainable food can have on our health and the future of our planet.

I’m proud to have been involved with the NYC Foodprint Alliance and am glad our City is one of the first to take initiative at beginning a movement that I believe should occur in every city. However, in order for this resolution to become law, we need your help! So far, 16 Councilmembers have signed on as co-sponsors; the resolution needs 26 co-sponsors to even be considered for a vote. If you don’t currently live in NYC but know someone that does, please pass this message along to them. NYC residents: we need you to reach out to your City Council members and ask them to co-sponsor this resolution, which Councilmember Bill DeBlasio has been kind enough to enthusiastically introduce, with the support of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

Here is a video introducing FoodprintNYC and a message from Bill DeBlasio.

Here’s what you can do:

The NYC Foodprint Alliance is asking you to call your City Council member and ask them to support FoodprintNYC. Calling your representative is fast, easy and effective. Every call that you make in support of or against a policy issue gets recorded. Calls are usually short and you are rarely asked questions, as staffers are busy and want to take down your position and get you off the phone! To find your representative and voice your support for the FoodprintNYC resolution, follow these easy steps:

1. First, find your city council member and the phone number for his or her legislative office (not the district office).

2. Next, find out if your council member has already supported this resolution.

3. If your city council member has not yet signed on as a co-sponsor of the resolution, please call and urge him or her to support the resolution. Feel free to use the following simple script:
  • Hello, my name is ______________ and I am a constituent.
  • I live at/in ___________ (give street address or neighborhood so they know you are a constituent).
  • I'm calling to urge Council Member _______ to support Resolution 2049 calling for FoodprintNYC.
  • At this time you’ll likely get thanked for calling, and then the purpose of your call will be recorded. If they do ask for more detailed information, here are the key points:
• The resolution was introduced in the City Council by Bill de Blasio on June 30, 2009.
• It is the first NYC resolution to exclusively address climate change through our food system.
• It calls for a citywide initiative to create greater access to local, fresh, healthy plant-based food, especially in low-income communities as well as city-run institutions.
• Increasing availability and use of local, healthy food decreases significant pollution caused by the packing, preparing and shipping of food.

If your city council member has already signed on as a co-sponsor of the resolution, please call and thank him or her for their support. Feel free to use the following simple script:
  • Hello, my name is ______________ and I am a constituent.
  • I live at/in ___________ (give street address or neighborhood so they know you are a constituent).
  • I'm calling to thank Council Member _______ for their support of Resolution 2049 calling for FoodprintNYC! I am so glad to see the connection between food and climate change being taken seriously.

On behalf of the NYC Foodprint Alliance, thank you for your time! :) Kelly

The NYC Foodprint Alliance is a collaborative network of food justice, environmental, anti-hunger and human and animal rights organizations working for a more healthy, just and sustainable food system for New York City. To join the Alliance or for more information, contact Nadia Johnson at Just Food,

Sunday, July 12, 2009

charity:water in NY Times!

I am very happy to see international traveler and global health writer Nicholas Kristof has written an article about charity:water in the Sunday edition of the NY Times! I first heard about charity:water last year right before my birthday, when the Facebook Causes application asked me to fundraise by having family and friends donate $22 for my 22nd birthday, as charity:water's founder Scott Harrison had donors give $33 for his 33rd birthday. This organization is partnering with non-profits in developing countries to build wells with hand-pumps for thousands of communities in Haiti, Honduras, India, and many African countries. You can get involved with volunteering for charity:water by emailing

You can learn a lot more about Kristof's topics by reading the comments people post about his articles on his blog. In reading the comments on his charity:water article, I found articles and research on whether or not water projects in developing countries are sustainable, by the International Institute for Environment and Development and the World Bank (Comment 7) (lesson: don't abandon the wells after building them!). I also found people from other countries who would like to partner with charity:water (Comments 10, 15, 18) and information about a dangerous plan in place regarding the NYS Watershed and the Delaware River Basin Commission (Comment 13).

I really liked Comment 14, about how Mr. Kristof breezes right over the fact that it was the spiritual crisis Scott Harrison underwent and how he became a follower of Christ after his time volunteering with Mercy Ships. Also Comment 11, criticizing Nick Kristof for paying too much attention to the act of giving, and not highlighting the fact that self-sacrifice is what's important. Sacrificing one's time for others, and building community, so that the people you are helping are actually being empowered to make changes for themselves, not simply enabled by being given handouts.

Or put another way, having the moral courage to stand up for what's right, every day of your life. I've posted three comments on Irshad Manji's Moral Courage Project webpage so far, explaining how to stand up for our fellow global citizens and how to get others motivated, too. We can't expect to partake in activities once and that solve all the problems in the world. We need to keep at it, and dedicate our entire lives to the causes, making sure to follow up with those we help and not abandon them. There are plenty of people already taking up this cross, as Shane Claiborne shows with his movie "The Ordinary Radicals." We can do it too, and social media can help. Scott Harrison's successful marketing campaign demonstrates the power of social networking; I think this can be taken a step further if teachers would think outside the box, and incorporate blogs, twitter, and Facebook into everyday homework assignments. More and more non-profit organizations are creating these social networking accounts, and the sky's the limit with the charitable organizations one can find out about and get involved in, merely by spending some time on the Internet. Let's wake up and use the tools God has given us to use here in the 21st century.