I recently wrote a newsletter on combating childhood obesity during a pediatric rotation of my dietetic internship at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx. Here's the content...
Improving the school food environment through your child’s school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and your Community
Many school PTAs sell unhealthy foods such as candy or potato chips as fundraisers for their school, to fund after-school activities. Parents and teachers want the best for their children, but these unhealthy foods actually make children believe that these foods are acceptable snacks and can be consumed on a regular basis. As an alternative, the District Public Health Office has developed a Fundraiser Guide to help PTAs choose healthy food (or non-food!) options for school fundraisers. The toolkit can be found at this link: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/dpho/dpho-fundraiser-guide.pdf
School Breakfast Program
Many children either do not eat breakfast in the morning or pick up an unhealthy option, such as a bacon, egg & cheese sandwich, for breakfast on their way to school. When children don’t start the day off right with a healthy breakfast, they’re more likely to have difficulty paying attention and focusing on classwork while at school. The Department of Education has approved all schools in New York City to have a school breakfast program, but many schools have not signed up yet or only offer the program to a few classes at the school. The school breakfast program means that every child in the classrooms to which it is provided will get the same, healthy breakfast – a great way to start off the day. If your child does not currently participate in the School Breakfast Program, speak with the principal at your school or your school’s PTA about the possibility of signing up or expanding the program to cover more students.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization and the School Lunch Program
The Department of Education’s Office of SchoolFood (OSF) works hard within its budget to make sure all children get a school lunch that meets certain nutritional standards while also tasting good to the children. However, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) only gives a certain amount of money to improve school food, and this amount of money is not enough for the OSF to make all the changes it would like to. There is currently a bill in Congress called Child Nutrition Reauthorization, which if passed will increase the amount of money spent on childhood nutrition programs – including school food – by $4.5 billion over 10 years. This would bring healthier foods into all schools, including vending machine items. However, the amount of money that is truly needed to improve school food is $4 billion per year. To find information on how to call your Congressman to ask for more money for child nutrition, see this link: http://www.congress.org/congressorg/issues/basics/
Another thing you can do to improve the quality of school food is: together with your child’s principal and PTA, speak to Billy Doherty at the Office of School Food about connecting your child’s school to a local farmer to get fresh, local fruits and vegetables delivered to the school. Many farmers from local areas, such as Upstate New York and other nearby states, already sell their fruits and vegetables to people in NYC at farmers markets.
More on Farmers Markets…
There are many farmers markets located throughout the city, including some in the
Kids and Gardening
There are many success stories of children trying new fruits and vegetables if they are involved in growing the food themselves. As a matter of fact, First Lady Michelle Obama has planted a garden at the White House and has local schoolchildren harvest the vegetables to teach them the importance of gardening and eating healthy. Some children in NYC and the Bronx are involved in community gardens, oftentimes through the school curriculum. Every child should have this opportunity! Talk to others in your community and your child’s school to find out if there are any community gardens near you. Perhaps you could work with the school’s PTA, or your child’s principal and science teacher to see about involving students in vegetable gardening during the school day.
Supermarkets & Bodegas
In December 2009, the City Council approved bringing more supermarkets into low- and moderate-income areas of NYC, including sections of the Bronx, through the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) Initiative. The new FRESH supermarkets will offer a full line of grocery products, including fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meats, dairy and other food and nonfood products, and will also be a source of new local jobs.
Until these new supermarkets are built, you can still change the food choices available in your neighborhood. Your local grocery or bodega owner generally sells what he thinks his customers want to buy. If you do not like the foods in your local store, ask to speak to the owner and let him know what options you would like to buy. If he is able to stock the healthier food items to sell to you, he will most likely do so because he knows people want it. Some ideas of things to ask for are low-fat milk and yogurt, apple chips, pita chips, pretzels, whole wheat bread, regular peanut butter, jelly, plain nuts such as almonds and walnuts, and fruits and vegetables that are either fresh, frozen, or canned in light syrup (note: many stores do not have the capacity to sell foods that need to be frozen or refrigerated).
There’s no need to ask for water, because you can get this for FREE from the sink or water fountain! NYC water is generally of very good quality and you can save a lot of money by buying a reusable BPA-free bottle and filling it with water on your own.
Bronx Health REACH
Bronx Health REACH, a part of the Institute for Family Health, is an organization that works on trying to improve the quality of food served in the Bronx. REACH also works to educate the community about how to live a healthy lifestyle through the food and exercise choices we make. One of the focuses of REACH is working with churches in the community to empower its members to lead a healthy lifestyle. REACH has developed a “God’s Health Squad” toolkit for church leaders to use with youth groups. More information can be found on the website, http://institute2000.org/bhr, the blog, http://bronxhealthreach.blogspot.com, or by contacting Kelly Moltzen (see bottom of post).
NYC Strategic Alliance for Health (SAfH)
The NYC Strategic Alliance for Health (SAfH) was founded in 2008 to combine the efforts of local organizations, Elected Officials, and other community based organizations in an effort to improve the environments, systems, and policies that affect physical activity, nutrition, and tobacco-use within schools and the broader community of the South Bronx and East & Central Harlem. The efforts that are found to work best will be shared with other NYC neighborhoods who are also working to decrease health inequities.
A brief overview SAfH’s Goals:
· Require organizations that work in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) community centers to lead daily physical activity programs
· Improve the play street program in target areas by changing policy
· Include a new option in the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Adopt a Bodega initiative that will offer Bodega owners resources for renovations that will allow fruits and vegetables to be sold and maintained on site
· Establish a policy at the NYC Department of Education that will provide elementary schools with a Physical Activity and Nutrition Award
· Establish a policy requiring elementary after-school programs to include daily time for physical activity
For more information, contact: Geysil Arroyo, Community Coordinator
646-672-2385 or firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s On Your Plate? Film
Want to watch a movie about healthy and not-so-healthy food in NYC, narrated from a kids’ perspective? The film “What’s On Your Plate?” is just that. It follows two curious girls who are on a mission to understand where their food comes from, and what’s in it. The girls interview many influential people in NYC, including Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Chef Jorge Collazo from the NYC Department of Education’s Office of School Food, and Anna Lappé, author of the newly released book Diet for a Hot Planet, about the impact of our food system on climate change. You can find out more information about where and when “What’s On Your Plate?” is being screened in NYC at the website whatsonyourplateproject.org.
First Lady Michelle Obama is very involved in supporting a healthy lifestyle for children. She has started the “Let’s Move” initiative to fight childhood obesity, which aims to give “parents the support they need, provide healthier food in schools, help our kids to be more physically active, and make healthy, affordable food available in every part of our country.” You can find out more here: http://letsmove.gov/
People’s Garden NYC Petition
There is currently a petition asking Mayor Bloomberg to plant a vegetable garden outside of City Hall as a symbol of the City’s dedication to healthy food. If this garden becomes reality, it would be managed by children and seniors from the nearby area, and the food grown would be donated to a local food pantry or soup kitchen. You can learn more about it and sign the petition here: http://peoplesgardennyc.org/
NY Coalition for Healthy School Food
The New York Coalition for Healthy School Food is organization that works on improving food for all children in New York. Learn more here: http://www.healthyschoolfood.org/
Super Kids Nutrition
Find information on healthy eating for your kids from the experts! There are articles, activities, book suggestions and more at http://superkidsnutrition.com/
Dr. Dolgoff’s Weigh
Dr. Johanna Dolgoff is a pediatrician who focuses on weight management. She has many resources online that you can get for free at her website, http://drweigh.com/
SNAP-Ed Recipe Finder Database Search for low-cost recipes by ingredient, recipe name, cost, and more: http://recipefinder.nal.usda.gov/
Want to learn more about the food system by watching videos? Here are a few you can watch online:
· Urban Farming NYC http://tinyurl.com/urbanfarmingnyc
· The Meatrix http://www.themeatrix.com/
· The True Cost of Food http://www.sierraclub.org/truecostoffood/movie.asp
· The Story of Stuff http://www.storyofstuff.com/
This newsletter was written by Kelly Moltzen, a dietetic intern at the Bronx Veterans Affairs Medical Center, graduate student studying public health at New York University, and previous Nutrition Intern at Bronx Health REACH. She can be reached by email at email@example.com. You can also follow her on twitter at twitter.com/kellymoltzen or visit her blog: food4thoughtandaction.blogspot.com/.
Thanks for reading!
Farmers Markets in the Bronx
Greenmarket Farmers Markets: EBT/Food Stamps and WIC & Senior FMNP Coupons Accepted. For every 5 EBT dollars spent, customers receive a $2 Health Buck coupon to purchase additional produce.
Lincoln Hospital Greenmarket
149th Street at Park Ave, Bronx, 10451
Tuesdays and Fridays, June 29 through November 23, 8am - 3pm
New York Botanical Garden Greenmarket
Dr Theodore Kazimiroff Blvd at Bronx Park Rd, New York, 10458
Wednesdays, June 16 through November 29, 9am - 6pm.
Poe Park Greenmarket
Grand Concourse at E 192 St, Bronx, 10468
Open Tuesdays, July 6 through November 23, 8am -3pm
Harvest Home Farmers Markets:
1400 Pelham Parkway
Tuesday, 8 am – 4 pm
June 16 - November 24
Forrest Ave. Market
Forrest Avenue Betw. 156th & Westchester
Wednesday, 8 am – 4 pm
July 8 - November 18
North Central Bronx
Mosholu Pkwy North & Jerome Ave
Wednesday, 8 am - 6 pm
July 8 - November 18
Mt. Eden Ave. Market
Thursday, 8 am - 4 pm
May 21 - November 19
Castle Hill Avenue
At Castle Hill & Hart St
Saturday, 8 am – 4 pm
July 11 - November 21
Coop City Market
Coop City Blvd.,Greenway #3
Saturday, 8 am - 6pm
July 11 - November 21
Morris Park Market
1734 Williamsbridge Road
Our Saviour Lutheran Church Parking Lot
Saturdays, 8 am - 4 pm
July 11 - Nov 21
Echo Park Market
On Tremont Avenue
Betw. Anthony &
Wednesday, 8 am – 6 pm
July - Nov 2
165th Grand Concourse
Sunday, 8am - 4pm
July 12 - Nov 22
For more information:
Greenmarket http://cenyc.org/ourmarkets or call (212) 788-7476
Harvest Home Farmers Market http://www.harvesthomefm.org/Locations.html or (212) 828-3361