(Market Makeovers video)
Yet, this fad is only beginning to take off in places like the Bronx. I've been working at Bronx Health REACH for the past year, where several years ago the staff were involved in a campaign to promote healthy snacks in bodegas. Well, now it's time to actually encourage community members to advocate for changes to the bodegas themselves, such as through the city Department of Health's Adopt a Bodega initiative.
If community members in schools and churches are educated about the importance of consuming healthy foods, provided some instruction as to how to prepare said healthy foods, and empowered to work towards changing the food environment, would this be enough to actually create lasting change? I can't say for sure, but I'm excited to find out.
The city's Adopt a Bodega program encourages people to talk to their bodega owners about possible changes they could make to the bodega to promote consumption of healthier foods. They could work towards changing the store inventory, marketing / advertising practices, and/or do a store cleanup, improving the overall look and cleanliness of the store. Partnerships may be with local schools, churches, or other community-based organizations such as community centers. (More information available in the toolkit here.)
I think a particularly interesting Adopt a Bodega / community food assessment project could be worked through Citizen Schools, an expanded learning day program in some middle schools in low-income neighborhoods across the country. The students would get to work on the project 90 minutes per week for 10 weeks, and then present their work to peers and parents. Who knows how many ripple effects this could have.
In my quest to figure out how to get fresh, local produce from the Wholesale Market at Hunt's Point (the largest food distribution center in the country, located in the Bronx) into Bronx bodegas, I found out about a bodega on the border of Harlem & the Upper East Side that judging by its inventory, seems more like a health food store you would find in Brooklyn than a bodega. But I think if folks from the Bronx were exposed to the items sold in this healthy bodega, mixed with some nutrition education information about the foods sold at that store, they would be more engaged in looking to make some of those healthy changes to the bodegas in their own neighborhoods than if they hadn't seen the healthier version. First-hand experience in visually seeing / learning about alternatives to the status quo can speak volumes.
Here are some photos I snapped of the bodega at the northwest corner of 96th & Lexington:
Lots of produce
Unsalted, raw nuts that you package yourself!
Apples from New York State
Good, healthy staples available: almond milk, vegetable broth, organic tomato sauce...heck they even have the BPA-free Eden Foods canned beans
And some good, quality grains.
Aside from Bronx Health REACH, one of the NY Faith and Justice food justice working groups is also working on an outreach plan to encourage more churches to Adopt a Bodega. You can access the page here: http://nyc.changeby.us/project/451 or email the group at firstname.lastname@example.org,