Recently my good friend Sarah invited me to New York City to see some of the work she is doing to get better food into underserved communities. While I took the pictures, I knew that she would do a better job talking about what the initiative is trying to achieve. In her words:
Bon Secours New York “Healthy Communities Initiative“, Bronx Community Board Eight, and GrowNYC sincerely thanks Alison for spending an afternoon in our two NW Bronx Communities, Marble Hill and Kingsbridge Heights. Here, most families live in over-crowed public housing as their incomes fall below the federal poverty line. Most residents are either Black or Hispanic- two populations at high risk for diet-related illnesses. As the photos show, “food deserts” are not always desolate places devoid grocery retail. In case the NW Bronx, calories are abundant, but access to high quality nutritious food is limited. Here, candy, processed foods, soda, and beer dominate prime shelf space– leaving little room fresh produce, lean meats, and whole grains. As a consequence, families suffer from the nation’s highest rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other diet-related illnesses.
Youthmarket is our homegrown remedy. This ingenious program run by own community teens does much more than most traditional farmers’ markets. More akin to pop-up health unit, our Youthmarkets provide weekly bilingual cooking classes, free comprehensive health examinations, and free delivery service to home-bound residents. On any given Friday, we are joined by the American Diabetes Association, Cancer Society, NY Fire Department, local disaster relief, NY WIC and Food Stamps, and myriad of other environmental and activist groups all passing out free information about important opportunities for our residents. In each bag of produce our customers purchase, Youthmarket included recipes and important information, such as locations of nearest public cooling centers and voting site. Youthmarket teens are paid $10/hour to manage all aspects of the business–everything from ordering from our local farmers to balancing the books. When they are not behind the stand, staff spend their time our 3 community gardens composting the unsalvagable and over-ripe produce into organic soil that will in turn cultivate foods needed for community kitchens. Our unsold produce goes to our local food pantry, nursery school, and senior center to offset cost of meals. In this way, Youthmarket feeds the neighbors beyond the stand. As a nonprofit purchasing wholesale, we are able to keep our prices low. The vast majority of our revenue comes from food stamps and WIC coupons- an indicator that we effectively serving those most in need. While we are not always able to beat our retail competitors, we believe we bring value added services worth the cost. Our customers seem to agree.
We hope that you enjoy these photos as much as we do. We welcome you to our stands and communities.
Sarah Shaikh and the Bronx CB8 Youthmarket team
Thank you for having me Sarah! I am so proud of the work you are doing and proud to have friends like you!
p.s. You can also follow the Youth Markets on Facebook. Please “Like” them for updates on the great work they’re doing!