Busy and hectic lifestyle leaves us no time to shop for fresh produce and nutritious foods. A report by New York Academy called as "Food and Nutrition: Hard Truths about Eating Healthy," compiles the stories of New Yorkers about the difficulties they face to maintain a healthy diet.
The latest and final report in the Academy's "City Voices: New Yorkers on Health" series, Food and Nutrition: Hard Truths about Eating Healthy" also shows that while food stamps and food pantries are critical resources, they are falling short when it comes to helping low-income New Yorkers maintain healthy eating habits.
‘Food stamps and food pantries are critical resources for healthy food but even they are falling short when it comes to helping low-income New Yorkers maintain healthy eating habits.’
"A majority of the low-income New Yorkers we surveyed, 66 percent, told us they were concerned about affording healthy food. Another 36 percent said that healthy foods were seldom available in their communities, and while they wanted to eat healthy, this environment made it difficult, if not impossible, to eliminate the preventable disparities in diet-related diseases and mortality between high- and low-income New Yorkers," said Jo Ivey Boufford, President of the Academy.
"I spend all my money on food, all my social security. And I'm not buying really good, nutritious food the obstacle of having to work with food stamps, work with my rebate cash, sometimes I just need to put food in my mouth." - City Voices Focus Group Participant Seeking Change in Available Resources
The challenges of balancing food costs and availability aside, low-income residents revealed a strong interest in adopting healthier diets, but many also reported that even local food pantries were stocked with foods that made it harder to eat right.
"Many of these seniors can't even afford to buy food, so they're going from one pantry to the other to try to get sufficient foods. But as we know, canned goods, a lot of canned goods, are not good for our community. There's a lot of salt in canned goods, and that's what you get largely through the food banks. You get a lot of canned goods because their shelf life." - City Voices Focus Group Participant.
The "Food and Nutrition: Hard Truths about Eating Healthy" focus groups and surveys include the voices of low-income adults from the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. The work is part of the Academy's ongoing effort to give low-income city residents an opportunity to express their needs and viewpoints about what is needed to make their communities healthier places to live.
Through the Academy's Designing a Strong and Healthy New York (DASH-NY/NYC) initiatives and our partnerships with government and community organizations statewide, we work to advance policies and programs that address food insecurity and the lack of access to nutrition education in many economically distressed urban communities.
One local organization that works hard to improve access to healthy foods in East Harlem is SCAN. The group was awarded $25,000 at the June 11, East Harlem Health in Action Summit, an project the Academy sponsored with several partners, to continue their work in East Harlem. SCAN runs the Get Healthy, East Harlem: Pop-Up Healthy Food Cafe events and intergenerational cooking labs.
"Utilizing our longstanding relationships with New York City Housing Authority parents, children and seniors, SCAN has adopted a bottom-up organizing campaign to positively impact health and wellness in East Harlem. Our very first step is to listen to our children, parents and community. Through this activity, we hear and see what and how to impact our community folks. Such listening has produced an award-winning video The Healthy Dance
as well as an East Harlem Cafe to be located at our SCAN Lehman Cornerstone," said Lewis Zuchman, Executive Director of SCAN.