Many Americans have difficulty getting healthy food like fresh fruits and vegetables into their diets, particularly those who live in low-income neighborhoods with less access to affordable, healthy groceries. In 2014, NYC had an estimated 1,370,530 food insecure individuals, according to statistics from Food Bank for New York City.
According to the Food Empowerment Project, an estimated 750,000 people in NYC live in food deserts, areas where access to supermarkets selling fresh produce is limited or nonexistent. A number of nonprofits and programs are working to help improve access to fruits and vegetables for New Yorkers in low-income communities.
Here are 5 of the programs doing amazing work to bring healthy food to some of NYC’s most vulnerable residents.
Founded in 2009 by Lisa Suriano, Veggiecation works to promote healthy eating and nutritious vegetables to children by providing kid-friendly nutrition education. The program offers classes at schools, grocery stores, after-school programs, and summer camps. It strives to incorporate fun activities to help kids and parents try out new vegetables and become more interested in healthy eating.
“Vegetables are the most powerful part of the plate, and yet they are the most often ignored,” says Veggiecation on its website. “In order to increase consumption, they ought to be marketed to children in the same ways processed foods have been.”
2. Citymeals on Wheels
NYC’s version of the Meals on Wheels program provides more than just nutritious meals for seniors. The volunteers for Citymeals on Wheels also provide important human contact for elderly people who may be isolated or unable to leave their apartments.
According to Citymeals on Wheels’ website, many of the program’s meal recipients experience severe isolation. 40 percent of the seniors served by the program rarely or never leave their home. Another 57 percent of them live alone. The program’s volunteers are an essential relief from isolation and loneliness for many seniors in the city. They also provide them with food assistance in the form of soups, rice, canned fruits and vegetables, and stews.
3. Green City Force
Established in 2009, Green City Force works with the NYC Housing Authority to get 18-24 year residents of NYC public housing involved with services that benefit their communities while preparing them for sustainable jobs.
Young people participating in the Green City Force programs serve as Americorps members to help make low-income communities healthier and more sustainable while gaining valuable experience. The Farms at NYCHA program has created 6 large-scale farms that expand access to produce for NYC public housing residents. It’ll also provide young public housing residents with work and leadership opportunities.
4. Local Produce Link
This program connects local farmers with food pantries operating in underserved and low-income neighborhoods of NYC. Farmers deliver fresh produce to a food pantry or soup kitchen that serves as a “hub”. This distributes locally grown produce to other emergency food providers.
In 2014, the program was able to deliver 280,000+ pounds of fresh fruits and veggies to vulnerable New Yorkers. It did so by working with 49 emergency food programs and 8 local farmers.
Local Produce Link also trains food pantry staff with cooking demonstrations. It also connects city residents and pantry staff with local farmers by taking them on trips to nearby farms.
5. Cook Play Live
Started in 2015, Cook Play Live works with public school students to help educate them about healthy eating. The program partners with local stakeholders to improve health by offering cooking and nutrition classes with fun activities to help boost the demand for and availability of fresh fruits and veggies in low-income parts of NYC.
“Cook Play Live instills practical life skills that establish healthier eating practices, improve shopping choices, and reinforce community bonds through the joy of cooking,” said the program.
In addition to these NYC programs, other programs are also working to ensure that people around the country have access to nutritious, fresh fruits and vegetables. Ampleharvest.org brings community and backyard gardeners together with local food pantries to give their excess produce to the hungry. America’s Grow-a-Row is an organization that donated over 1.5 million pounds of fresh produce to community food programs in 2017, according to the NYC Food Policy Institute.
If you work with a nonprofit or charitable organization that works to provide people with healthy food or information on nutrition, please get in touch with us at Team@OneGreenPlanet.org. We offer select organizations a number of free promo codes to our Food Monster app (value $19.99), which features thousands of healthy, plant-based recipes.
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