The Bronx's Weight Problem

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Tanya Fields tries to sort out an egg debacle on the first day of her South Bronx Mobile Market initiative. (Schuyler Swenson)

Two out of three Bronx residents are either obese or overweight. But the borough is not a food desert — in almost all of the Bronx, you can get food within a mile of your home. 

But it turns out that increasing access to fruits and vegetables, which the Bronx has done, makes no difference in whether or not people actually eat it. Produce is expensive. The quantity of food may be less important than the quality — and the quality of food in the Bronx tends to be very poor.

Plus, residents have habits they just don't want to break. 

One resident thinks she might have the answer to that issue.

"We're trying to just get the [health] message out there," said Lynda Lopez to WNYC host Amy Eddings. Lopez and her sister, singer Jennifer Lopez, founded the Center for a Healthy Childhood with Montefiore Medical Center. "The messaging has to be about good health, about you being healthy and strong inside, your body being something that you take care of in a way that really serves your health and well-being."

The city itself has tried a lot of initiatives: greenmarkets, green produce carts, the trans fat ban, salad bars in the public schools. But reporter Amanda Aronczyk took a look at the ways in which community activists are now taking the problem into their own hands. In a borough where fast food is easily accessible and produce is often moldy, will they be successful?



Additional reporting by Schuyler Swenson, Michael Petersen and Brianna McGurran


Karen Frillmann


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Comments [8]


Ten bucks says if a "big box" grocery store with fresh produce tried to open up in the area all these little bodega owners would protest and WNYC would do a story about how villainous Stop & Shop is or whatever. I'm with Emjayjay in the sense that I'm not a Republican and lean far left really but after a while you just get some kind of "excuse fatigue" and can't take anymore.

Jun. 08 2014 10:59 PM

Second sentence in my comment below was supposed to be "Most are owned and run and staffed by immigrant entrepreneurs...."

Idea: edit function or (not as good but better than nothing) preview function.

Jun. 06 2014 11:48 AM

In Brooklyn there are also fruit and vegetable stores everywhere. Most are owned and run and staffed entrepreneurs and often family members. They take a lot of work starting before dawn and need a strong market because turnover for a lot of their produce is essential. They of course usually sell some not so perishable items like nuts and dried fruit, maybe some canned items, teas, dairy products, etc.

If there are no fruit and vegetable stores in large areas of the Bronx, there are reasons. Lack of demand and crime come to mind. Owners have to think not only about theft but the personal safety of themselves, their employees, and family members. But the report had no mention of this obvious source of fresh fruits and vegetables, because as already pointed out, there was little actual reporting or analysis in the report, only advocacy.

On social issues related reports, wnyc has a long record of just this sort of reporting. The previous series of long reports about housing focusing on housing projects comes to mind. There was a long report about an apparently virtuous family whose children often for some reason turned out to be gang members and drug addicts, entirely apparently the fault of the environment they were somehow forced to live in. Someone in the know wrote a comment about how this family was a multigenerational violent crime syndicate ruling the project for decades. One young woman was profiled depicting what great values she had of emotional ties to her housing project neighborhood where several generations of her family had lived. No analysis of how the subsidized incentives of the bankrupt idea of housing projects has perpetuated exactly this culture of dependence and dysfunction.

I realize these two comments make me seem like some Republican. I'm not. I'm well to the left of the Democratic party in general. I live in a traditionally working class and immigrant area of Brooklyn. I just believe in being analytical and uncovering and looking objectively at the evidence - all things not in evidence in these wnyc reports. Too bad this is all what good reporting is supposed to be about.

Jun. 06 2014 11:45 AM
Lucy from Bronx

First of all there is a Kennedy fried chicken every other block in my neighborhood. I have limited options on what I can eat when I go out for dinner. With the exception of Tiny's.. You might also want to research the fitness options...we do not have much! When I first moved here 6 years ago the closest gym was in Harlem. I see progress with planet fitness and Blink. But I can't find a yoga or Pilates studio anyplace. I love the Bronx but would love better access to good healthy options and safe parks to run in with out getting smoked out by all barbecues on the weekend, with out having to hurdle dog poop and garbage! although it does give added cardio to a boring jog in the bark...not so good for the oxygen uptake. The parks department does nothing with regard to this issue! Every square inch of the three magnificent parks has BBQ 'a going every weekend. The mess on Monday mornings is staggering. People just don't respect there parks or there neighbors,

Jun. 06 2014 07:19 AM

A twelve and a half minute long report with no actual reporting or analysis, just the claims of activists. They may be all true. Who knows?

Stores in the Bronx have meat with a gasoline sheen? Really? What is that anyway exactly?

Stores in the Bronx only have half spoiled fruit and vegetables on trays wrapped in plastic? Did the reporter go to some stores and check it out for herself? If true, did the reporter ask the store managers why that is? (A guess: theft). And then the stuff is rotten in three days? Did the reporter buy samples of various fruit and vegetables in various stores in the Bronx and also in say Brooklyn and check them in three days? And did the reporter check to see if the same fruit and vegetables are wrapped on trays at the Brooklyn supermarkets?

I checked two chains of supermarkets that are all over Manhattan and Brooklyn, Key Food and Associated Supermarkets. Neither had stores in the south part of the Bronx - the part near Manhattan - but had them in the rest of the Bronx. Why is this? I suspect theft again.

Stores are not charities. They are there to make a profit. They can't operate if there is a lot of theft resulting in losing inventory and/or having security guards in every aisle and people watching screens connected to cameras all day. They respond to supply and demand. Fresh fruit and vegetables have to turn over fast for the most part. If there isn't enough demand, it doesn't work at any scale.

There are also frozen vegetables, which are generally around the price per pound for fresh. They don't go bad in three days.

About people being clueless about food: Schools are there to educate academically, and have also taken on compensating for social deficits. It would not be hard to require a semester of home ec, mostly cooking. It could in part be a beginning of becoming a chef and going to cooking school later. In the 90's at least San Francisco high schools had exactly that, and a lot of boys took it, although it was an elective. And of course a lot of schools today at least in some places are including lessons about food and food prep and gardening projects relating to providing healthier school lunches. The gardening project could be part of the home ec requirement.

Even ignoring the internet, anyone can go to a NYC public library and check out books about basic cooking. Many very basic books are available. Also cooking for children books.

Very poor quality report. There is no excuse for doing such a poor job on something so simple.

Jun. 05 2014 07:15 PM

The "healthy food" lady is that a good message. Guess its OK for radio

Jun. 05 2014 05:25 PM
Bonnie Aldinger from Brooklyn, NY

The green cart initiative was flawed in that those guys could take their subsidy and then set up in a middle-class neighborhood on a block with 2 full-sized grocery stores and a greengrocer.

Jun. 05 2014 01:19 PM
Kay from Manahttan

I think you meant: "And the quality of food may be less important than the quantity." The words are reversed ...

Jun. 05 2014 10:29 AM

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