BIFAC + Bronx Health REACH Nutrition & Fitness Workgroup Member Organizations contributed their perspectives to this document.
Type of submission
These policy recommendations reflect ongoing conversations that have occurred during monthly BIFAC and Bronx Health REACH Nutrition and Fitness Working Group convenings.
To acknowledge the barriers in Bronx food development and offer tangible, attainable solutions to transform food systems in the Bronx.
1. ● Barrier: Challenge of distributing fresh, healthy foods to hyperlocal retail food retailers (bodegas and corner stores) that can sustainably sell to customers at affordable prices
○ Neighborhood Level Food Hubs are necessary for the localization of food distribution. State-level hubs are supported and need to be translated to the neighborhood level to increase ease of access. These hubs also provide Education and Workforce development opportunities.
○ Food Hubs can alleviate barriers retailers experience to Food waste collection and cold/dry storage, to ensure sustainable systems for local food retailers to stock and sell fresh foods, and incubator kitchens for food entrepreneurs to sell prepared foods to local audiences
● Solution: Local food hub/s with cold storage that can be used by a group, such as the Bodega Association, with a delivery and distribution system that includes trucks with cold storage and drivers to deliver to hyperlocal retail food outlets.
○ In the Bronx, the existing wholesale distribution center that handles over 6 billion pounds of food each year is generally only accessible to supermarkets and restaurant suppliers. Next door, the local organization, GrowNYC is building a food hub. This new food hub hopefully will ensure that hyperlocal providers, such as bodegas and corner stores, can access wholesale prices, making fresh foods more cost-effective to stock regularly.
○ Rezoning commercial areas, like the Jerome Avenue Revitalization Collaborative, and Public Spaces to incorporate local market concepts and food hubs will bring community assets and business opportunities to underutilized areas
○ Pairing local Food Hubs, like GrowNYC, with existing government-sponsored programs like Shop Healthy NYC! or Health Bucks can allow for education and marketing of healthy foods accessible to more local food retail operators
2. ● Barrier: Healthy options are not affordable at small food retail outlets.
○ Because these retailers are often not able to access whole foods from their wholesale distributors, they purchase small quantities at close to retail prices from stores like Restaurant Depot to resell with a profit margin; these products end up more expensive for the consumer
○ Since the bodega to supermarket ratio in areas of the Bronx is as high as 1 to 37, it is unreasonably difficult for residents to access affordable fresh foods within walking distance from their homes
● Solution: Create a “Bodega Bucks” program where families can purchase healthy options at small food retail outlets in addition to SNAP.
○ Stren Fresh food prescription programs so families can buy whole food products at local food retail stores, mobile fruit and vegetable vendors, and farmer's markets.
○ Support more locally owned and operated fresh food distributors like FRESCH, who stock bodegas with healthy options
3. ● US Federal Government Recommendations:
○ Improve food policy around marketing and advertising
○ Fund local food stores to support healthful food initiatives and in-store advertisements of healthful foods to engage the consumers in healthful food purchases
○ There should be more funding for social marketing ads to compete with the marketing from other large name brands who have greater budgets to market their less nutrient-dense food products ● Recommendations for local, state, territory, and Tribal governments; private companies; nonprofit and community groups; and others
○ Allocate more funds towards nutrition education, especially for the youth (local & state)
○ Promote state governments in creating model state school wellness policies which include nutrition education
○ Greater community buy-in: have community members create the marketing materials. Have the community decide which stores and which foods they want to see.
○ Collaborate with one another to strengthen the impact of nutrition education and other food access programs.
● Opportunities for public and private sector partners to work together
○ Partner with existing government programs and services to activate underutilized public spaces in ways that leverage existing public resources, services, and programs with the skills, labor, and vision of local residents and community groups with the goal of leveraging vacant and blighted public sites in a long-term, sustainable ways that create healthy affordable choices for consumers
● Innovative, successful activities already happening at the local, state, territory, and Tribal levels that could inform actions at the Federal level
○ Leverage place-based food justice initiatives that connect food, culture, and health. Learn from diverse communities about traditional healthy eating and healing practices. Build local spaces that center food production, entrepreneurship, and health as a way of engaging communities
4. ● Barrier: There is limited knowledge of current, accurate assessments of food resources that provide insight to identify where gaps need to be filled.
○ There are few ways for advocates and community leaders to understand the food environment as it exists currently through mapping or data collection
○ Without these resources, it is impossible to target specific areas that are in greatest need of increased access to fresh food retailers
● Solution: Map neighborhood food environments
○ Based on data from food environment maps and consumer surveys, identify gaps that need to be filled; work on policy and zoning incentives to encourage healthier food businesses. Maps would also include food pantries, food boxes, farmer's markets/stands, community fridges, bodegas, grocery stores, and more. ○ Community buy-in through collectively mapping and accessing what is the current state of food in our retail spaces
○The Bodega Association's idea for the pilot in Hunt's Point would include surveying consumers about what products they want to see in their community. Perhaps this could build in nutrition education when consumers are being asked to provide their recommendations.
Overall, The Bronx needs sustainable programs that function systemically, serve to bridge the gap in food access and affordability and integrate nutrition and health at the core of public awareness campaigns.