Help Build Groceries In High-Need Areas
Three million New York City residents live in high need neighborhoods which lack reliable access to fresh and healthy food. These neighborhoods include Harlem, Washington Heights, the South Bronx, Williamsbridge/ Wakefield, portions of Pelham Parkway, Jamaica, Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, East New York, Sunset Park, St. George, Stapleton, and Far Rockaway.
To combat this problem New York state’s junior senator has authored new legislation which will provide funding to build new grocery stores, an estimated 273 of which will be in New York City.
The new bill, the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, was announced earlier this month by its author, New York State Senator Kirsten Gillibrand as she was joined at a Pathmark Supermarket in Lower Manhattan by Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, who will introduce the bill in the House of Representatives; New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, union leaders and advocacy groups.
Once passed, the new legislation would provide $1 billion through loans and grants to help build approximately 2,100 new grocery stores in high need ‘food desert’ areas throughout the country, which have little to no access to fresh, nutritious foods. “Obesity and diabetes rates are reaching crisis proportions in our country and it is time to take aggressive action,” said Gillibrand. “Millions of New Yorkers do not have access to fresh, healthy food.
By building new grocery stores in underserved areas across the state we can give people the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives, save billions in health care costs, and create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs. I am proud to work with President Obama and First Lady Michele Obama on their efforts to combat obesity in America. We cannot back down from this fight.”
According to a press release from the senator’s office, Gillibrand is working on the legislation in coordination with First Lady Michelle Obama, who included the initiative as part of her “Let’s Move” agenda to combat childhood obesity.
“Obesity threatens the healthy future of one third of all American children. Obesity rates have tripled in the past 30 years,” says the First Lady on the Let’s Move website. “We spend $150 billion every year to treat obesityrelated conditions, and that number is growing. For the first time in American history, our children’s life expectancy may be shorter than their parents.”
President Obama has already proposed $345 million in the Fiscal Year 2011 for similar legislation.
Residents of Rockaway have long complained about the lack of quality grocery stores in Rockaway. Begging the question, is Rockaway a ‘food desert’ in need of additional grocery stores?’ Jonathan Gaska, the district manager of Community Board 14, believes it is and said, “the real need for new stores is along Beach Channel Drive between Beach 40 to 68 Streets.”
The proposed bill defines underserved communities as located in low or moderate income census tracts, and as poorly served by fresh food retail. It also gives priority for funding to women and minority owned businesses. Approximately 26,000 jobs will be created in the city as a result of the bill.
According to Gillibrand’s press release, 50 percent of community districts in Queens fall short of the city average for residents who live in highneed areas. “This initiative is about empowering families to make healthier food choices so they live longer,” said Velázquez.