Last week, we were able to attend the Just Food Conference, a two-day event that brought together 800 people to collaborate on topics of food justice, healthy eating, and sustainable food initiatives.
Given that two of our Gotham Grazer schools are located in the Bronx, we made sure to attend a breakout workshop titled "Bronx Bodegas: Healthy Retail in the Bronx."
Bodegas widely outnumber supermarkets in the Bronx, making them a major source of food for low-income families. However, these food products are normally processed and/or pre-packaged goods with low nutritional values. During this panel discussion, multiple organizations - Bronx Health Reach (in partnership with the Bodega Association of the United States), BronxWorks, Urban Health Plan, and Montefiore Health System - discussed their joint mission of transforming bodegas into sites where affordable, healthy food will be available. Tactics include changing product availability (low-sodium canned vegetables, whole-wheat bread, low-fat milk) and changing visibility (putting water bottles at eye level and moving soda towards the back, displaying fruit at the check-out counter). The organizations are collaborating with food distributors and suppliers to make the necessary changes, training bodega owners to sustain these changes, and engaging the community through tasting events and youth programming.
In 2016, the Bronx received a health ranking of 62 out of 62 counties in New York. With 14,000 bodegas in the entire city, training owners to successfully sell healthy products could be a major turning point in improving the health of the Bronx.