Monday, January 14, 2019
This post is written by Adriana Perez, our FoodCorps member who is partnered with the Sheridan Academy for Young Leaders (PS457)/the Family School (PS443). Adriana will dedicate a year of service to engaging students and teachers in creating a school wide culture of health through experiential learning in their school garden, cafeteria and classroom.
When I first arrived at the Sheridan Academy for Young Leaders (PS457)/the Family School (PS443), I immediately saw many possibilities for healthy eating and wellness programming. Instead of diving in head first, I took the time to get to know the students, colleagues and the surrounding community to better understand their wants and needs.
Though there is a healthy rivalry between the schools, the schools do have some common goals: enhancing their students’ learning experiences through nutrition education and providing access to healthier foods, especially through garden programming. Unfortunately, both gardens were destroyed last year by scaffolding erected for building repairs. This year, the schools agreed to come together to rebuild their individual gardens with a new component — a community’ garden, grown and maintained by both schools.
Since most of the garden redevelopment won’t happen until the spring, I decided to "bridge the divide" between the schools with a smaller initiative — the Daffodil Project. This project, coordinated by New Yorkers for Parks and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, provides daffodil bulbs to schools and community groups throughout NYC in an effort to beautify public spaces. After speaking with Principals Rowena Penn and Lisette Febus and Assistant Principals Nicole Smith and Jose Gonzalez, we decided to plant the bulbs along the green space connecting the entrances to the two schools. This is the ideal spot for the building’s first joint garden project as it’s the waiting area for parents collecting their children at the end of the school day.
With the support of Dean Tonya and Parent Coordinators, Millicent Matos and Carlos Cedano, we recruited nearly 60 parents and children to participate in the "Dig & Daffodil" day held on November 1. It was exciting to see parents and students from both schools crouched side by side planting bulbs in the school yard on a surprisingly warm afternoon. The students and I also recruited parents and children leaving school that day to stop and plant a bulb on their way out the door. Altogether, we planted 500 bulbs!
“This is just like class,” said Kimberly, a student in my class as she enthusiastically showed her siblings how to properly plant the bulbs. When the daffodils bloom in the spring they will not only provide the yard with much needed color to the drab concrete landscape, but it will also be a physical link between the two schools. What I affectionately call the “daffodil bridge” will tell the story of the seeds we sowed early in the school year and the renewed hope their early spring blossoms will bring.
Wednesday, December 12, 2018
The Trump Administration has announced an executive action to make changes to the public charge rule. This executive action would make it harder for legal immigrants seeking permanent residency to get it if they have received certain kinds of public assistance including Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/ food stamps, and housing subsidies. Below is the comment sent by the Bronx Health REACH Coalition in response to the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed changes to the public charge rule.
Department of Homeland Security
20 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20529-2140
Re: DHS Docket No. USCIS-2010-0012, RIN 1615-AA22, Comments in Response to Proposed Rulemaking: Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds
Dear Madam Deshommes:
I am writing on behalf of the Bronx Health REACH Coalition to strongly oppose the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed changes to the public charge rule and ask that it be withdrawn. The Rule would significantly expand the list of programs that determine if an immigrant is a public charge and will almost certainly harm the health of immigrants and their families, regardless of their status, and lead to higher health spending at the expense of U.S. taxpayers.
The Bronx Health REACH Coalition, led by the Institute for Family Health, a network of federally qualified health centers, was formed in 1999 to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes in diabetes and heart disease in African American and Latino communities in the Bronx. The coalition has a successful history of action to improve health, prevent chronic diseases, and reduce health disparities in high-need Bronx communities. The Bronx Health REACH Coalition includes over 70 community-based organizations, health care providers, faith-based institutions, housing and social service agencies, and community residents.
In New York City (NYC), deeply entrenched health disparities continue to overburden the Bronx. Relative to NYC, the Bronx experiences higher levels of obesity (more than double the rate in nearby Manhattan), as well as a higher prevalence of obesity-related chronic conditions including hypertension and diabetes. The 2018 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings and Roadmaps ranked Bronx County the “least healthy” county of the 62 in New York State for the ninth year in a row. The Bronx is also the hungriest borough with more than one in four Bronx residents experiencing food insecurity.(1) The Bronx Health REACH coalition believes that the changes to the public charge rule will prevent the most vulnerable individuals in the Bronx from accessing vital health and nutrition services such as Medicaid and SNAP for fear of deportation, or inability to secure permanent residency status.
The proposed Rule would cause immigrants, including the 37 percent of Bronx residents who are immigrants, many of whom are legally authorized to participate in SNAP and other programs, including Medicaid, Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy, and housing assistance, to decline assistance or disenroll, jeopardizing their food security, health, well-being, and economic security. (2) As the Administration acknowledges, public benefits “play a significant role” in the lives of recipients (83 Fed. Reg. 51,163). These programs provide critical support to assist individuals and families to work, to attend school, and to maintain and improve their health. When individuals and families access these vital programs the entire community and country benefits and when they do not, food security, health, education, and economic security suffer. Bronx-based immigrants are a large part of the borough’s economic success, making up nearly half of the work force and 60 percent of self-employed entrepreneurs. (3) Making changes to the public charge Rule could threaten the already fragile economy of the Bronx as 31 percent of Bronx residents of all ages live below the federal poverty line, and the six highest-poverty neighborhoods in NYC are all located in the Bronx. (4)
This Rule will not only impact participation in SNAP but also participation in other vital nutrition programs, rolling back progress in addressing hunger and poverty in this country. A recent study found that immigrant families — including those who are lawfully present — are experiencing resounding levels of fear and uncertainty. While public benefit programs, like WIC, and other child nutrition programs are not included in the proposed public charge Rule, the fear, confusion, and caution surrounding the Rule would have a spill-over impact on these programs, resulting in immigrant families forgoing vital nutrition assistance. The Bronx Health REACH Coalition actively promotes programs such as SNAP and WIC as they are integral to improving the health outcomes of residents of the Bronx including the many immigrants who live in this borough.
For the aforementioned reasons, Bronx Health REACH opposes the changes to the public charge Rule. Instead, we ask that the Department focus its efforts on advancing policies that support the citizenship, health and wellbeing of immigrants so that they can support themselves and their families in the future and become healthy, productive members of society.
Thank you in advance for your time and consideration of this letter.
1. Aber, N., Berg, J., & Gibson, A (2018). The Uneaten Big Apple: Hunger’s High Cost in NYC. Retrieved from Hunger Free America Website: https://www.hungerfreeamerica.org/media-research/research
2 & 3. Office of the State Deputy Comptroller for the City of New York (2018). An Economic Snapshot of the Bronx (Report 4-2019). Albany, NY.
5. Artiga, S. (2017, December 13). “Living as an Immigrant Family in America: How Fear and Toxic Stress are Affecting Daily Life, Well-Being, & Health. Retrieved from https://www.kff.org/.
Image: Food Research and Action Center.
Wednesday, December 5, 2018
Mayor de Blasio's Office estimates that this change would deeply impact the health of 75,000 NYC residents who currently qualify for SNAP. In particular, this would affect the Bronx as it remains the hungriest borough with more than one in four (26%) experiencing food insecurity.
Bronx Health REACH urges you to submit your comments on this proposal by December 10th. Let your voice be heard! If the proposal is passed immigrant individuals and families will not have access to healthy food options through SNAP.
Deadline for submitting comments is December 10, 2018.
Image: Food Research and Action Center.
Thursday, November 8, 2018
We welcome Adriana Perez, our new FoodCorps member who began her service in September at PS443 & PS457. Adriana will dedicate a year of service to engaging students and teachers in creating a school wide culture of health through experiential learning in their school garden, cafeteria and classroom. She will also support the healthy snack policy implementation and spearhead PS443's garden renovation.
Adriana’s passion for all things food originated in the kitchen when she helped her mom bake for family events. Adriana graduated from Johnson & Wales University and was a pastry chef at Walt Disney World. She was drawn to the farmers' market circuit, renewing her belief that healthy and sustainable food should be available to all communities. She welcomes opportunities for all to learn about the sources of their food.