Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Expanding Breastfeeding Friendly Sites in the Bronx



This post was written by Immaculada Moronta.

Agatha House Foundation is a food pantry serving more than 1,000 families each month in the north-west Bronx, the organization opened their doors in January 2014, and have dedicated themselves to feeding low-income individuals and offer childcare services. Their goal is to provide for the basic needs of thousands of people in their communities. In December 2021, Bronx Health REACH connected with Agatha House Foundation in the hopes of working with them in our Healthy Pantry Initiative which focuses on the nuts and bolts of running a food pantry and the procurement of healthier food to create a healthier food environment. During our initial site visit with Jeannette Joseph, CEO and Founder of Agatha Joseph Foundation, I noticed that they had a daycare. My first question to Ms. Joseph was, do you have any breastfeeding mothers? Ms. Joseph nodded, explaining that aside from the daycare they had staff who also breastfed. As a result of this added information, we started to plan how the daycare at the Agatha House Foundation could become a more breastfeeding friendly site.

After my initial visit, our team met with the staff to begin planning the next steps to improve the site for breastfeeding moms. The site completed an initial survey to better understand the state of their support for breastfeeding. This past March, Ms. Joseph and two other staff members who help run the daycare center participated in a virtual training led by Albert Einstein College of Medicine on the positive outcomes of being a breastfeeding friendly site, familiarizing them with the pertinent New York State law on breastfeeding in the workplace, and what’s needed to create a breastfeeding friendly workplace. The training highlighting the benefits to employers of promoting breastfeeding at the worksite pointed to lower employee health care costs due to healthier moms and babies, reduced rates of absenteeism and lower turnover rates for the breastfeeding staff, and the relatively simple low cost accommodations needed to offer a private and quiet space for staff or the public to use.

To provide for an appropriate breastfeeding space our team helped the daycare identify what they needed including adding pillows, a comfortable chair, and a room divider if private office space is not available. The site currently has designated and outfitted a breastfeeding friendly space. We look forward to seeing how the breastfeeding mothers continue to use the space.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022


2022 Food Demo Training Workshop Graduates with Chef Alex Askew.

This article was written by Bronx Health REACH partner BCAGlobal.

In April 2022, BCAGlobal completed its hybrid Food Demonstration Workshop training program, elevating eight Food Security Leaders’ ability to prepare donated healthy food and developed the skills to create food demonstrations to be shared with their communities. 

We cannot overstate that the success of our program was due in part to our collaboration with The Institute for Family Health and the Bronx Health REACH Coalition, which has worked tirelessly to address health disparities in The Bronx. Since 2009, The Bronx has ranked as having the lowest health index of any of the other 61 counties in New York State. The Institute for Family Health has been a founding member of the #Not62 campaign and has helped lead this grassroots movement in the Bronx by addressing health inequalities, promoting health education, and advancing systems and policy change that center on health and wellness. 

Food banks throughout the Bronx are doing the difficult work of sourcing food to provide for their communities. Our Food Demonstration Workshop targeted the need to train food-system leaders on how to prepare these foods in a nutritious way and how to present these recipes to their wider community. Leaders in our program learned how to prepare and perform demonstrations on how vegetables such as butternut squash, asparagus, and kale can be prepared in a nutritious and satisfying way. We believe engaging communication and education are essential to getting these nutritious foods integrated into people’s daily lives. 

Graduates of our program took food items they often see donated to their organizations and created healthy and accessible recipes that community members can use to feed their families. We are inspired by all the recipes that were created, like the Southwest Collard Green Wrap, Curried Chickpea and Avocado Salad, and the Fresh Salsa Crudo over Toasted Italian Bread. The workshop’s mission was to encourage participants to present their recipe demonstrations with love, excitement, and encouragement to try something new and healthy. 

We are incredibly grateful to have worked with all of the participants of the Food Demonstration Workshop and we are looking forward to following their continued journey of supporting the health and wellness of their communities. Workshop graduate Stephanie Cataquet, Assistant Director of Community Health Initiatives at New Settlement shared with us her main takeaway from the course, “Food can lead to community connections. Breaking bread over a good healthy meal is a great way to grow community and grow food independence.” 

A special thank you to our Food Demonstration Workshop Graduates: Mary Ikpali from RCCG Chapel of Restoration, Henrietta Osagie from RCCG Chapel of The Great Restorer, Gladys Roman from Manna of Life Ministries, Kassandra Campbell from Jamaica Benevolent Arm & Cultural Center, Jewel Webber from Be Soaked in Prayer, Stephanie Cataquet from New Settlement Community Center, Iraida De Jesus from Jardin de la Familia Community Garden Green Thumb, and Fatima Cabrera from St. Helena Catholic Church. 

A big thank you as well to our partners and collaborators: Lenise Lee-Streeter, The Institute for Family Health/Bronx Health REACH especially Kelly Moltzen, Chef Tania Lopez, and Diana Bernal, as well as St. Helena Catholic Church.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Bronx Health REACH Partners with Corbin Hill Food Project and Mount Sinai Health System to Bring Farm Fresh Produce to Bronx Residents through the Food As Medicine Project


The Food as Medicine project (FAM), led by Harlem-based Corbin Hill Food Project, will measure the impact of a produce prescription program to reduce food insecurity and improve health. Corbin Hill Food Project, a BIPOC-led, community-based organization, is the first in New York State to receive a significant USDA food as medicine grant. In partnership with Mount Sinai Health System and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and the Institute for Family Health's Bronx Health REACH Project, FAM will collect data on dietary health and behavior and reduction of household food insecurity with the long term goal to reduce healthcare use and associated costs.

The Food As Medicine project, supported by a Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, Produce Prescription grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), builds upon Corbin Hill Food Project’s decade of experience bringing farm fresh produce to New York City residents.


Project Director of Bronx Health REACH Charmaine Ruddock said, "The Food as Medicine Project recognizes that the more patients hear from their health providers about the importance of daily eating more fruits and vegetables, and then have ready access to affordable fruits and vegetables the likelier they will be to improve their health. As we have done with our previous initiative, the Vegetable and Fruit Prescription program, partnership with Corbin Hill Food Project, will allow us to increase the opportunity for more Bronx residents to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into their everyday meals."


President and CEO of the Institute for Family Health, co-founder of Bronx Health REACH, and Chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at Icahn Mount Sinai Neil Calman, MD said, “As a family physician who practiced in the South Bronx for 35 years, I am proud to participate in this effort to provide healthier food to members of the community. People want to do what’s best for themselves and their families and this program will help overcome some of the barriers that stand in their way in neighborhoods that have been historically neglected.”


“We design all aspects of the farm share to be as inclusive as possible to meet the needs of low-income, BIPOC, and immigrant communities,” says Dennis Derryck, Co-founder and Co-Executive Director of Corbin Hill Food Project, “and more critically, we get the buy-in from participants.” Participants buy-in for $2.50 weekly using either SNAP dollars or cash. For greater accessibility, FAM will be developing a home delivery model to serve participants 65 years and older and those who may be unable to travel. Additionally, the program is exploring options for providing tokens to cover a portion transportation costs, another barrier to accessing fresh food.


New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Corbin Hill Food Project sets a great example of connecting the dots between farmers and consumers as they work to bring local, fresh, nutritious foods to residents in their community. I send my sincere congratulations to our partners on the Corbin Hill team on receiving this USDA funding, and look forward to seeing the future of their Food as Medicine project and continued expansion.”


The program expands on prior efforts of partners, Mount Sinai and the Tisch Illumination Fund, to prescribe food as medicine and pave the way for larger initiatives that address health disparities linked to nutrition security and inequitable access to fresh foods. The FAM project will serve 260 families with bi-monthly produce boxes over 12 months across three sites in Harlem and the South Bronx.


The Food as Medicine project is timely, as New York State Department of Health is currently soliciting comments for a new Medicaid 1115 Waiver Demonstration proposal through May 20th, 2022. The proposal addresses the link between health disparities and systemic health care delivery issues that have been highlighted by the COVID-19 Pandemic and requests $13 billion in new Medicaid funding over five years. With social determinants of health like nutrition insecurity in low-income communities at the forefront of the 1115 Waiver Demonstration proposal, the FAM project could serve as a pilot model for future produce prescription programs, especially in urban settings.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

A Women’s Ride Through the Bronx

 When it comes to fitness in our lives, there are structured and unstructured forms of physical activity. Structured physical activity refers to fitness that is intentional and planned, such as lifting weights or taking a fitness class. Unstructured physical activity refers to unplanned activities that we do but that keep our bodies in motion, such as walking or biking. Our physical environment is a factor that can influence the amount of fitness we receive, from access to safety when seeking out physical activity opportunities, and it affects people differently based on gender.

Biking, whether for recreational purposes or as a form of transportation, is a great form of unstructured physical activity. During the pandemic, there was an increase in biking as a form of transportation that avoided crowding and provided social distancing. “In 2021, in New York City, there was a 147% increase in women biking compared to 68% increase among men, however, only 33% of bikers in the city are women. In the Bronx we observe the greatest gender disparity among people biking to work, where men make up 85% of bike commuters,” according to Transportation Alternatives.

“How can we fix this? One solution is building safe streets that protect bike riders from cars and trucks. Study after study shows that safe streets are the number one thing that encourages more women to bike. In NYC 25x25, we’ve called for building hundreds of miles of safe, protected bike lanes and car-free open space as ways to close the gap.”- Transportation Alternatives

In response to this gender disparity among cyclists in New York City, Transportation Alternatives hosted a Women’s Ride on Saturday, April 2nd, in the Bronx. This free, family-friendly event, was open to everyone regardless of biking experience. The 6.2 mile ride began at Joyce Kilmer Park, East 164th Street and Grand Concourse. On that day I joined the ride along with my sister, cousin, and two friends, and we were provided bikes and helmets. Led guides, we started our ride at Joyce Kilmer Park, to Soundview Park, where we looped around to then end our ride at Starlight Park. This ride was my first time on a bike since 2016 and my first time using a Citi Bike. While I did struggle going up the hills, riding downhill made that struggle worth it and I really appreciate the beautiful parks found within the Bronx.

When venturing out we were all together as a big group, which attracted the attention of everyone we passed, who waved at us and smiled at the site of all the bicyclists. Overall the 6.2 mile ride was not too difficult and it allowed me to see parks like Soundview and Starlight for the first time, as someone who isn’t a Bronx native. While we did use the bike paths, they weren’t all connected, on the streets that didn’t have a bike path there were a lot of potholes, and on the streets that did have a bike path, there were double parked cars blocking the path. If it weren’t for the guides, this experience would not have been as enjoyable. If I were to redo this ride on my own, I wouldn’t feel as comfortable as I did that day because of the surrounding traffic and lack of signage directing me to the different parks. While necessary changes, like additions of bike paths, are being made to promote physical activity, there is still work to be done to make the necessary infrastructural changes needed to make physical activity accessible and safe for everyone regardless of gender.

This event was made possible and presented partnership with Citi BikeNew York City Council Member Amanda Faríasthe New York City Council’s Women’s Caucus, and Transportation Alternatives, and co-sponsored by Bronx Health REACH.  


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