Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Bronx Health REACH and Our Elected Officials

In December 2018 and January 2019, Bronx Health REACH staff held meetings with Senator Jose M. Serrano and his Chief of Staff George Damalas, Assemblymember Victor M. Pichardo and his Communications Coordinator Nicholas Peters, and Assemblymember Michael Benedetto and his Chief of Staff John Collazzi in their district offices. The meetings provided the elected officials with updates on Creating Healthy Schools & Communities Program implementation in the Bronx and information on the WELL Campaign (Wellness, Equity, and Learning Legislation), launched by the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education, and Policy at Teachers, College, Columbia University and supports school districts to create, implement, and assess strong, comprehensive local wellness policies.

Assemblyman Benedetto, the new Chair of the Education Committee in the New York State Assembly, has agreed to host a legislative Lunch and Learn for New York State legislators so they may learn about the status of school wellness policy in New York State, and the WELL Campaign. This event will be held on March 26 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

The meetings, including that with Assemblyman Pichardo, highlighted a concern that the New York State Education Department School Health Associate position has been vacant for the past 9 years. And, as a result New York State missed an opportunity to apply for a 5-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Improving Student Health and Academic Achievement through Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Management of Chronic Conditions in Schools” in 2018. The CDC made this grant only available to local education agencies such as state education departments. In prior years, CDC funding to provide schools with technical assistance for school wellness policy implementation had been available to state health departments. Without federal CDC funding, the status of support for school wellness policy implementation in New York State remains in question.

On Tuesday, January 29th, at the ‘City Hall in Your Borough Resource Fair in the Bronx,’ Bronx Health REACH Coalition member Sandra Jenkins, from Church of God of Prophecy, met with Mayor de Blasio and reminded him of his promise to meet with Bronx Health REACH to discuss the #Not62: The Campaign for a Healthy Bronx and the ask of making the Bronx a priority in all the city’s agencies. The Mayor promised to look into it. Charmaine Ruddock, Project Director, also spoke briefly to City Council member Vanessa L. Gibson about the promised meeting with the Mayor because it was at her sponsored town hall meeting last April where the Mayor had made that public commitment to meet with the Coalition.

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