Expanding Healthy Food Access Points in Brownsville
Building Healthy Communities
January 3, 2017
Although Brownsville, a Healthy Neighborhoods Fund site, faces daunting health statistics and negative portrayals, there are many committed residents who work tirelessly to improve their neighborhood’s health and wellbeing.
Active Citizen Project (ACP) creates opportunities for people to live healthy lives and thrive in their communities, one of which is its flagship program, Project EATS. The program collaborates with residents, schools, community-based organizations, and businesses to transform underused spaces (low-utility public and private land) in working-class and low-income neighborhoods into sustainable, productive urban farms. It also oversees the GrowNYC Youthmarket (a network of urban farm stands operated by neighborhood youth and supplied by local farmers) and provides nutrition education and skills-training programs to residents of the neighborhoods in which it operates. To support Project EATS’ sustainability in Brownsville, NYSHealth awarded ACP a grant in 2017.
Under this grant, ACP enhanced Project EATS’ immediate and long-term sustainability to provide fresh, affordable produce to Brownsville residents. Specifically, ACP partnered with GrowNYC to expand the Brownsville Youthmarket by hiring local youth to work in the market and on the local Project EATS farm; increase Project EATS farm stand operations at its largest Brownsville farm; and pilot a mobile bicycle-driven farm stand to sell food at regularly scheduled times throughout the neighborhood. In addition, ACP expanded Project EATS’ Farmacy program; it worked with local health care providers to prescribe fresh produce to patients with modifiable diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, who can then fill the prescriptions at the Project EATS garden. It also supported the delivery of nutrition education activities for customers, such as food preparation and cooking demonstrations, at all Project EATS food access points. Lastly, ACP engaged an external consultant to conduct an initial assessment of and recommend strategies for Project EATS’ farming practices. ACP tracked sales and regularly surveyed customers to continuously improve the program, as well as developed tools to assess if and how greater accessibility to fresh produce is resulting in lifestyle changes for its customers.