April 13, 2018 By Tara Law
Residents of Jackson Heights, Corona and Jamaica struggle to find stores that offer healthy food, according to a new report published by a New York City nonprofit.
The neighborhoods are deemed “food swamps” since the number of stores offering healthy food are vastly outnumbered by junk food outlets, according to a study published by Public Health Solutions on April 11. The study focused solely on Jackson Heights, Corona and Jamaica.
Public Health Solutions, a 60-year-old New York City nonprofit that conducts research and provides health services, undertook the study since there is limited data available about food options in these areas, according to Sabrina Baronberg, senior director of food and nutrition programs.
The study, which mapped out 3,661 businesses across the three neighborhoods during the summer and fall of 2014, found that there is only one supermarket for every five fast food and six corner stores.
“We take for granted that healthy food options—even those as basic as supermarkets—are available and accessible; but this isn’t the reality for many New Yorkers,” said Lisa David, the organization’s president and CEO.
The problem is compounded by the prevalence of small stores in these neighborhood, which often struggle to afford to keep fresh produce in stock, Baronberg said.
These businesses often have limited space, and the owners must choose goods that are the most popular with the community. Fresh fruit and vegetables also require businesses to pay for expensive storage devices and to train employees to care for and stock the produce.
Baronberg said that it is important for health programs to consider ways to help support businesses that are interested in providing healthy food options. Bodegas, for instance, can tap into the grab-and-go food option trend by offering cut-up fruits and vegetables.
“These are neighborhoods where these stores have been around for generations, and they have changed based on the demographics in the neighborhood,” said Baronberg. “In lieu of opening new businesses, I think it’s important to support the businesses that are there.”
Public Health Solutions will be releasing another report that will look more closely at what the restaurants and stores are offering to get more granular data about what is available in the neighborhoods, Baronberg said.
For a copy of the study, click here