After Loss of Markets, NY May Boost Groceries

City Limits • April 21, 2008

Harlem— While the city’s trying to increase the number of produce carts and encourage bodegas to carry healthier food, state officials are angling for bigger game: Supermarkets.

Agriculture officials said they’re hoping to establish a program to boost supermarket development in underserved communities, basing the effort on a Pennsylvania program – the $120 million Fresh Food Financing Initiative – that’s been on the books since 2004. Widely considered a national model, Pennsylvania’s program has already helped to renovate or build 50 food stores statewide, all in underserved areas, since its inception.

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Corner Store Cornucopia

Good • March 19, 2008

At Romano’s Grocery, a small bodega in northeast Philadelphia, former staples like beef jerky are suddenly hard to find. That’s because last December, Juan Carlos Romano renovated his old establishment and ‘created what many hope will become a national model: the healthy corner store. With assistance from Philadelphia’s Food Trust, a food advocacy group, Romano is pairing a sustainable makeover-low-energy coolers and lights-with a transformation of his store’s wares, from packaged and processed to fresh and healthy. Studies have found that for each additional supermarket in a given area, fruit and vegetable consumption increases by as much as 32 percent. By increasing access to fresh produce in Romano’s neighborhood, the Food Trust hopes it can improve community health and, if the plan works, expand the program to other areas. There’s no official verdict on the store’s success yet, but David Nixon, a diabetic and regular customer, was pleased on opening day: “I’d rather have an apple than a Little Debbie,” he says.

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In Harlem’s Test Kitchen: A Taste of Local Recipes

City Limits Weekly • Jan. 28, 2008

Flushing— The Go Green East Harlem Cookbook, edited by Scott Stringer, Jones Books, $17.95 in stores, free at community events.

It’s difficult to take critical aim at a community cookbook. Rarely intended as just a repository of cooking advice, the recipe collections of neighborhood associations, houses of worship, immigrant clubs and tenants’ groups are often aimed more at raising funds and morale than actually generating whole, good meals. Any true culinary skill gleaned from them is a result of luck as much as intention.

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Putting the Cart Before the Market

City Limits Weekly • Dec. 24, 2007

Bushwick – > City officials last week announced that they would be boosting the number of street food permits by 1,500, with a healthy catch: The new food carts will have to sell fruits and vegetables in neighborhoods where residents consume them at low rates.

Going by the name “Green Carts,” the project is being backed by the city’s Food Policy Task Force, Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Permits will be good year-round, and could be available as early as summer 2008, with 500 going to the Bronx and Brooklyn each, and the remainder divvied up between the other boroughs. Carts would be required to sell only unprocessed fruits and vegetables, or pre-packaged fresh produce that is already peeled or cut.

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If You Give the Poor Fresh Vegetables, Will They Eat Them? • Dec. 6, 2007

A brighter note sounded in the obesity epidemic battles this week: Federal Women, Infants and Children vouchers are being overhauled to include fresh fruits and vegetables. But does that mean folks will drop the white bread and American cheese for greens?

In a word: Yes.

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Supermarkets Won’t Solve Obesity, But Bodegas Might • Nov. 6, 2007

The lack of healthy food in our nation’s poorest communities is finally making it into public discussion, but there’s a tricky hurdle we’ve yet to get around: How to fix it. The most obvious solution–bring in food stores like supermarkets, which are correlated with people eating more fruits and vegetables–is a bureaucratic nightmare. “Food deserts,” typically located in poor urban areas, usually come with limited building sites, hefty regulations and market realities that differ dramatically from the suburbs where supermarkets perfected their business model.

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Mapping Out Meals

Plenty • July 27, 2007

Two days before Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Marnie Genre was putting down roots in the Big Easy—literally. Planting backyard fruit and vegetable gardens in the city’s Hollygrove neighborhood, Genre and her colleagues at the New Orleans Food and Farm Network (NOFFN), a food justice group, were aiming to improve the health of residents in the low-income communities while bolstering local food systems.

Then Katrina hit. Hollygrove sat under floodwaters for days. And when they receded, NOFFN knew that everything had changed—including what they needed to do.

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Not Your Average Turnip Truck

Plenty • July 13, 2007

The corner of Market and Brockhurst in West Oakland, CA doesn’t look much like a food mecca. A small church, a low-slung YMCA, and an elementary school occupy three corners of the treeless intersection. On the fourth corner sits the only clue: a two-story house converted to apartments, bearing a colorful, graffiti-lettered sign declaring, “Be Healthy!”

It’s fitting that the offices of the People’s Grocery, an Oakland-based food justice group, offer the brightest sign of fresh food for blocks.  Founded in 2002 by Malaika Edwards, Leander Sellers, and current executive director Brahm Ahmadi, the group started with one simple premise: Bring fresh, healthy food to the city.

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One Stop Shop

Plenty • July 6, 2007

A couple years ago, Veronica Uy, a staffer for the Philadelphia-based food justice group the Food Trust, got an intriguing assignment: Visit the country’s biggest and best farmers’ markets—and help create something similar in the City of Brotherly Love.

It was a perfect fit for Uy, a Filipina-Canadian transplant to the States who developed a passion for food markets during a trip to Southeast Asia. She’d recently dropped a fledgling career as a computer programmer to work on food issues, and the project came with a double lure. Not only would a flagship market appeal to Uy’s foodie instincts, (she’s an avid home cook) it would highlight the local produce available in the city—and help publicize the fact that in Philly, most farmers’ markets accept food stamps and other government benefit coupons.

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Motor City Harvest

Plenty • June 29, 2007

“All right, when you’re starting your seedlings, you don’t need to go buy those trays, right?” Ashley Atkinson, a bespectacled and freckled 29-year-old, is quickly wrapping a piece of newspaper around a bottle of water, talking to a dozen tables of Detroiters eating through a potluck dinner as she works. “Because what are those trays made out of?”

The room chuckles: “Plastic!”

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