Foodies in da ‘Hood?

The Huffington Post • Aug. 15, 2006

Forget organics. Stop worrying about local. Just get some fresh food into the ‘hood. That’s a pretty basic summary of the latest brainstorm in the “How do we stop being so fat?” conundrum: Use bodegas–the cheap corner stores found in poor urban neighborhoods–as beacons of health. If it sounds unlikely that the local one-stop ice cream/malt liquor shop could be a promoter of sound nutrition, you’d best pause a moment and really take a look at the Bodegas as Catalysts for Healthy Living Act, introduced into the House in late July by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY).

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Body by Bodega

City Limits • July 24, 2006

Bushwick – > Federal officials are opening up a new front in the fight against obesity: access. Heading the charge is Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, representing parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Lower East Side, who plans this week to introduce the Bodegas as Catalysts for Healthy Living Act. If enacted, it would mark the first federal effort to target the issue of food quality and availability in the nation’s low-income communities.

The bill, which is also backed by the Washington Heights-based Bodega Association of the United States and local public health officials, would create a federal program offering grants through the Small Business Administration to help bodegas and corner stores stock and maintain fresh fruits and vegetables, along with low-fat milk and real fruit juices.

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Hidden Health Costs

City Limits • Oct. 11, 2005 High rates of childhood obesity may have a stealth culprit: rising prices. A new study from the Rand Health Corporation, a nonprofit policy group, found a strong correlation between childhood weight gain and higher prices for fruits and vegetables. In fact, the study found higher prices to be a … Read more

Clean Bill of Health

City Limits • March/April 2005

Private employers could soon be forced to provide health insurance for their workers, under a new bill moving steadily toward City Council approval.

The Health Care Security Act, introduced last fall, would require private employers in five industries–large groceries, industrial laundries, hotels, building services and construction–to either provide insurance or pay into a citywide fund that would do it for them. Still in the early stages of negotiation, the bill has strong support; at press time it boasted 39 council sponsors, enough to survive a mayoral veto.

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Health Care for Caregivers

City Limits • January/February 2005

For New York’s nannies, good health care is often a luxury. Paid too well to qualify for government insurance, yet too poor to afford private insurance, they do what millions of workers do: Try not to get sick. That could soon change, however, thanks to a new effort to get them insured. And it’s not the city, or the nannies themselves, that will be footing the bill. It’s the families that employ them.

That would be great, says Michelle Cornwall, who’s worked as a New York nanny since immigrating here from Grenada in 1993. Like many nannies, she hasn’t managed to get her immigration paperwork together, and hence is paid under the table. And though she does file taxes, she doesn’t qualify for Medicaid. “I’ve never had health insurance on any of my jobs,” says Cornwall. “You go to the doctor, you pay for it on your own.”

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The Action Diet


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Food Access in NYC, by zip code
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Article as published in print









Winner, 2005 Harry Chapin Media Award
Finalist, 2005 James Beard Journalism Award


City Limits • July/August 2004

“It has a butt crack!”

Vanessa Santiago, 18 years old, giggles as she peers at the object of her glee: a garbanzo bean.

Tight jeans, a bomber jacket and a pink sweatband-Santiago doesn’t look like the type of girl to contemplate the aesthetics of legumes. But on this cold Saturday morning, she has come from Bushwick to lower Manhattan to inspect a can of beans. Standing in the middle of a commercial kitchen, Santiago and a half-dozen other teenagers cluster around a steel table, a ragtag bunch of critics.

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