This summer I am interning at the CUNY School of Public Health Urban Food Policy Institute. The Institute, located in upper Manhattan, works to ensure food equity throughout Manhattan’s and other borough’s most disadvantaged districts. Many of these districts we work with, for example Harlem and the Bronx, do not have access to healthy and fresh foods that can literally save their lives. Through the work done at the Institute, individuals all over New York City are gaining access to healthy and sustainable food instead of the fast and cheap food the predominates in this neighborhood.
One source of inequality comes from health. Certain demographics have access to healthy and whole foods while others rely on fast foods and processed foods to complete their diet. This stems from price, proximity to fresh food and time it takes to make healthy meals. The Urban Food Policy Institute aims to eradicate these food desserts and make healthy options not only preferable but easy. This ultimately leads to a decrease in the prevailing diseases plaguing these communities such as diabetes and heart disease. Creating equality in diet ultimately improves the health of everyone and saves lives and money.
My role as intern at this organization encompasses many projects. As the only undergraduate intern, I am among many public health graduate students. My first week, I used excel to analyze hundreds of surveys assessing the efficacy and results of urban farms in housing developments in upper Manhattan. After analyzing the data, I made graphs and charts to be used in a journal publication on this project. This data and the graphs I made are going to be used in an article for a public health journal. It is nice to see work of mine get sued in a meaningful way. In the weeks since then, I have assisted in research projects on the needs of food retailers in the Harlem area of Manhattan and how a training program by the Institute can best train teenagers to work in the health food industry. I am also working on a database outlining food policies throughout New York City in order to streamline the process of enacting change in the food industry.
The work I am doing this summer is helping to bring healthy and wholesome foods to areas that do not have access to the nutrition they need. Many communities only have unhealthy and packaged foods that harm their longevity. America spends more money on healthcare than other countries but it sees poorer results. This is because we do not feed our communities in a sustainable way. Additionally, by use processed foods, we harm the environment through shipping and processing energy expenditures. Often all that someone needs to begin eating a balanced diet is help knowing what that means. At the institute we engage citizens in a dialogue to ensure that their health does not decline as a result of their unhealthy habits. Ultimately, this relieves neighborhoods of epidemics of non-communicable diet-related diseases that cost money to treat and end lives too early.
The institute: http://www.cunyurbanfoodpolicy.org/