Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mercy Center & Ironwill: Helping Others in the South Bronx

Several times during the year, the Ironwill Foundation offers a six-week wellness program at the Mercy Center in the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx.

The program focuses on issues related to nutrition, shopping and cooking, which fits into Mercy Center’s mission of “offering programs and services that empower women to reach their full potential and become agents of change in their families and communities.”

I recently became involved with Ironwill and just finished my first six-week session.

The environment is challenging, as there is limited access in the South Bronx to affordable, healthy food. There is relatively no education available in regard to proper food choices and food package labeling—which is mind-boggling to begin with—can be especially daunting (I would even say insidious) for those whose first language is not English.

The local Pioneer supermarket specializes in packaged and processed foodstuffs. What good food there is tends to be exorbitantly priced, especially for those in Mott Haven, where, according to the Mercy Center, “the median household income is $14,271, compared [to] the citywide median of $31,717 and the U.S. median of $41,994.”

Despite the inherent hurdles, the women loved the program and started pondering changes they could make to improve how they and their families eat and think about food. The highlight, though, was undoubtedly the action taken by Beatriz, the mother of two young children.

Check back tomorrow to learn how Beatriz changed her thinking about food and conquered her neighborhood’s food desert. It’s an inspiring story.


Katrina said...

Thank you for this post! In the past year, we have been taking out all processed foods in our house. Although we still have a few in our home, we spend 95% of our time in the fresh fruit and veggie section at the grocery store. We live in the Parkchester Area of the Bronx. From experience I can say that almost every local supermarket's produce section is crap. I find fruit with mold, brown lettuce, and disgusting brown and bruised bananas. I have to take a bus to the local Pathmark (almost a mile away) to even find some some acceptable produce, then pay for a cab back to my house.
Lately we have been fortunate to be able to borrow my father-in-law's truck to take a trip to Walmart in North Bergen, NJ, we also have to pay the toll during this trip.
Why should it be so hard for us to find acceptable produce, and learn about nutrition. It is easier for people to pick up processed foods, when the produce is bad. I hope that more groups can contribute to educating people about nutrition.
A lot of people would say that they don't have time to make fresh foods, but they have to be reminded that it takes time and preparation to feed your family in a healthy manner. Everyone should be willing to invest that time!

ajlounyinjurylaw said...

Once you get used to a new way of thinking about food and nutrition it becomes easier.