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Jamaica tackles obesity

Promoters of better food choices gather in front of a Jamaica bodega that offers a variety of healthier products. Photo by Juan Soto
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Help is on the way to fight chronic diseases in downtown Jamaica and St. Albans, two areas that are hit hard by obesity and diabetes.

At least 18 area businesses are promoting healthier food choices on their shelves and menus to try to mitigate this serious problem.

The promoters of the initiative want to cross these two neighborhoods from the “food dessert” list, places where buying affordable and nutritious food is hard if not impossible.

“People like to eat healthier,” said Issa Addliy, a worker at Jamaica Deli and Grill, at 89-31 161st St., one of the establishments that is taking part in the initiative. “And here they can.”

According to a 2013 study by the city Department of Health, 23.9 percent of adults in Jamaica are obese with a body mass index of 30 or higher.

Named the Jamaica Healthy Business Challenge, the program is organized by the Sutphin Boulevard Business Improvement District, Make the Road and The Partnership for a Healthier Queens, among others.

“Now, anyone can go into this store and ask for a healthier choice of food and beverage,” Simone Price, executive director of the Sutphin Boulevard BID, said in front of the Deli and Grill this week.

Organizers only found businesses willing to collaborate when they approached them to sign on to the activity.

“They are eager to participate,” added Price.

As part of the program, foodies can walk into these delis and restaurants and ask for steamed or baked options, instead of fried; look for whole grains choices, like brown rice and whole wheat bread; and enjoy nuts and dried fruit snacks.

Sandra Guzman, of Cornell University Cooperative Extension, held a food demonstration and made confetti bean salsa, an exquisite dish that only has 200 calories and 2 grams of fat per cup.

“We are just trying to make small changes that will go a long way,” said Price. “We are trying to provide better options, especially for people who can’t go outside the community when they buy food.”

“We are doing this all in the name of preventing chronic diseases,” said Dahlia Goldenberg, health coordinator for Make the Road, a nonprofit advocacy group.

The program includes asking stores and restaurants to sign on to the challenge to include more fruits and vegetables on their menus and reducing the roster of sugary drinks.

Some of the eateries that are participating in the initiative are the Dominican restaurant Villa Mar, at 89-20 163rd St., and the West Indian eatery Genesis, at 162-23 Hillside Ave., both in Jamaica, and St. Albans’ Teriyaki Deli and Grill, at 201-15 Linden Blvd., and ABC Book and Health Store, at 115-50 Merrick Blvd.

Catholic Charities, Cultural Collaborative Jamaica and Public Heath Solutions are also taking part in the program. Workers and volunteers distributed fliers to the public in Jamaica and St. Albans with information and spoke with restaurant owners to get them to join the initiative.

“We want the public to know that they can do this,” said Goldenberg. “They can make healthier choices.”

Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at jsoto­@cngl­ocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Posted 12:00 am, August 22, 2014
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Reader feedback

Joe Moretti from Jamaica says:
While this is a far cry from help, it is at least a small step in the right direction. First off, one only needs to walk down Jamaica Avenue and see the unhealthy obese people, many who will probably be dead within a few years. Second over half of the bodegas, especially in South Jamaica, don't even have fruit, let alone anything healthy and very little product, but considering that several of those places are either laundering money places or drug dealing, what is to be expected.

Funny how obese Leroy Comrie, several years ago attempted to pass a bill on banning "happy meals" unless they meet certain nutritional values, which of course did not pass, and city council is attempting something similar. News flash, people who eat at fast food places don't really care about their health, so why even bother with this type of thing.

As leaders of communities, you should attempt to encourage food places that are healthy to come into the community to do business not make crap fast food places change their menu. Bottom line people do have a right to eat where they want, no matter how unhealthy.

Ironic that Comrie and other council members will waste so much time on this issue that is freedom of choice, but yet will not left a finger to do with the major garbage problem in Jamaica, which causes rodents, insects and is very unhealthy for the environment and people.

http://cleanupjamaicaqueens.wordpress.com/
Aug. 22, 2014, 5:59 am
Joe Moretti from Jamaica says:
One more thing, very funny that the women in red is holding a bag of Lay's Oven Backed Potato Chips, not really a healthy choice at all. So would that be considered a "vegetable choice"?

http://cleanupjamaicaqueens.wordpress.com/
Aug. 22, 2014, 6:01 am
al from rh says:
I have to add that the need to discourage the consumption of meats of ANY type needs to be encouraged.
The animal products are not only destroying the health of the American citizen; destroying our country's natural resources and causing immense pollution.

All fast food restaurants (& family style chains) are totally non nutritious and extremely dangerous to the health and finances of the U S A.
Aug. 22, 2014, 9:15 am
all concerned from Queens says:
Diabetes does not result in all obese people nor does diabetes limit itself to only obese people. All need to be concerned. Eating less starch including rice as well as french fries and practicing portion control should be stressed to all groups in all neighborhoods
Aug. 22, 2014, 9:43 am
Calvin from Richmond Hill says:
People in Jamaica grow up without healthy options. People are creatures of habit. There's going to habitually eat poorly until there's a concerted effort to break habits and ensure access to affordable options.

One of the best ways is to replace the cheap, processed crap served in local schools. It teaches kids that sauce soaked bread and cheese or heavily salted baked chicken are appropriate for lunch. We need to be throwing loads of fresh, green produce at kids. They need to grow up eating it.

Poor and middle class folks would love to eat "organic" but it's prohibitively pricey. There needs to be a discussion on why we need to pay more money for agribusiness to NOT add chemicals to our food.
Aug. 22, 2014, 9:46 am
Joe Moretti from Jamaica says:
Calvin makes an excellent point about school lunches, AWFUL, nothing like when I went to school. Those in charge of schools should be ashamed of themselves.

Remove vending machines as well. When I went to school vending machines were not allowed in schools.

http://cleanupjamaicaqueens.wordpress.com/
Aug. 22, 2014, 12:29 pm

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