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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.
©2014 Community News Group
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