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BRONX TIMES REPORTER, A 30 PR. 23-29, 2021 BTR
Gibson and Bodega and Small Business
Association rally for expansion of
Healthy Bodega Program
Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson held a press conference April 14, with the leaders of the Bodega
and Small Business Association to announce support for an expansion of the healthy
bodega program. Photos by Jason Cohen
BY JASON COHEN
As Whole Foods has come to Harlem
and Trader Joe’s is on the way,
many in the Bronx might wonder why
they still struggle to fi nd healthy food
and live in food deserts.
In an effort to change this, Councilwoman
Vanessa Gibson held a press
conference on April 14 with the leaders
of the Bodega and Small Business
Association to announce support for
an expansion of the healthy bodega
program that was fi rst launched in the
Bronx fi ve years ago with a grant from
the Centers for Disease Control. Currently,
only 20 bodegas are in the initiative.
Gibson noted that the Bronx was
the epicenter for COVID-19, but prior
to the pandemic, had some of the highest
diabetes numbers in the state and
ranked fi rst for obesity in the city.
“There’s no denying that there’s a
strong correlation between the lack of
access to healthy foods and increased
health risks in our community,” Gibson
said. “I fully support an expansion
of this program because it empowers
and enriches our bodega owners,
many of them who are immigrant entrepreneurs
who have disproportionately
been affected by COVID-19.”
The councilwoman stressed that
Bronx residents should not have to
travel to Westchester or Harlem to get
healthy food. The lack of healthy food
has been exposed during the pandemic
as people have waited on lines four
hours at pantries.
Gibson noted that children love to
munch on chips and drink soda, but
they must fi nd better things to eat. As
bodegas are a staple in the borough,
she hopes the healthy initiative is expanded
and more can participate.
“It is extremely important that
we work with the Bodega and Small
Business Association, Bronx Health
Reach and their community partners
to ensure they have the resources and
support to provide these healthy alternatives
for our residents,” Gibson
remarked. “Why is it that in the Bronx
healthy food is inaccessible and more
Frank Marte, founder of Bodega
and Small Business Association,
thanked Gibson for advocating for the
expansion of the healthy initiative. He
noted that sometimes it’s hard to get
people to change their diet.
Often, people come in for a bacon
egg and cheese and soda, but, he does
his best to suggest getting water, low
sodium turkey or salad instead. If kids
are taught how to eat healthy from a
young age then things might be different,
“We need our leaders to come together
to support this initiative and
help our community,” Marte commented.
“One day we can say the
Bronx is one of the healthiest counties
in NY State.”
Frank Garcia, who is the chairman
of the National Association of
State Latino Chambers of Commerce,
knows about eating unhealthy fi rsthand.
Garcia used to scarf down chips,
snacks and soda and eventually became
so obese doctors told him he had
two months to live.
He praised Gibson, but also pleaded
with the federal government to help
bodegas in the south Bronx.
“We need to put money in these
small businesses that are offering a
healthy initiative,” he stressed.
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