Our Go!Healthy Food Box program gives families access to fresh produce in areas where nutritious food is hard to come by.
In New York City, about a third of children and youth in grades K-12 are overweight, and low-income students are disproportionately affected.
Children’s Aid understands the importance of nutrition in combatting obesity not just during National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, but year-round. In the neighborhoods we serve – Harlem, Washington Heights, the south Bronx, and northern Staten Island – our families have easier access to a bodega than to a supermarket.
About 60 million U.S. children spend a significant amount of their day in schools or childcare so Children’s Aid is committed to infusing nutrition education, food access, and obesity prevention into all of our sites.
In Washington Heights, 26.5 percent of children are classified as obese and in the south Bronx’s 16th Congressional District, nearly one-quarter of children in kindergarten through eighth grade are in the same category.
Our Go!Healthy initiative gets children of all ages excited about eating healthy foods and provides families with the resources to live healthy, active lifestyles. We do this through healthy cooking competitions, community gardens, and serving nutritious meals to children at our schools and community centers.
We also aim to tackle the issue of access. The south Bronx is considered a food desert and has the highest rate of hunger in the country. In central Harlem, there are 22 bodegas for every one supermarket.
Our Go! Healthy Food Box program brings fresh produce to the thousands of children and families we serve each year, providing an affordable alternative to high-calorie low-nutrition foods.
We distribute food boxes at sites from July through November and at select sites during the off-season from December through May. Our partnership with local produce suppliers ensures that the 7-9 pieces of produce we provide are always fresh.
In addition to breaking down barriers to fruit and vegetable access, we educate our children and families on the importance of choosing healthy food. Each food box comes with a tasty recipe and nutritionists are on-site to provide cooking demonstrations and to answer any questions families may have about their items.
Our program also addresses financial barriers. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dollars can be used to purchase food boxes, along with cash, credit/debit, and the Department of Health’s fruit and vegetable incentives, Health Bucks coupons.
We distributed 4,092 bags across our sites throughout the 2018-19 season and approximately 43 percent of the participants were returning customers.
“Our food box program provides our families access to affordable, local and fresh produce that isn’t easily available within the community,” said Whitney Reuling, director of food and nutrition programs at Children’s Aid. “We believe that healthy, fresh food is a right, and that everyone should have access to it, regardless of their zip code.”