Saturday, March 1, 2008

Apple Gets Healthy Bite, Vancouver Take Note

Editorial: New York Times
A Streetcart Named Healthy
Published: March 1, 2008

Health experts have taken to calling low-income neighborhoods “food deserts,” and it is easy to see why. Supermarkets are usually in short supply and specialty produce and health-food stores are even rarer. Residents are often forced to do their food shopping in small grocery stores that carry few fresh fruits and vegetables.

Not surprisingly, these are the same communities that suffer most from obesity and related diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council have come up with an innovative solution. Pressed by Speaker Christine Quinn, the Council withstood protests from the retail food industry and approved 1,000 new licenses for mobile fruit and vegetable stands — designating them for the parts of the city that need them most.

There are already about 4,000 so-called green carts, but they rarely venture far from the tonier — and healthier — neighborhoods. The new initiative will put green carts on the sidewalks of the poorest areas, which are home to a disproportionate share of roughly half of the city’s residents who are overweight.

These neighborhoods are packed with fast-food burger and fried chicken restaurants. A city survey found that the chances of finding bananas, oranges or apples were small. No more than 6 percent of the bodegas the city looked at carried fresh greens.

The city could help even more by publicizing the green carts in their new neighborhoods, reminding residents of the benefits of a healthy diet, and handing out recipes for cooking with fresh produce.

Mr. Bloomberg and his health commissioner, Dr. Tom Frieden, and Ms. Quinn deserve credit for turning common sense into good health policy: banning smoking in public places, limiting trans fats in restaurant food and forcing calorie disclosure from chain eateries. We can now add the green carts to that sound list.

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