This post is written by Senior Fellow, Charmaine Ruddock MS. She directs Bronx Health REACH, a coalition of 50 community and faith-based organizations, funded by the Centers for Disease Control’s REACH 2010 Initiative to address racial and ethnic health disparities.
Yesterday morning, I and many of the partners Bronx Health REACH collaborates with, and those we hope to collaborate with in the future, met up at the press conference of Council Member Ritchie Torres to announce the historic funding for HealthBucks that he secured in the 2015 New York City budget. It is historic not because it launched the HealthBucks program. HealthBucks is a New York City Department of Health initiative launched several years ago. It is historic because for the first time funding was secured from the City Council through the advocacy of this newly elected City Councilman at the behest of over 1700 of his constituents. So many elements were there that makes me happy about the work that I do. There were the partners- the Bronx District Public Health Office, New York League of Conservation Voters, GrowNYC, Mary Mitchell Center and the children from their programs, Union Community Health Center, iconic urban farmer and gardener extraordinaire – Karen Washington, a politician and his staff present and striving to meet the needs and demands of a community. There was the setting, Poe Park named for Edgar Allen Poe, with the house he lived in for the last years of his life nestled in one corner of the park. A treasure right here in the Bronx. And, there were the community residents in teeming numbers, crowding the farm stands, carrying two, three, four bags filled with produce. Produce so fresh that the scents of cilantro and other herbs filled the air. And, there were the farmers, smiling and intent because business was brisk and demand was high. When I hear and/ or read that people in the poor neighborhoods in the Bronx are not interested in buying and eating fresh produce, I think of this Bronx that I see, that gets me excited and gives us all hope.