Waistline and Food Options
New York City’s Department of Health (DOH) pinpoints 3 prime food swamp neighborhoods—the Upper East Side, Central Harlem, and East Harlem. Sure, all 3 areas have easy access to food, but the food available is overwhelmingly subpar and just plain unhealthy.
The DOH found the lower income areas of East and Central Harlem with more bodegas (convenience stores) a total average obesity rate of 29-percent. While the higher income Upper East Side, had slightly more supermarkets, slightly less fast food options, and a total average obesity rate of 22-percent (on par with the NYC average).
The City Planning Aspect
Ensuring that nutritional food is available at reasonable cost to people should be part and parcel with city planning, according to Debbie Field, FoodShare Toronto’s executive director.
Field suggests that any time areas are designated for new neighborhoods, part of the planning process should include an accessibility plan for healthy food options. The plan should consider healthy food within walking distance for residents living in the immediate area.
The “Eat Where you Live” Mentality
New York’s DOH identifies an “eat where you live” mentality to communities, which makes perfect sense. For instance, residents of food swamps are prone to reach first for cheap, unhealthy, yet convenient food choices if the stores surrounding them largely stock these items.
However this mentality fosters a bleak future for residents of food swamps and food deserts. A future rife with rising obesity rates and more instances of chronic conditions linked to weight—such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.