Harlem Word: James Subudhi -- Improving Harlem's access to healthy food

Editor August 27th, 2009

We interviewed James Subudhi, West Harlem Environmental Action's (WE ACT) sustainability coordinator, to learn about Harlem's hottest environmental issues. Here's what he told us.

Q: What is Harlem's top environmental problem right now?

A: Helping to improve Harlem's access to healthy food is one of the most critical environmental issues for WE ACT right now. Harlem has an obesity crisis--46 percent of East and Central Harlem school children and 60 percent of adults are obese or overweight.

Diseases like diabetes, stroke and heart disease are related to being overweight and are largely caused by the lack of good quality, affordable fruits and vegetables and other healthy food. Our local public health office has recently published reports showing that the Upper East Side has 26 supermarkets while Central Harlem has only 19. These reports also show that most people living here eat fewer than five servings of fruits and vegetables per week. People should be eating five servings each day!

Q: Why is there such a problem finding healthy food here?

A: Historically, low income communities of color have had less access to healthy food than affluent white communities. Harlem residents have fewer supermarkets where they can buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce is also not affordable or even of good quality if it is available.

Q: What is WE ACT doing to bring healthy food into Harlem and to help solve the obesity crisis?

A: The long term social change goal of WE ACT's Northern Manhattan Food Justice Initiative is to improve access to healthy food for children in Northern Manhattan. We support community action to bring more supermarkets into the community.

Recently, we successfully advocated for the New York state government to provide funding for supermarkets to be located in underserved communities like ours. We are also advocating for city legislation that encourages the Office of School Food to purchase school lunches locally. And, we are advocating for the government to provide this office with funding to purchase beverage alternatives for lactose-intolerant children.

Sign in or join now to save events.