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BANK ON IT: Food Bank For New York City's Blog

Nutrition Ed Boot Camp Launches Exciting Changes for CookShop

By Carly Rothman Siditsky

Big changes are coming to CookShop this year, with big impact for New York City students and families struggling to make healthy, affordable food choices.

CookShop is the Food Bank For New York City’s largest nutrition education program, helping children, teens and adults gain the knowledge and skills to make nutritious food choices on a limited budget. On Saturday, at a daylong nutrition education boot camp, the Food Bank trained nearly 1,000 New York City public elementary school teachers and staff to implement the program.

The Food Bank also debuted a new name for CookShop’s component for parents and caregivers, CookShop for Families, and announced an exciting joint effort with SchoolFood to bring CookShop foods into school cafeterias. These changes could have especially far-reaching impact this year, as CookShop nearly doubles in size from approximately 15,000 to 28,000 participants.

Held at the headquarters of the United Federation of Teachers, Saturday’s training was the largest such event in CookShop’s 17-year history. Karen Alford, the UFT’s Vice President for Elementary Schools, and Chris Proctor, the organization’s Director of Health and Safety, were on hand to welcome attendees to the event, joining Áine Duggan, the Food Bank’s Vice President for Research, Policy and Education, and Jeannie Fournier, the Food Bank’s Director of Nutrition and Health Education.

Mildred Peguero, a kindergarten teacher at P.S./I.S. 180M who has implemented CookShop in her classroom for the past five years, also welcomed attendees to the training, sharing her own insights about the program’s impact. CookShop integrates well with the core subject areas like math, science and language arts, she said, adding she’s always impressed to hear her kindergarteners use sophisticated concepts to talk about nutrition.

“They know what they’re eating, and why it’s good for them. They know where the plants come from, and it’s not the store,” she said. The bottom line: “They have learned how to eat healthier.”

Saturday’s nutrition education boot camp featured hands-on cooking lessons and engaging nutrition seminars, through which participants develop the nutrition knowledge and cooking and food safety skills they will pass on to their students when the program begins in December. This year, CookShop will be taught in approximately 1,300 public elementary school classrooms and after-school programs.

But CookShop’s impact will also reach beyond the classroom. CookShop for Families (formerly CookShop for Adults) is offered in schools that implement CookShop Classroom for Elementary School. With workshops that complement the children’s curricula, CookShop for Families’ new name emphasizes its core goal: involving whole families in preparing meals and choosing food. Similarly, CookShop’s partnership with SchoolFood aims to engage entire school communities in the program’s lessons about why and how to eat wholesome foods including fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

Without School Lunch & Breakfast, Kids Need Summer Meals

by Roxanne Henry

Last week my nephew completed kindergarten, and began his summer vacation along with all the other children in the New York City public school system. It was an exciting week for sure, but also the week that hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren lost access to free and low-cost school breakfast and lunch. Instead of wondering which camp or summer activities their children should partake in, many of these families will have to worry about having enough food to eat during the summer.

As an aunt, I am very involved in my nephew’s life. Playing an integral role in a child’s development underscores the importance of alleviating harsh realities like child hunger. This reality makes my role as the Food Bank’s Community Outreach Manager so important: I advocate for better access to federal Child Nutrition Programs like the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP, or Summer Meals).

Recognizing that more children rely on emergency food during the summer, we work with the NYC Department of Education to recruit members of our citywide network of soup kitchens and food pantries to help provide summer meals at their sites. The Food Bank will support these sites by assisting with community outreach, developing activities to promote participation and providing additional program support. Our goal is to ensure that as many children as possible receive free summer meals, which are also available at schools, parks, libraries, pools and other sites across the city.

My hope is that, with support from the Food Bank and SFSP, New York City children will only have to think about where they want to play this summer, and not where their next meal may come from.

Principals: CookShop Helps Students, Families Make Healthy Choices

by Katherine Mancera

As today is the last day of public school in New York City, it is a perfect time to reflect on an exciting year of CookShop, the Food Bank’s nutrition education program. Our workshops for children, teens and adults reached more than 15,000 people in all five boroughs, including students in more than 700 public elementary school classrooms.

Last year, in a survey of participating teachers, more than 97 percent reported their students more likely to try a new healthy food because of CookShop, while 96 percent reported their students want to eat healthier and 92 percent said their students are making healthier food choices because of CookShop.

This year, participating principals sent letters describing their CookShop success stories, and we were thrilled to hear their rave reviews. We’re especially excited that so many people involved with CookShop will continue cooking and eating fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains at home. Here are a few of their stories:

“CookShop became a catch phrase in our building, and the amount of enthusiasm it built among our teachers and students was amazing. The children in grades pre-K to second and in our special needs class learn to make healthy, nutritious recipes that they eagerly share with their parents at home. CookShop’s lessons have students readily eating vegetables in our cafeteria that my nutritionist and our parents have told me they were not eating before. It provides a bonding experience, a motivational tool and a new way of talking about food and nutrition for our teachers, our parents and our students.

“CookShop is an essential weapon in our healthy-living, healthy-eating fight to change the obesity rates in our school and in our neighborhood.”
—Harold Anderson, Principal, C.S. 21 – Crisups Attucks Elementary School

“Our cook tastes the recipes and is going to start serving [CookShop] dishes at lunch time. This program has not only taught our community about healthy eating, but it has brought our community together.…Parents are volunteering in the classroom and cooking with the staff.”
—Carin Ellis, Principal, P.S. 212 Queens – School of CyberScience and Literacy

“The teachers and students love the program. I just walked into a bilingual classroom and it was the first time they have seen cauliflower and collard greens. They were amazed with the texture.”
—Melissa Acevedo-Lamarca, Assistant Principal, P.S. 19 Queens

“This is the first year my school is participating in the program and we LOVE IT!!! My little kindergarten, first and second grade students enjoy Fridays when their teachers do the CookShop lessons. I often have a little visitor coming to give me a small sample of what they made in class. My kids are always eager to explain what they made and how they did it.”
—Vanessa Christenses, Assistant Principal, P.S. 48 Queens – The William Wordsworth School

“This Thanksgiving my family had a potluck and we all had to bring something. My sister, who teaches second grade at a school in the Bronx, surprised us with the three-bean salsa, which she too learned to make in CookShop at her school. This was full circle for me…CookShop is touching the lives of so many near and far. It makes me smile every time I think of my sister serving a CookShop dish at Thanksgiving because she knows we all need to eat healthier.”
—Dora Danner, Assistant Principal, P.S. 17 – The Henry David Thoreau School

As improving child nutrition becomes a national priority, the Food Bank is proud of CookShop’s success in moving children and families toward a healthier lifestyle — and is working to bring the program to more communities in need.

Katherine Mancera is the Food Bank's Public Education Associate. For more information on our CookShop program go to www.foodbanknyc.or/go/CookShop, or watch our CookShop video below:

A Visit to St. Ann’s Episcopal Church

by Caitlin Buckley

From top: Alberta, a soup kitchen client and member of St. Ann's congregation; St. Ann's board member Virginia Potter catching up with congregation member Florence Taylor during soup kitchen service; Cynthia Black, a cook at St. Ann's soup kitchen; photos courtesy of Scott Waddell

The South Bronx is one of the poorest areas in the nation, and food poverty is widespread in the neighborhood of Morrisania, home of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, one of the Food Bank’s network members. For more than a century, the church has been a Bronx landmark — in fact, it is the first church in the Bronx — but St. Ann’s has grown into an innovative and esteemed community resource.

St. Ann’s operates a food pantry and soup kitchen, as well as after-school and summer programs for children, which incorporate nutrition education along with field trips, healthy snacks and exploration of the church’s vegetable garden. Cynthia, who cooks at the soup kitchen, moved to New York from the West Indies and has been a member of the St. Ann’s congregation for 20 years. “We are a family,” she says, and many members of the church both volunteer and rely on the church’s services. Alberta, a senior living on social security, first came to St. Ann’s for the food pantry and has joined the community. “I get food stamps now, so I don’t need the pantry as much, but I feel right at home here,” she says.

St. Ann’s is led by the Rev. Martha Overall, an ardent and compassionate leader in the fight against hunger. Author and educator Jonathan Kozol has chronicled her work, and Bernice King, who helps run the kitchen and after-school meal program at St. Ann’s, says, “She makes sure that we can feed everyone nutritious food…and she cares.”

Bernice is proud that St. Ann’s is helping meet the needs of its neighbors. “Whatever we have to do, we’ll do,” she says. “We have a lot of seniors who come to us, and they’re ashamed. They’ve worked their whole lives, and they don’t want to take help. But [they find] a community here.”

Originally featured in Food for Thought Spring 2010, the Food Bank's print newsletter.

A Fishing Story from the Bronx

by David Grossnickle

 photo courtesy of the New Fulton Fish Market

The New Fulton Fish Market Cooperative houses 37 seafood wholesale businesses at its site at the Hunt’s Point Terminal Market in the Bronx. The largest wholesale seafood market in the country, worldwide the New Fulton Fish Market is second only to the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, Japan. And many of their seafood wholesalers are regular food donors to the Food Bank.

Walking through the market can be described only as an amazing tour of seafood from the eastern seaboard, and the world. There are common varieties such as herring, flounder and striped bass that are plentiful. But less-known varieties such as Spanish mackerel, sturgeon and cuttlefish are also in regular supply.

The health benefits of eating fresh seafood are well documented. Fresh seafood is nutrient-rich and provides a high-quality source of protein in the diet. Since fish is naturally low in fat but rich in omega-3 fatty acids or heart healthy fats, the American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of seafood per week. All of the seafood wholesalers at the New Fulton Fish Market, especially Blue Ribbon Fish Company, Carl’s Seafood, GC Dino’s Seafood, Fair Fish Company and Joe Monani Fish Company help the Food Bank distribute their donations directly to members of our food assistance network — helping to ensure that New Yorkers in need are able to enjoy both the taste and health benefits of fresh seafood.

Next time you eat seafood, remember the market and all that they do to help hungry New Yorkers — because, with millions of pounds of fresh seafood moving through the market every day, there is a very good chance the seafood you‘re eating came from the New Fulton Fish Market. Thank you to the wholesalers and the New Fulton Fish Market for providing a wonderful source of seafood to our network!

Letter from Lucy: Spring 2010

Dear Friends,

President Obama’s commitment to end child hunger by 2015 comes at a critical time. Right now, New York City’s food assistance organizations are struggling to meet the increased needs of a city devastated by unemployment, lost savings and the high cost of living, and many families with children have been hard hit by the recession.

Of course, no matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow, and I hope that in time we will begin to see signs of relief after such a long and brutal economic storm. For now, however, there is still a real and immediate need that must be met. The troubled economy has tried everyone’s resilience — from the city’s poorest, who have struggled with adversity and found themselves fighting even harder to survive, to the newly unemployed, who have turned to food stamps and food pantries for the first time.

I have worked with the Food Bank for more than 20 years to make sure that each of those individuals finds help when he or she needs it. Together, the Food Bank, our network and our supporters like you have worked hard to keep New Yorkers from falling through the cracks — New Yorkers like Alberta, a mother and retiree who came to St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in the Bronx for emergency food and stayed to become a member of a community that supports and looks out for her. Or the many working families and individuals who turned to the Food Bank’s Tax Assistance Program this year — a simple initiative that brings millions of dollars in federal tax refunds into our city.

Your support and dedication help keep programs like these fully funded. The Food Bank is there for New Yorkers in need, and I am grateful to you for standing beside us.


Lucy Cabrera, Ph.D., CAE
President and CEO

Peanut Butter: Not Just for Sandwiches Anymore

by Daniel Buckley

It is very important to the Food Bank For New York City that all of the food we receive makes it to a New Yorker who needs it. While this is a bit of a no-brainer, making sure it happens can be more difficult than you might expect.

At times, food assistance programs can be wary of ordering certain products that they are not sure how to cook with, or if the ethnic community they serve won’t be familiar or know what to do with it.

Knowing this, our Community Nutritionist works to build awareness in our network for the benefits and potential use of different products. For just one example, here is a piece our nutritionist wrote about peanut butter for one of our Agency E-Newsletters:

While most people think of peanut butter as an American food mostly eaten by children, the origin and use of peanuts in cooking can be traced back to countries around the world and dates back as early as prehistoric times. Currently, the United States produces about 7 percent of world's peanuts, with China, India, Nigeria, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sudan, Senegal, Argentina and Vietnam also making significant contributions.

Peanuts are a highly nutritious source of plant protein, with each tablespoon serving acting as a replacement for one ounce of protein recommended in the diet. While peanuts are high in fat, they contain unsaturated fats, which provide benefits for heart health. Peanuts have also been found to be a good source of antioxidants and reservatrol, which is known for its cancer-fighting, anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties.

While peanuts are commonly eaten in whole form as snacks, peanut butter has become a popular ingredient in various types of Asian cooking as well as being used in soups, sauces, casseroles and baking.

And, to further help things along, we provided a list of healthy Peanut Butter Recipes — enjoy!

New York Soda Tax Would Hurt, Not Help, Low-income Families

by Carly Rothman

Some powerful New York officials are throwing their weight behind a proposed soda tax, arguing the added cost — an extra penny per ounce — will deter consumption, fight obesity and reduce health care costs.

The New York Times editorial board also supports the tax, saying it would help limit soda intake in low-income neighborhoods where diet-related diseases are particularly prevalent.

“Poorer people, who lack healthy food choices, too often overload on sugar-laden soft drinks,” read an editorial in the paper last week.

But the dearth of choices is just the point. The reason low-income consumers disproportionately suffer from obesity, diabetes and other diet-related diseases is that soft drinks, fast food and other foods and beverages high in added sugars and fats are cheaper and more readily available than healthier alternatives.

The soda tax might make the sugary drinks less appealing, but it would do nothing to lower the cost of healthy alternatives like milk or vitamin-rich juices, nor improve food access in neighborhoods without supermarkets or grocery stores.

In other words, the regressive soda tax supported by Governor Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg would punish low-income families for buying soda without offering better alternatives. Meanwhile, the tax will cut into families’ limited food dollars, making it even harder to afford healthy foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and legumes.

Both the Governor and Mayor note the tax will create an important revenue stream during the ongoing fiscal crisis. We are sensitive to this need — particularly since Mayor Bloomberg has threatened, in response to proposed state budget cuts, to eliminate all city funding for emergency food assistance.

And helping people make healthy diet choices is an important part of the Food Bank’s work. CookShop, our nutrition and health education program, teaches more than 15,000 New Yorkers of all ages about how to read food labels and make healthy, cost-effective food purchases. Our social marketing campaign, which reaches more than 100,000 low-income teens, urges them to “Change One Thing,” swapping junk food for healthy alternatives — and specifically encouraging a switch to water from sugary drinks.

While we applaud public officials’ desire to fight diet-related disease and steer consumers away from soda, we urge them to do so by expanding poor consumers’ options, not limiting them.

Existing programs like the FRESH (Food Retail Expansion to Support Health) initiative would provide incentives for supermarkets and grocery stores to open and expand in high-need neighborhoods — and require them to accept food stamps and WIC benefits to ensure they remain affordable and accessible to low-income consumers. New York’s Healthy Food/Healthy Communities Initiative would help finance store improvements to increase capacity for sales of fresh, healthy food.

Measures like these, which lift barriers, expand choice and empower individuals, should be the approach of all food policy — not programs that hurt the people they aim to help.

For more information, read our testimony before the State Senate Health Committee on the sugar-sweetened beverage tax.

Share your thoughts: what do you think about the impact of the soda tax on low-income New Yorkers?

The Distance Between Food Labels and Healthy Eating

by Daniel Buckley

I recently came across a New York Times video in which William Nuemann discusses the difference between food labels and the way people actually eat. As the leading organization working to fight food poverty in New York City, the Food Bank works hard to create a healthy New York — and understanding food labels is very important part of building a healthy diet for yourself and your family.

If you are trying to lose weight or fight high blood pressure — and if, like most New Yorkers, you have very little time to put toward building the perfect, balanced menu every night — you are probably going to glance at that label for the amount of fat or sodium contained. Then what happens?

The Food Bank’s Community Nutritionist, Christina Riley, offers regular workshops to help our food assistance network answer that exact question. Each lesson starts by asking participants to note how many servings are in a can of food, then determine how that effects the nutrition facts on that label. At a glance, the label on a can of green beans appears to say that the beans provide 15 percent of your daily value of sodium. However, a can of beans has 3.5 servings — and if you eat the whole can, you need to multiply the sodium by 3.5. This means that the can actually contains 52.5 percent of your daily value of salt. And that leaves precious little room for salt in the rest of your meals or snacks that day if you are going to stay in a healthy range. Just thinking about trying that has my blood pressure rising.

If you don’t read carefully and do a little math, you can easily be misled — but I won’t go on about that, since William Nuemann says it so well:

In the News: NY1, Huffington Post, The Economist and More

Food Bank For New York City continually works to raise awareness and support for hunger relief through media outreach and information sharing. Here are highlights of the recent stories that have featured the Food Bank:

NY1, “Food Bank Offers Free Tax Help As Uncle Sam Offers Sizable Tax Credit”
With tax season officially in full swing, the Food Bank For New York City, elected official and government agencies join forces to make sure New Yorkers get back every penny they deserve…read more [Includes VIDEO]

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, “Free Tax Site Helps Brooklynites File for EITC Credits”
The Food Bank partners with the Brooklyn Community Foundation and Capital One Bank to provide tax assistance for the working poor in northern Brooklyn as part of our Tax Assistance more

The Huffington Post, “My 2010 Wish List for NYC”
Gordon Campbell, President and CEO of United Way NYC, brings in the New Year with a loud cheer and his recommendations of achievable goals for 2010 that will help low-income New Yorkers…read more

The Economist, Letter to the Editor
Food Bank For New York City President and CEO Lucy Cabrera responds to “The Big Apple Is Hungry,” published in January 2010 by The Economistread more

The Packer, “Produce Industry Contributes Heavily to Feeding New York’s Hungry”
The Packer — the leading source of news for the fresh fruit and vegetable industry — explores the Food Bank’s food distribution efforts, which provided more than 13 million pounds of fresh produce for New Yorkers in need in fiscal year 2009…read more

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