NYS Health Commissioner Visits Schenectady County for National Public Health Week in Recognition of County Healthier Foods Partnership

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker visited Schenectady County on Wednesday to recognize a Schenectady County and Cornell Cooperative Extension partnership to increase access to healthier foods, particularly for low income and food insecure community members, who utilize food pantries.

While many food pantry clients used to go to the pantries only for emergency or temporary food assistance, an increasing number of families rely on food pantries as a regular source of food.  The goal of the partnership is to educate clients about healthier options, provide access to healthier foods such as fresh produce through policy and environmental changes and hopefully make a difference in the foods that these households consume, which in the long run will lead to reduced rates of chronic illness and obesity and improvements to overall health.  To date as a result of the changes in the pantries, approximately 600 families have improved access to healthier foods and nutrition education.

Poor nutrition and chronic disease impact many people, but low income households bear a heavier burden than the rest of the population as they are more likely to develop obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure than those with higher incomes. A 2015 survey conducted by Schenectady County Public Health Services and Cornell Cooperative Extension, Schenectady County with approximately 300 food pantry clients in Schenectady County found that approximately 23 percent of clients reported having Type-2 Diabetes, 44 percent of clients reported high blood pressure, 28 percent of clients reported high cholesterol, and more than 68 percent of clients reported having one or more of these chronic illnesses.

Changes being made at the pantries include:

  • Increases in fresh produce purchased and distributed;
  • Changes to the layout and signage at pantries that make healthier choices such as fruits and vegetables more visible and easily accessible;
  • Offering new nutrition education classes at food pantries to teach participants how to identify and prepare healthier foods;
  • Incorporating new displays that highlight fresh produce and including recipe cards for meal ideas using the produce that is distributed; and
  • Developing a nutrition policy for purchased foods.

Food Pantry Partners for this project include The Bridge Christian Church Pantry, Harmony Fellowship Pantry, Scotia-Glenville Pantry, Schenectady Inner City Ministry, and State Street Food Pantry.

Other partners include members of the Schenectady County Strategic Alliance for Health Coalition Healthy Food Access Workgroup including Schenectady County Public Health Services, Ellis Medicine, New York Council of Nonprofits, Inc. (NYCON), Schenectady Community Action Program (SCAP), Schenectady Inner City Ministry, and United Way of the Greater Capital Region.

This project is made possible with funding from the Partnerships to Improve Community Health (PICH) grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



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