Public health can advance when mobilized communities demand change. Activated community residents and organizations can press government and businesses to make significant changes toward a healthier food environment.
When residents are empowered, they participate more fully in shaping local food environments, including pushing for policies and programs that increase healthy food consumption, reduce food insecurity, and support more sustainable food systems. In 2018, NYHealth awarded the Research Foundation of the City University of New York (CUNY) a grant to support community and youth organizations in their efforts to build a healthier food landscape in East and Central Harlem.
Under this grant, the CUNY Food Policy Institute helped strengthen the capacity of community-based and youth-organizations in East and Central Harlem to participate more fully in shaping the local food environment. The Institute helped organizations in taking action to increase access to fresh, affordable food and reduce the promotion and availability of foods that contribute to high rates of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases. Organizations learned to plan and implement community campaigns to encourage healthy eating and discourage consumption of unhealthy food. Young people and other residents were enlisted in activities to improve the local food environment through civic engagement and were trained as food leaders in the community. The Institute also worked with other community-based and citywide organizations to develop feasible, effective strategies for partnerships that advance and sustain healthy food strategies.