Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Department of Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley and the Office of the Food Policy Coordinator today announced that New York adults are reducing their consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages while increasing their intake of fruits and vegetables. This improvement, which marks an important step forward in the Bloomberg Administration’s fight against obesity, diabetes and the non-communicable diseases that are the City’s leading killers, is especially pronounced in low-income communities. The prevalence of obesity among adult New Yorkers in 2010 was 23% and has remained stable since 2007.
“An apple is more nutritious, tastier, as affordable and, thanks to New York’s City’s ongoing commitment to increasing access to healthier options in many neighborhoods, as easy to purchase as a can of soda,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs. “Today, we are seeing a growing number of New Yorkers choose fruits and vegetables and fewer drinking sugary beverages. As a result of our efforts, healthy food is more accessible and we are seeing New Yorkers have an easier time making healthier choices.”
“We’ve targeted the city’s leading killers with bold health policies to improve the lives of all New Yorkers,” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn. “Today’s numbers tell us that these policies not only work, but they can save lives by preventing diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer. I look forward to continuing our success in improving public health with initiatives such as FRESH and the Greenmarkets’ EBT program to ensure that New Yorkers in all five boroughs have access to affordable, healthy foods.”
“These new figures support the efforts we have made to bring down the consumption of sugary drinks,” said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas A. Farley. “Obesity is still a major health problem in New York, so our work is far from over, but today is an opportunity to recognize the healthier choices New Yorkers are making.”
“Individuals and families are encouraged to use their food stamp benefits to make healthier choices by purchasing fruits and vegetables to help supplement their daily diet,’ said Human Resources Administration Commissioner Robert Doar. “The primary goal of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program should be to help families purchase nutritious foods, which does not include sugary beverages.”
“This progress reflects the hard work of the many partners who have supported the administration’s initiatives, from the City Council to non-profits, generous donors, and community groups,” said Food Policy Coordinator Kim Kessler. “Our collective effort has been critical to the success of these innovative programs as we work together to turn the tide on diet related disease and obesity.”
Between 2007 and 2010, the percentage of adults who reported on the Health Department’s annual telephone survey that they drank one or more sugary drinks a day fell from 36 percent to 30 percent. The number of adults who said they ate no fruits or vegetables in the previous day fell from 14 percent in 2004 to 12 percent in 2010. Sugar-sweetened drinks contain empty calories that can cause obesity and lead to diabetes. Over the past 30 years, Americans have added 200 to 300 calories per day to their diets. One-third to one-half of these extra calories comes from sugary drinks.
Progress was especially pronounced in the City’s poorest neighborhoods, where obesity numbers have been far above the citywide rate and access to healthy food has been low. The percentage of adults in high-poverty neighborhoods who said they ate no fruits or vegetables in the previous day dropped from 19 percent in 2004 to less than 15 percent in 2010. In these high-poverty neighborhoods, the percentage of adults who drank one or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day on average decreased from 44 percent in 2007 to 36 percent in 2010.
The Health Department works with all areas of food retail to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables, which can reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke. For example, in 2008, the City Council approved a new permit for vendors to sell fresh fruits and vegetables in underserved neighborhoods, resulting in more than 500 Green Carts.
Additionally, the City has established the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) program to bring nutritious, affordable fresh food to neighborhoods underserved by grocery stores. FRESH provides zoning and financial incentives to attract grocery store operators to set up shop in underserved communities throughout the five boroughs.
The Health Department is also working with over 40 grocery stores to improve variety and quality of fresh produce. The Healthy Bodegas Initiative, started in 2006, has resulted in hundreds of participating stores stocking a wider variety of healthy foods. The Health Department and the Human Resources Administration also offer “Health Bucks”, which are coupons that low-income people can use at farmers’ markets, in what has become the largest Farmers’ Market incentive program in the country.
In addition, to help families that qualify for federal food stamp aid access the nutritious food they need to support a healthy lifestyle, the Mayor and City Council provided funding in 2006 for Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) scanners, signage, community outreach and a dedicated staff member to operate these machines at four Greenmarkets around the City.
For more information on all of New York City’s food access improvement initiatives please visit: www.nyc.gov.