Thursday, July 21, 2011

A delicious debut: Youthmarket comes to Kingsbridge Heights

By Mia Wendel-DiLallo - The Riverdale Press

If you look for it, there is a small oasis of green beckoning in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Kingsbridge Heights.

On Fridays, from noon to 6 p.m., teens from the neighborhood sell fruits and vegetables from New York-based farms at the Kingsbridge Heights Youthmarket, located on West Kingsbridge Road and Reservoir Avenue at Barnhill Square.

Operating through Friday, Oct. 28, the market, which debuted on July 15, is a product of the collaboration between Community Board 8 and GrowNYC.

The nonprofit works to establish environmental programs throughout New York City, to educate teens from underserved neighborhoods about healthy eating and to give the communities they serve a convenient place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. GrowNYC opened its first youthmarket in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brookyln, in 2006.  The network of markets is still expanding, with 13 operating throughout the city.
CB 8 works with the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center to choose the teens from the neighborhood, who go through an application process to be accepted.

The Kingsbridge Heights location is squeezed into what Nicole Stent, District Manager of CB 8, referred to as “one of the densest neighborhoods” in the area. And, she said, that’s the idea.
“GrowNYC wants to get into areas that are busy,” she said.
While the traffic zoomed by, the veggies stayed fresh.

“I like the potatoes, cherries, apples and corn,” said 17-year-old Kiana Jackson, who helped man the market table last week. “I’ll take some of the vegetables home and cook them,” she said while eying her wares.
Food for sale included fresh corn, peppers, collards and cabbage. The teens worked, weighing, bagging and adding up the price of the produce, learning the entrepreneurial and customer service aspects of the market.

Jaylen Edwards, 15, had to ask an overeager little girl not to squeeze the tomatoes. But they were so plump, how could she resist? 

“When you see how many options there are you really get into the fruits and vegetables,” Jaylen said.

Adjoa Bahwah, 36, who lives four blocks away from the market, was delighted to have a new place to shop with her 2-year-old son.

“It’s fantastic because we don’t have to travel because it’s on my route,” said Ms. Bahwah. She had just bought onions but said she typically likes to purchase melon in the summer.

“Grocery stores are always around,” she said. “This is fresh and you don’t get it all the time so when this is here you have to get it.”

Bon Secours New York Health System provided funding for the market and worked with both the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center and Riverdale Neighborhood House on the project.

The Marble Hill Youthmarket, located at West 225th Street and Broadway in front of Target, also opened for its third year on July 8 and will operate on Fridays, from 1 to 7 p.m., also through Friday, Oct. 28.

As chair of the Economic Development Committee for Community Board 8, Robert Fanuzzi, who now chairs the full board, helped spearhead the projects and has made bringing youthmarkets into underserved areas, or “food deserts” as he calls them, a major priority.  Kingsbridge Heights’ farm stand is the second youthmarket that has been opened in the district.

“Community Board 8, was one of the first to bring a youthmarket intentionally right next to a housing project,” said Mr. Fanuzzi. According to Mr. Fanuzzi, CB 8’s objective is to “bundle the idea of fresh food into healthy lifestyles, so that the youthmarkets become more of a big community affair ...”

Attendees at the ribbon-cutting ceremony last week included state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, Councilman Fernando Cabrera, Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation Marlene Cintron and Kingsbridge Riverdale Van Cortlandt Development Corporation President Tracy Shelton

In addition, representatives from the New York Botanical Garden came out with pamphlets on tips for composting kitchen scraps.

“The neighborhood has a lot of franchise establishments that aren’t conducive to healthy eating,” Mr. Cabrera said. “This is a great event that gets the young people off the streets and gives them an opportunity to have a voice.”

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