Friday, October 28, 2011

Bronx Celebrates ‘Food Day’ With New School Health Initiative

By Jeanmarie Evelly – Norwood News

Today is officially Food Day in New York City–the first annual government-sponsored day to celebrate “real food and healthy eating,” marked by events across the five boroughs with a focus on nutrition.

In the Bronx this morning, Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and State Sen. Gustavo Rivera were at Mount St. Ursula Academy in Bedford Park to kick off a new health initiative for local schools. The Family Health Challenge, developed alongside the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center and the Committee of Interns and Residents, asks students and their families to set small goals for themselves–cut out soda one week, eat one piece of fruit a day for another–based on the idea that changing one simple habit at a time will, in the long run, lead to a healthier lifestyle.

Under the initiative, Mount St. Ursula students and those at 50 other sites participating in Montefiore’s School Health program, are given different health guidelines to follow each week for eight weeks: only drink water or low-fat milk during week 1; eat a serving of whole grains every day during weeks 4 and 5; eat only home-cooked meals during week 7.

“There are things that we can do every day to be a little healthier,” Rivera said.
The event was the last leg of Rivera’s “Bronx Can Health Initiative,” which he launched last June, challenging Bronxites to set health goals for themselves. The senator’s own goal was to lose 20 pounds by the end of the challenge, an effort he’s been chronicling for the last five months through a series of events and public weigh-ins.

At this morning’s press conference at Mount St. Ursula’s, Rivera removed his shoes in front of an auditorium full of giggling high school girls and stepped on a scale. The verdict? Down 16 pounds from his original weight, just four pounds shy of his mark and five days to go until his deadline of Oct. 29.

“There’s no better way to do it that to set an example myself,” Rivera said.
Borough President Diaz touted his own health accomplishments to the crowd: he’s lost 14 pounds since last December, the result of cutting out soda and going to the gym several times a week.
“If you try to do too much overnight, it can become discouraging,” Diaz said. “It’s about baby steps–it’s about doing things differently.”

Mount St. Ursula senior Nicole Smith, 17, said her first step is to start accompanying her mother to the grocery store to make sure she’s buying fresh fruits and vegetables for the fridge.

“It’s so difficult here in the Bronx,” Smith said. “It’s much easier to just go to McDonald’s and get a $1 cheeseburger.”

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