Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer
Bronx Borough President Ruben Díaz Jr. works out four times a week.
His workouts even include pick-up basketball games on the weekends.
While not everyone has to practice their jump shot as often as the Borough President, for residents of the county that has long been ranked as one of the unhealthiest in the state, and with the highest obesity rate in the city, increasing exercise levels and physical activity could well be life-saving moves.
Now a grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation might make it a little easier to get the wellness word out.
As announced this past Mon., Oct. 22nd at Macomb’s Dam Park and Joseph Yancey Track, The Bronx Change Attitudes Now (C.A.N.) initiative, launched last June by President Díaz and State Senator Gustavo Rivera, will receive a $75,000 grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation.
“We can’t do this without resources. Now we can amplify our efforts,” said President Díaz.
The grant is good news for the CAN Health Initiative and its partners, which include the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (BOEDC), the East Side House Settlement, Lincoln Hospital and several Bronx hospitals and not-for-profit organizations.
“Only through collaborative efforts can workable solutions to today’s health challenges be achieved,” said Donna Cirolia, Region Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications for Coca-Cola Refreshments.
Present at the grant presentation was Marlene Cintron, President of BOEDC; John L. Sanchez, Executive Director of the East Side House Settlement; and representatives of Blink Gym and Lincoln Hospital—representing just a few of the dozens of community partners involved in the CAN Health Initiative.
For Cintron, the connection between physical health and the economic vitality of the borough was an obvious one.
“Economic development is all for naught if there are not enough healthy Bronxites to work at new jobs,” explained Cintron.
The East Side House Settlement serves 1,200 children, families and seniors who stand to benefit from joining the CAN Health Initiative.
“It will allow us to build on our obesity prevention efforts and provide nutrition education to program participants in a hands-on way,” said Sanchez.
The efforts of the CAN Health Initiative have best been substantiated by one of its co-founders, State Senator Gustavo Rivera. During CAN’s first five months, the Senator trimmed away 14 pounds by reducing portion sizes, salt, sugar and fat from his diet.
While Senator Rivera was not present on Monday, President Díaz was happy to report that his colleague had now trimmed 10 percent of his weight since last summer. He noted that even just a 20-minute workout three days a week could result in positive changes.
“We’re the most obese borough, but we’re also the hungriest borough, which is a conundrum to me,” said President Díaz, noting too that food scarcity afflicts many Bronxites.
Eric García, a general manager of Blink Fitness, a new 15830-square-foot gym at St. Anns Avenue, was excited about the new partnership.
For Blink Fitness, which bills itself a “friendly, affordable gym,” the Coca-Cola grant will allow it to offer greater access to residents.
“Everybody blinks,” said a smiling García. “That’s why we want fitness to be available for everybody.”
For more information on the Bronx CAN Health Initiative, please visit www.bronxcan.com.