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Tours Will Help Locals Find Low-Cost Fresh Food South of Manhattan Bridge

By Serena Solomon | December 19, 2013 5:29pm
 Tanya Castro, a Two Bridges resident, holds up the new food and shopping guide from the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council.
Tanya Castro, a Two Bridges resident, holds up the new food and shopping guide from the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council.
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DNAinfo/Serena Solomon

LOWER EAST SIDE — It's a neighborhood full of food, but some of its residents still struggle to fill their fridges with fresh, affordable produce.

To help change that, the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council — a nonprofit group that serves the many seniors and low-income residents living in the triangle of Lower Manhattan wedged between the Manhattan and the Brooklyn bridges — plans to launch free food tours and a food shopping guide for the community.

"We have so many great resources, but we don't know about them," said Tanya Castro, 37, a Lower East Side resident who has a health and nutrition company.

Since the area's only major supermarket, a 24-hour Pathmark, closed in December 2012, the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council scrambled to provide access to easy food shopping for the area's many vulnerable residents.

Many of the Dominican bodegas in the area stock minimal fresh produce, and, although Chinatown has vibrant fruits and vegetables, the language barrier intimidates a lot of residents, Castro said.

Two Bridges Council has tapped foodies from the area to offer free tours to teach residents about the interesting edibles in their neighborhood, to help them eat more healthily and cheaply even as local supermarkets have closed. They plan to conclude the tours with a cooking class, where participants can share their skills and recipes.

In addition, the council is releasing a neighborhood food shopping guide in English, Chinese and Spanish to encourage residents to buy locally and show them where they can find different ingredients.

"Our community is one of the lowest-income communities in Manhattan," said Kerri Culhane, the associate director for the council. "This is also the neighborhood with some of the highest reliance on [food] stamp benefits."

"We also have a lot of small locally owned businesses — the Chinatown businesses, the Dominican bodegas," Culhane added.

The council's food guide, which took a year of research, maps out 85 businesses from bodegas to butchers. It also reveals which items and services a business offers, such as fresh produce, delivery and the ability to take food stamps.

"This opens up these stores to [residents'] business and brings people back to the Two Bridges neighborhood to shop," said Michael Tsang, a program associate for the council.

The guide is available at participating businesses, local organizations and in buildings within the Two Bridges area.

The council is slated to launch an app for smartphones midway through 2014.