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New City Program Aims to Get Fresh Produce to Food Deserts

By Nicholas Rizzi | October 7, 2016 9:29am
 The city will start a new program aimed to increase healthy food options in low-income areas by training the owners of corner stores and bodegas on how to store, buy and market fresh produce. The first store to implement some of the changes is Lanka Grocery in Staten Island.
The city will start a new program aimed to increase healthy food options in low-income areas by training the owners of corner stores and bodegas on how to store, buy and market fresh produce. The first store to implement some of the changes is Lanka Grocery in Staten Island.
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DNAinfo/Nicholas Rizzi

TOMPKINSVILLE — An effort to bring fruit and vegetables to the city's "food deserts" is being launched Friday.

The city's Department of Small Business Services partnered with City Harvest and Citibank to show bodega and deli owners on how to source and sell market-fresh produce instead of processed foods.

"While New York is the largest city in America, too many of our neighbors do not have access to fresh, healthy food options where they live," SBS Commissioner Gregg Bishop said.

"These areas, commonly referred to as food deserts, leave many families with two options — purchasing unhealthy, prepackaged food items or commuting long distances to the nearest grocery store."

Starting in the winter, SBS will train City Harvest staff to teach store owners how to buy and sell more fresh produce in their shops. 

The curriculum will also go over some general business advice including managing inventory and cash flow and dealing with government regulations, SBS said.

As part of the program, store owners will also be able to apply for grant money to buy new equipment to store and advertise the healthier food.

So far, 48 bodegas and corner stores around the city have signed on for the program. The city will cut the ribbon on the first spot to make the changes, Lanka Grocery in Tompkinsville, on Friday afternoon.

As part of the program, Lanka Grocery added 65 different types of fruits and vegetables to its shelves. They included Japanese eggplant, banana leaves and guava.

The store's owner also built new outdoor produce displays and plans to give healthy cooking demonstrations using the ingredients, SBS said.

The program was funded with $300,000 donated by Citibank and expands on City Harvest's Health Neighborhoods program.

"We believe that having healthy food is a fundamental human right and our Healthy Neighborhoods programs work to ensure that all New Yorkers have equal access to nutritious food," Jilly Stephens, executive director of City Harvest, said in a statement.