About Us

Mission Statement
Statement of Need
Chronic illness and disease are among the leading causes of death in the United States and focal points of health disparities among racial/ethnic minorities.
Food security and access to healthy foods play a large role in the reduced risks of chronic diseases such as: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some types of cancer. While New York is arguably one of the most diverse cities in the nation, the composition of Hispanics/Latinos and African-Americans is significantly higher in the Harlem while leading causes of death and hospital admissions for the top ten leading causes of death are 45% higher in Harlem compared to New York City overall.
According to the Hunter College of New York City Food Policy Center, approximately 23.8% of Harlem is food insecure compared to 15.4% of New York City residents. Specifically, 4,548,222 and 6,300,973 meals are needed for food security in East and Central Harlem, respectively. Additionally, the ratio of supermarkets to bodegas in both Central (1:11) and East (1:17) highlights decreased access to healthier foods which aligns with Harlem’s higher rate of obesity (31% versus 24%), diabetes (14% versus 11%), and hypertension (34.5% versus 28%) compared to New York City.
Launched in 2021, NYS Health’s ‘Healthy Food, Healthy Lives’ priority area seeks to advance policies and programs that connect New Yorkers with the food they need to thrive through two strategies: a) policies that promote healthy and affordable food; and b) testing and scaling programs that connect people to healthy and affordable food. Subsequently, we propose a targeted push for nutrition equity as the foundation for a healthy community and as a key component of the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) process.
Through simultaneously fulfilling the need for meals and healthier eating options in Harlem, we can create scalable, flexible, and adaptable processes that intentionally aim for equitable health outcomes.

The Project

Our project utilizes a comprehensive systems approach to accelerating nutrition equity that focuses on vertical (upstream and downstream) societal impact from multiple levels: individual, interpersonal, institution / organizational, community / neighborhood, and policy. Through this model, our project is specifically designed to understanding the socioecological influence of policy on communities, institutions, families, and individuals (downstream impact) while integrating the needs of individuals, families, institutions, and communities into the policy structure (upstream impact). Subsequently, our project is specifically designed to “Accelerate Nutrition Equity” through community-based service that doubles as community-based participatory research (CBPR) to inform future policy and practice aligning with both Healthy Food, Healthy Lives strategies.
“Accelerating Nutrition Equity for a Healthier New York” / Market In The Heights
is a 24-month pilot project that will focus on small-scale implementation of accessible farmers markets throughout Harlem with an expansion arm for local community gardens, and a tailored community outreach and engagement strategy dedicated to nutrition equity.
Our project strategically leverages the use of community partners in support of a project team that includes nutritionists, dietitians, and culinary experts. From a service perspective, our team will identify target locations that focus on equitable access while also leveraging support from community landmarks organizations i.e. restaurants, health clinics, faith-based organizations, recreation centers, and non-profit organizations.
A step further, our teams will also focus on targeted farmers’ markets at places of residence (i.e. apartment complexes) and institutions that employ large swaths of the community population. This approach focuses on a “meet the community where they are” perspective which immediately improves access. A dedicated schedule will help facilitate each farmers’ market. Subsequently, community outreach and engagement will be a strong component to promote the mobile farmers’ markets and raise education and awareness opportunities with the greater public.
Our project will also focus on coordinating nutrition equity events in tandem with farmers’ markets that will include healthy eating recipes and live cooking demonstrations with an emphasis on cultural and ethnic-based recipes. Pivotal to implementation of this project is our team’s approval for community residents to utilize SNAP benefits to purchase healthy foods in low-income/access-challenged areas. Our project will also implement a community-based survey that aims to gather community input on healthy eating and healthy living.
This survey will be an addendum to market registration at each mobile location and will be used to assess project effectiveness and perceptions of food security and healthy living over the course of the project. Results will from survey will be assessed monthly, quarterly, and annually and used to develop a report that can be used to influence policy through a community-driven, data analytics perspective.
Cumulatively, this project aims to support healthy access to food for 240,000+ residents in the Harlem neighborhood. Community partnerships and direct engagement with the community will be key to informing our project including farmers’ market locations and outreach strategies. Survey data will support informed decision making at the project and policy level through short- and long-term feedback loops. Our overall project goals are decrease food insecurity in Harlem from 23.8% to 15% while increasing nutrition equity.
Key measures will include event and market attendees and survey report data. By providing access to healthy foods in addition to education, outreach, and engagement strategies. Preliminary community gardens opportunities round out long-term project goals and strategies which will be supported by current project success.

Goals & Outcome

  • Decrease food insecurity in Harlem from 28.3% to 15% over a 24-month period.
  • Establish education and awareness of ‘nutrition equity’ over a 24-month period.
  • Develop and implement key survey tool to access perceptions of food security and healthy living.
  • Identify benchmark perceptions of food security and longitudinally track perceptions of 24-month period to access change.
  • Develop and deliver quarterly and annual policy reports centered on CBPR findings
Achieving these goals is centered on the comprehensive systems approach which includes the whole community. Understanding that healthy living and healthy behaviors is an overall choice, unified efforts are essential to program success. In such, this project will seek to promote access to healthy and affordable food options with a targeted strategy while focusing on partnerships at each level of the ‘Accelerating Nutrition Equity Model.’
Specifically, we will focus on culturally-competent mechanisms at the individual level; beliefs, food practices, and food cultural norms among social networks at the interpersonal level; research, education and training and IDEA at the organizational level; grassroot efforts and accessibility at the community level; and community-guided implementation of dietary guidelines, programs, and policies at the state, local, and national policy level. The aim is to bridge the gap between each level to ensure optimal nutrition equity. Our team will evaluate this program across all levels utilizing appropriate metrics and measures to assess outcomes and impacts.
Successful implementation of a pilot inherently supports growth of a project that we plan to ultimately expand statewide. Larger programmatic reach also supports increased overall community input that is innovative and can eventually serve as a national model. Partnerships will be leveraged throughout to support project sustainability beyond the funding period.
About Us