New York City: Growing Food Insecurity Makes Norwood Farmstand Essential

American Heart Association and philanthropist Rose Caiola partner with GrowNYC to relaunch year-round market

The American Heart Association in New York City understands the important role that healthy food access and a nutritious diet play in our overall health. However, lack of access to healthy food in New York City was prevalent before the Coronavirus pandemic, and over the last eight months, the virus’ impact on the city’s health and economy has increased the number of city residents reporting food insecurity fears. According to the Robin Hood Foundation, by fall 2020 one in four New Yorkers are reporting that they often or sometimes run out of food or worry they would run out.

The American Heart Association has been working with organizations, community partners, and leaders across the city to address food insecurity. One of those leaders is Rose Caiola, a Bronx-born philanthropist, the Founder and CEO of Rewire Me, and a member of the Association’s Board of Directors in New York City. Last winter, Caiola and the Association partnered with GrowNYC to help ensure that seasonal farm stands in the Bronx could remain open year-round instead of closing at the end of November.

Additionally, with growing demand for nutritious food at the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020, Caiola and the AHA worked with GrowNYC to fund the Fresh Food Box Program at Project H.O.P.E., which allows Bronx residents to purchase primarily regionally grown produce well below traditional retail prices.

Now, the second wave of COVID-19 inspired Caiola, through her steadfast commitment to the American Heart Association, to fund operations of both the Norwood Farmstand and the Project H.O.P.E. Fresh Food Box site for a second winter season. Furthermore, Rose’s recent collaboration will enable the AHA and GrowNYC to implement a Healthy Food Prescription Program, which will allow doctors to “prescribe” healthy food to hypertensive and other at-risk patients through Health Bucks or Greenmarket Bucks vouchers. These vouchers can be redeemed at local farm stands, creating an affordable way for patients to purchase nutritious food options.

“This has been a challenging and demanding year for all of us here in New York City,” said Caiola. “Food access was already of enormous concern and a top priority for me. As we enter the ninth month of this pandemic and witness how many more of our neighbors are experiencing food insecurity, I knew that I had to continue this partnership with the American Heart Association and GrowNYC. Access to affordable, healthy food is a right, not a privilege.”

In the Bronx, where health outcomes continue to rank last among all 62 counties in New York State, accessing fresh and affordable produce is a challenge under the best circumstances.

“Thanks to the generous support of Rose Caiola and our partnership with the American Heart Association, we are able to operate the Norwood Farmstand through the winter again this year,” said GrowNYC President and CEO Marcel Van Ooyen. “We are grateful to them both, allowing us the opportunity to provide a safe, outdoor option for Bronx residents to access fresh, healthy food as the second wave of Covid-19 threatens New York City.”

The Norwood Farmstand at East Gun Hill Road and Dekalb Avenue in the Bronx provides the community with fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables grown by regional farmers. GrowNYC Farmstands are, in part, a youth development program: the organization hires young people from the Bronx to help run the Norwood Farmstand. The youth learn small business skills, nutrition education, and much more, all while serving their community.

Deemed essential back in March, GrowNYC quickly reconfigured its 80+ food access sites to keep them open and safe for shoppers, producers, and staff. A complete list of safety protocols implemented at GrowNYC sites—including the availability of hand sanitizer, a suspension of all sampling, and the requirement, for everyone, to wear face coverings at all Greenmarkets, Farmstands, and Fresh Food Box locations —can be found here. In addition to the health benefits of procuring nutritious, fresh food, these sites provide the added safety of being open-air during the current health crisis.

The Norwood market will re-open on Thursday, December 3 and will operate weekly from 9 am – 3 pm. SNAP/EBT and P-EBT will be accepted. With every $5 spent on SNAP, a customer receives a $2 Health Buck good for fruits and vegetables thanks to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The Farmstand will be closed on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve (both Thursdays this year) but will reopen in January.