Thursday, March 17, 2011

Beatriz Conquers the South Bronx's Food Desert (TY, TJ's)

The familiar is often the easiest path. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best one.

Beatriz, a participant in the Ironwill Foundation’s six-week wellness program at the Mercy Center in the South Bronx that I discussed yesterday, left her comfort zone to buy food for her family, which includes two young children.

Instead of shopping at her neighborhood’s overpriced and lacking Pioneer supermarket, Beatriz, armed with newfound knowledge and confidence, took her shopping cart and food stamps on the subway and traveled 30 minutes from Mott Haven’s food desert to the Upper West Side’s food embarrassment of riches. (Fairway, Trader Joe’s, West Side Market, Whole Foods and Zabar’s are within a one mile stretch.)

Before the Ironwill/Mercy Center program, Beatriz had heard about the benefits of healthy eating from her sister, a personal trainer, but had turned a deaf ear.

“We used to get into fights about food; I thought she was crazy and weird,” Beatriz said. “Then I heard it again in the classes. Sometimes you pay more attention to other people than family.”

Beatriz shopped at Trader Joe’s and encountered a selection and quality of food she said she would never find at Pioneer.

“I bought eight big bags of food for $150 worth of food stamps,” Beatriz said, unabashedly unashamed of government assistance. “I thought it was going to cost $300.”

In addition to lower prices for her usual purchases, Trader Joe’s provided Beatriz with superior quality.

“It was $2.99 for a bag of oranges at Trader Joe’s, compared to $4.99 at Pioneer, and the Trader Joe’s was much better,” she said. “Mixed salad greens were $1.99 for a bag of organic instead of $3.99 for regular. The snacks for my kids—$1.99 for organic nacho chips instead of regular for $3.99. And the bag was bigger.”

Beatriz also bought blood oranges, organic yogurt and Kerrygold butter (which we tasted and discussed in class), items she said she would never find in her neighborhood.

Her purchases lasted almost two weeks and Beatriz’s food shopping will now revolve around regular weekend trips to Trader Joe’s.

“That’s my new market,” she said smiling.

Bravo, Beatriz.


Heather said...


Anonymous said...

uh, bravo but are we overlooking the fact that she had to trudge from the bronx to the UWS just for good, affordable grocery stores? smh