Last week’s reading about food deserts in NYC resonated with me. My daily commute from the suburbs of NYC to high school on the Upper East Side took me through East Harlem. As a result, I witnessed firsthand the contrasting food sources that predominate each neighborhood.
Exiting the Harlem-125th St. Metro North stop brought me face to face with either a Popeyes or a bodega, depending upon which staircase I took. Next to each, respectively, were a low-quality food store and a smokeshop/deli. The one-block walk from Park to Lexington also included a donut/coffee stand, a flavored ice/churro (seasonal products) vendor, a $1 Pizza, and a McDonalds. Three flights of stairs, a MetroCard swipe, and a five minute ride on the 4/5 train brought me into an entirely different world of food.
In nice weather, the first thing visible above the steps of the 86th St subways stop was a fresh produce cart. Across the sidewalk was a Panera Bread restaurant, and just behind it is a “European-style” deli with tons of healthy food options. A Dean and Deluca (very upscale food store) sits a few blocks ahead on Madison, and Gristedes supermarkets litter the area.
Our class split up and offered solutions to this problem. Some were more feasible than others, but every idea had potential to set in motion a movement towards a healthier Harlem. I hope providing a more specific context will reinforce the severity of this problem.
Disclaimer: Google streetview is not up completely up to date.