Thursday, May 19, 2011

How to Navigate An American Grocery Store

One of the issues we run into again and again in our community and in our own lives is the struggle for access to healthy, whole foods that are fresh and affordable. New York City recently identified East Harlem as one of the most severe "food deserts" in our city. According to the New York City Department of City Planning, a food desert is a term used to describe "communities characterized by not enough supermarkets and too many health problems. Within those dense, urban areas, the study estimated that 750,000 people live more than five blocks from a grocery or supermarket."

We know there is room for improvement in our community's food scene and we're excited about helping to encourage and support it. We are in the process of working with the city and our High School Student Wellness Council to Adopt-A-Bodega around the corner from our main building. And we've been busy working with our adult groups too--from parents to staff--to educate them about healthful, affordable ways to maximize their food budget in our evening cooking classes. 

This video, featuring well-known food journalist Michael Pollan, describes how even the modern American supermarket (if you're lucky enough to have a good one in your neighborhood) is designed to market you all kinds of food products you don't need, before offering you the basics like milk and eggs. Watch and learn and then the next time you're walking along 125th, ask yourself "how can I help encourage my community to create and support a healthier nutrition environment?" even beyond HCZ and Promise Academy.

One final note, we recently updated our Frequently Asked Questions page to include more complete answers and better information to some of the most common questions we hear from students, staff, and parents. Please check it out and we'd love to know what you think!


  1. I notice a big difference myself between going grocery shopping while hungry and when I'm not - if I'm hungry at the store, I'm more likely to make an impulse buy or five. If I'm walking down the street hungry, I'm much more likely to buy something salty, fatty or sugary as a quick fix. I try to carry around an apple or granola bar to avoid this. Thanks for this thoughtful post!

    - Jessica

  2. Great point Jessica! We completely agree. Last week in our parent cooking class we gave out a list of some tips for navigating the store and we'll be posting the full list of tips later this week.

    You nailed Tip #1: "Don’t shop hungry. When you shop hungry, you are more likely to make impulse purchases. These choices are often processed, ready-to-eat, and less nutritious."