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Healthy eating in Harlem

Can a cookbook change a communities eating habits? 'Go Green East Harlem' is aiming to do just that.

by: Reuters: Terri Coles | 04 Apr 2008

New York City's East Harlem is not only one of the poorest communities in North America, it has some of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the United States, a problem some say is directly related to its socioeconomic environment.

An initiative aimed at improving that environment has brought the community together to publish Go Green East Harlem, a cookbook highlighting suggestions for healthy eating and living from community leaders and businesspeople. It's part of a model that could be applied elsewhere.

"We want to work with the community to bring down some of these alarming health rates," said Manhattan borough President Scott M. Stringer.

The cookbook is part of a wider health initiative of the same name. The idea began as a pamphlet, Stringer said, but grew as community fixtures in East Harlem became involved. The bilingual cookbook features 68 recipes from neighbourhood eateries and local residents.

Stringer contributed tips on selecting healthy takeout. Its include dishes like quinoa banana muffins and sweet potatolicious, with sweet potatoes and pineapple, touching on the diverse backgrounds of the multicultural neighbourhood.

The health problems associated with living in the inner-city are not unique to East Harlem. A variety of studies have shown that inner-city residents often bear a heavier toll from obesity and its related conditions than wealthier urban dwellers.

The 'Go Green East Harlem' initiative is ongoing, and involves other projects like planting trees, adding access to farmer's markets, building green roofs on schools near high-congestion areas, and constructing a $3.5-million asthma centre.

Many East Harlem residents have already received free copies of the cookbook, and thousands more will be given away.

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