Upper West Side City Council Member Helen Rosenthal wants New Yorkers to eat their beets, or at least try them. On a recent Sunday morning, she was at the greenmarket at 79th Street and Columbus Avenue cooking dishes with fruits and vegetables.
“I love that people will say, ‘I never knew how to cook beets or fennel and I always stayed away from it, but it was in the bag, and it came with a recipe, so I tried it and now I’m turned onto beets,” Rosenthal said.
The bag, Rosenthal is referring to is part of the Fresh Food for Seniors Program, where from July through November, bags full of fresh fruits and vegetables from farms in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, arrive at senior centers and apartment buildings throughout Manhattan. For $8 per bag, seniors receive five-to-six varieties of fresh fruit and vegetables—think heads of lettuce, blueberries, parsley, scallions and more—at a retail value of $15 to $18 per bag. Each bag also comes with recipes.
“So many seniors have said they’re on a fixed income and money is tight, but the bag they get is so much food they can’t eat it all in one week so they end up sharing it with a neighbor,” Rosenthal said. “They end up each pay $4 and getting a ton of food.”
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer started the program in 2012 in partnership with GrowNYC and the Department of Aging and over the past five years the program expanded to reach neighborhoods from the West Village to northern Manhattan and Roosevelt Island. On the Upper West Side, Rosenthal said they have increased the number of buildings where they drop off and deliver roughly 2800 bags during the summer. While the produce is ordered through GrowNYC is arrives in bulk to Rosenthal’s office, where a group of volunteers come to divide it into bags before it’s delivered.
“It’s about good nutrition for all,” Rosenthal said.
To sign up for the program, seniors should check in with their local senior or community center for the ordering and pick up process.