April 14, 2009
Governor David A. Paterson
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Paterson:
I am writing to commend you for the forward-looking vision of your Healthy Food, Healthy
Communities Initiative. I know the issue of nutrition has been an important one for your
administration. I thank you for addressing the concerns expressed by advocates, residents and
elected officials in your Executive budget. I was a strong supporter of the program during budget
negotiations, and am pleased to see that it made it through the budget process. This is an important first step in ensuring that New York families have access to a nutritious, high-quality and affordable diet.
I represent East Harlem and the South Bronx, two communities that have more than their fair share of serious diet-related issues. My Senate District has the unenviable distinction of having the highest rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity in the state. This is a serious public health crisis that continues to enact a human toll, in the form of preventable hospitalizations, unneeded amputations and unnecessary deaths. Innovative public policy can help turn the tide, and I hope we can continue to work together to begin addressing the root causes of these problems.
As we move forward with this initiative, I am requesting that you make East Harlem a pilot neighborhood of the Healthy Food, Healthy Communities Initiative. Over the past year, my office has been hard at work forming relationships with food advocates, agencies and community residents to identify the issues and work on solutions to the problems of food access.
Our coalition has compiled a wealth of research about East Harlem, which will ensure a speedy and thoroughly developed implementation.
We successfully lobbied your Council on Food Policy to conduct a listening session in Harlem for community residents to come and voice their concerns. Over 100 Northern Manhattan residents came out for the event and loudly voiced their concerns over their dwindling set of food options.
We have also been hard at work engaging the community in other ways. We held a Town Hallmeeting where community residents came out to brainstorm potential community-based solutions. The results of that meeting were recently published in a report which you will be receiving shortly from the working group.
Although we have won some victories in the community, much more remains to be done. We look forward partnering with your office as we move forward with this initiative.
José M. Serrano
Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver