RBSCC launches Bushwick Cooks: a holistic approach to food access, improving Bushwick Community Health and sustainable wellness.
|For forty years, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, Inc. (RBSCC) has advocated for and served the North Brooklyn community. RBSCC services range from helping families fight evictions and building a theater program for local youth to running senior centers and delivering nursing services. To accomplish this, RBSCC has sourced jobs locally, stimulating local economic development, making the agency the largest employer in Bushwick and a deeply culturally competent service provider. Through RBSCC's new initiative, Bushwick Cooks, the agency extends its practice of holistic community development to meet the local need for nutrition, fitness and preventative care, and to coordinate services and programs across RBSCC's diverse offerings and departments.|
Inequitable social determinants of health are impacting poor communities at astounding levels. As exemplified in the predominantly low-income, Latino neighborhood of Bushwick, various factors including the inaccessibility of healthful foods are taking a toll on the population's health.
Utilizing infrastructure already present in the community (including RBSCC staff, RBSCC community centers, RBSCC senior centers, local hospitals, RBSCC service offices and RBSCC affordable housing residences) Bushwick Cooks will move RBSCC beyond traditional transactional service provider/client interactions working toward integrating healthy choices into the routines and traditions of the Bushwick community while fostering self-management practices.
Bushwick Cooks: Saratoga Grows! is an exciting program launched in the Spring of 2017 at Saratoga Square- a former NYCHA development just over the Bushwick border in Bed-Sty. This educational program creates opportunities for older adults and seniors to activate local growing spaces while learning cultivation and healthy culinary practices. This nutrition focused culinary program was created by Bushwick Cooks, a project of RBSCC, with support from Triborough Preservation, LLC.
Saratoga Grows! participants meet weekly to engage in a variety of hands-on activities centered around growing, harvesting, and celebrating food - from seed to plate. In addition to planting and growing, participants also engage in discussions about health, nutrition, and the environment. To tie these themes together, Saratoga Grows! is adhering to the tenets of organic farming: no chemical pesticides or fertilizers are being used.
Activities are centered around Saratoga Square's on-site greenhouse and impressive raised-bed planters, which together total almost 2,000 square feet of growing space. Currently sprouting is a 28-foot-long "salad bar," as well as bush beans, potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and much more. Culinary workshops demonstrating easy ways to prepare fresh, healthy meals are also part of the program's offerings.
In 2016 RBSCC coordinated agency-wide participation in the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene's Health Bucks Program. Health Bucks are paper vouchers, worth $2 each, developed and administered by the NYC Health Department District Public Health Offices. These vouchers can be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets.
In 2016 RBSCC distributed Health Bucks to nearly 100 North Brooklyn Seniors. The Health Bucks were given out to seniors in our affordable housing residences and at select RBSCC Senior Centers in Bushwick and Bedford Stuyvesant. RBSCC's Social Service Coordinators and RBSCC's Senior Center staff organized "healthy parties" and field trips to local Farmers Markets to ensure the recipients understood the program, its benefits, and how to participate.
Additionally, RBSCC's Entitlement Benefit's office (which successfully enrolled 3,600 families in the NY Food Stamp Program in 2015) assisted S.N.A.P. clients and EBT applicants in developing their understanding of using S.N.A.P./EBT benefits at NYC Farmers Markets. For every $5 a customer spends using EBT, s/he receives one $2 Health Buck coupon. This increase of 40% in buying power stretches a Food Stamp budget and encourages shoppers to spend more of their monthly Food Stamp allotment on fresh produce from the market.
Through participation in the Health Bucks program, RBSCC was able to support clients in maximizing benefits while increasing local access to healthful foods.
North Brooklyn middle school youth who attend the Ridgewood Bushwick Youth Center's SONYC Community Leadership groups have spent the last year immersed in understanding food systems and learning about food justice. The RB Youth Center Food Justice unit consisted of lessons around diabetes, access to healthy food, farm workers' rights, the meat industry, food labels and advertisements, and redefining what a healthy body looks like. The youth gained hands-on growing experience and sprouted vegetables (onions, tomatoes, lettuce, summer squash, carrots, beets, peppers, cucumbers, and peas) in cafeteria milk cartons for growing in the Ridgewood Bushwick Youth Center garden.
RB Youth Center SONYC students are traveling to East NY Farms during Spring Break 2016 to develop connections with other local youth engaged in food systems and to learn about larger scale urban farming. RB's SONYC youth created a community 'zine covering material on food justice; the youth will use the 'zine to share their learning and advocacy and to encourage the broader community to also advocate for food justice in Bushwick. Future projects with RB's SONYC youth include a Food Justice Photovoice project which aims to uplift the voices and advocacy of local youth through photography.
In the summer of 2016 RBSCC piloted a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program hosted by our finance department located at 555 Bushwick Avenue. The 607 CSA, a collaboration of 17 New York state farmers and small scale food producers, offered CSA members a range of products at various price points – all local, fresh, nutritious and delicious. RBSCC staff and tenants participated in the CSA and were joined by Bushwick community residents who shared an interest in supporting local farmers, lowering food miles, and purchasing nutrient rich and organic foods. The RBSCC CSA program was a wonderful learning opportunity for the RBSCC community helping RBSCC understand existing barriers to food access and health; previous to this food access opportunity many participants were most familiar with shopping at supermarket chains and fruit stands which offer less fresh, less nutrient rich products, and less variety. During the CSA season, RBSCC staff donated CSA shares to members of the Diana Jones Senior Center and enjoyed speaking with Bushwick Seniors about their dietary and culinary preferences and habits and sharing how CSAs work for farmers and consumers.
Home Delivered Meals
|Staff member Ray Vasquez received the 2014 Star Award from Citymeals-on-Wheels for "outstanding service and for going beyond the call of duty" as reported in the Brooklyn Courier. Photo credit: Brooklyn Daily|
RBSCC has provided home delivered meals services to elderly clients residing in Community Districts #1 and #4 of Brooklyn for over 21 years. Hot nutritious meals are prepared and delivered 6 days per week with a chilled meal additionally provided on Saturday for Sunday. RBSCC currently delivers 1,300 senior meals a day. The program prepares meals that meet special requests of clients including Asian, vegetarian, lactose and low sodium diets. The agency will also be providing therapeutic meals in the near future. See the RBSCC Home-Delivered Meals program page for more detailed information.
In collaboration with the Weill Cornell Urban Semester Nutrition Education Program, RBSCC's Diana H. Jones Innovative Senior Center hosts weekly nutrition education seminars and cooking demos led by Urban Semester student volunteers. Topics range from healthy eating on a budget to food safety and best practices for food handling and preparation. Materials for each session are compiled using www.choosemyplate.gov and Weill Cornell undergraduate nutrition curricula. Food demos provide an immersive experience where Bushwick seniors learn first-hand about low-fat and low-sugar alternatives to commonly consumed foods. Recipes are provided to all who are interested in practicing their newly found skills at home.
To better understand the needs of our population, Diana H. Jones Innovative Senior Center conducted comprehensive interviews of our participants. Questions included chronic disease information, screens for dementia and depression, exercise behavior, and many other questions relevant to the well-being of our population. A working database was created to inform programming decisions and direct services for participants. Many interesting findings came as a result of database analysis including the discovery of a significant relationship between people living with diabetes and hospitalization in the past 6 months. Diabetes afflicts many at our center with 44% of respondents indicating prior diagnosis. Of those diagnosed, 43% have been battling the disease for more than 10 years.
Although these numbers are alarming, the database is also largely positive showing the impact our center has on the lives of participants. By providing quality exercise classes Diana Jones provides for 83% of all moderate intensity exercise-related caloric expenditure. In addition, hours spent socializing at Diana Jones account for 64% of all hours spent socializing amongst those who were interviewed. We know from research literature that socialization reduces the rate of depression in older adults.
In partnership with the Department for the Aging (DFTA) and the Quality and Technical Assistance Center of NY (QTAC), Diana H. Jones Innovative Senior Center has successfully implemented six new evidence-based programs since June of 2015. These evidence-based programs are validated through peer reviewed scientific journals and are proven to improve health outcomes of participants, including significant reductions in the number of falls and hospitalizations, as well as overall quality of life through socialization, behavior change, and increased daily exercise. All classes offered at RB's Diana Jones are of the highest level evidence based criteria and are as follows: Tai-Chi Moving for better balance, Chronic Disease Self-Management program (CDSMP), A Matter of Balance, Active Choices, Walk with Ease, and Stay Active & Independent for Life (SAIL).
See the RBSCC Home-Delivered Meals program page for more detailed information on the diverse services and programing RBSCC provides North Brooklyn Seniors.
Free breakfast, lunch and dinner meals are served from Monday through Friday to seniors who attend the RBSCC centers. The Diana H. Jones center now additionally is open and provides meals on Saturdays. RBSCC provides 1,200 hot meals per day to North Brooklyn Seniors.
Health Screenings are provided on a regular basis and some in coordination with local hospitals. In addition, the centers host lectures and discussions on a variety of health-related topics such as Alzheimer's, high blood pressure, pain management, eye care, hearing, nutrition, etc. Several centers offer walking clubs as a fun way to get regular exercise. Classes are available to educate seniors on the prevention of falls and fractures, as well as, to alleviate back and neck pain. Finally, some centers conduct annual health fairs which bring together health and medical professionals and services in order to facilitate the well-being of seniors.
Case assistance, counseling, and advocacy are provided to seniors on all social service entitlements including Social Security, Food Stamps (SNAP), Medicare, Medicare Part D, Medicaid, Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption Program (SCRIE), and Heat Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). Information, counseling, assistance and referrals are also provided in the areas of housing, immigration and citizenship, and other legal issues.
The RBSCC Senior centers offer a wide array of health promotion and educational and recreational services including: dancing, arts and crafts, painting, photography, sewing, choral group, billiards, dominoes, classes in English as a Second Language, Tai-Chi, Yoga, computer literacy, and exercise/movement. Additionally, a variety of day trips are frequently offered.
RBSCC is working in partnership with the State of NY's DSRIP program to help reduce Emergency Room hospitalizations. This partnership will allow RBSCC to work with clients and the community on addressing chronic health conditions such as asthma, disease prevention, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular issues and more.
DSRIP is the mechanism by which New York State will implement the Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) Waiver Amendment. DSRIP's purpose is to fundamentally restructure the health care delivery system by reinvesting in the Medicaid program, with the primary goal of reducing avoidable hospital use by 25% over 5 years.
RBSCC is partnering with:
RBSCC partners with NY's DSRIP to ensure North Brooklyn families better understand and successfully access healthcare through education and prevention.