Connecting Communities to Fresh Food and Healthy Eating, Acting State Health Commissioner Makes Capital Roots a Stop on Statewide Tour to Fight Obesity

ALBANY (April 8, 2015) - Acting New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker today joined with Troy Mayor Lou Rosamilia and Rensselaer County Public Health Director Mary Fran Wachunas at Capital Roots in Troy to highlight the importance of good nutrition, while planting crops with Troy High School students. As part of National Public Health Week, Dr. Zucker has been leading a statewide tour to visit organizations helping to fight obesity in our communities. Governor Cuomo launched the statewide educational campaign this week to provide information to New Yorkers about the second leading cause of death nationwide.

"Defeating the obesity epidemic requires multiple strategies that promote healthy lifestyles," said Dr. Zucker. "Here in the Capital Region, Capital Roots has served as a model of this approach. Not only have they helped ensure that underserved communities have access to healthy foods and safe, accessible streets, but they have engaged with local youth and taught the skills essential for a healthy life."

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "Community gardens encourage healthy eating while bringing communities together across the state. At Ag and Markets, we work with community garden networks throughout the State to conduct research on land access while providing community gardens with information on potential funding and events. We will continue to work with our partners at the state and local levels to support community gardeners, which in turn will benefit the health and social fabric of communities."

"I would like to commend the Department of Health and Capital Roots for bringing attention to public health in the Capital Region and across New York State," said Troy Mayor Lou Rosamilia "As Mayor, it's very important to me that we promote the importance of healthy habits and lifestyles and encourage our residents to eat smart, get exercise and live well."

"Rensselaer County is committed to creating an environment that promotes positive health factors and healthy outcomes for all our residents and partnerships with organizations such as Capitol Roots are instrumental to those collective efforts," said Maryfran Wachunas, Rensselaer County Public Health Director.

The reduction of obesity rates is a key focus of the Prevention Agenda 2013-17, the state's health improvement plan. As the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States, obesity and overweight have reached epidemic proportions, especially among children and adolescents. Approximately 40 percent of New York City public school students aged 6-12 yearsand 32 percent of students throughout the rest of the state are effected.

Obesity and overweight may also soon overtake tobacco as the leading cause of death thanks to the role it plays in the development of many chronic diseases and conditions like type-2 diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Perhaps even more troubling, these diseases have become increasingly prevalent in children and adolescents which has made the need for a strong nutrition education early in life, all the more important. Capital Roots has been a leader in this effort in the Capital Region through initiatives like the Produce Project.

"Capital Roots strives to provide people of all ages and income levels with the opportunity to bring healthy, nutritious food home to their families in ways that are affordable and convenient," said Capital Roots Executive Director Amy Klein. "We're proud to join the NYS Health Department and our many organizational partners in helping to create a healthier Capital Region."

The Produce Project is a year-round life skills and job training program that employs underprivileged youth who earn a stipend and school credit by raising crops on three acres of urban farmland and subsequently selling it at Capital Roots' Urban Grow Center and other local markets. The program's hands-on use of math and science at the farm help students stay engaged in their own education and learn important lessons about nutrition that they can then bring home to their families who generally live in communities where the inaccessibility of fresh fruits and vegetables has contributed to obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults in New York are including fruit in their diet only once a day and vegetables only once or twice a day when the consumption rate is five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

The New York State Department of Health (DOH) sponsors multiple initiatives that encourage greater consumption of fruits and vegetables. The Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program contributes $29.7 million to provide more than 200 million meals to those in need and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), provides supplemental food, nutrition education and breastfeeding support for 500,000 low-income women and children. Last month, DOH announced it was increasing its WIC benefit by $4 per check through September 2015.

Capital Roots, formerly Capital District Community Gardens, is a 40-year-old non-profit organization that nourishes healthy communities with 50 Community Gardens, The Veggie Mobile® produce market, The Produce Project, Squash Hunger and more. Its Urban Grow Center is a bustling hub which has enabled the organization to triple its ability to deliver local food and services to underserved neighborhoods and low-income families in four counties. Its long history of educating and feeding these communities has been supported by state funding on a number of levels.

The Urban Grow Center has received more than $510,000 as part of Governor Cuomo's Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) initiative and is a priority project for the Capital Region Economic Development Council. Additionally, a five year grant from DOH's Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work and Play Initiative has provided over $800,000 for not only increasing the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in low-income neighborhoods, but also increasing the availability of places to be physically active (streets with sidewalks, bike lanes, pocket parks in neighborhoods, etc.). In fact, this funding supported some of the projects that helped Troy be recognized by the National Complete Streets Coalition for having one of the nation's top Complete Streets policies.

Additional state funding includes a $196,347 Green Innovation Grant from the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation supported rain gardens, permeable walkways and other green storm water management projects; a $250,000 grant from the Empire State Development Corporation supported building renovations and the purchase of equipment; and a $64,956 grant from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation helped acquire land around the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Jay Street.

First declared in 1995, National Public Health Week is an initiative of the American Public Health Association. It brings communities from all corners of the country together during the first full week of April to recognize the importance of public health policies and highlight issues that are vital to the overall health of the nation. In addition to Dr. Zucker's statewide tour, DOH is also providing health tips through social mediaunder the hash tag #GetFitNYS.

For more information about National Public Health Week, visit

For more information on ways to stay fit and eat healthy visit:

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For more information about National Public Health Week, visit

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