For our families, one of the barriers they face on their heart journey is having healthy food options. In 2020, more than half of the grants we gave out to families, were for food. We know that one major aspect of supporting your heart is through having a heart-healthy diet. Having a healthy diet is one of the best ways to prevent cardiovascular disease. According to the American Heart Association “A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to fight cardiovascular disease.”1 A healthy and overall balanced diet is something Harboring Hearts and our hospital partners work to promote regularly. However, there are hurdles some families face when it comes to being able to access this food and thus be able to provide a heart-healthy and balanced diet.
“A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to fight cardiovascular disease.” – The American Heart Association
A difficulty when it comes to families being able to access healthy foods is the lack of Grocery Stores or places that sell or provide healthy foods. These areas are known as ‘food deserts’ and can be a large contributor to an increased chance of having cardiovascular disease. According to the article Living in Food Deserts and Adverse Cardiovascular Outcomes in Patients With Cardiovascular Disease from the American Heart Association Journal, “Living in an FD [Food Desert] is associated with a higher risk of adverse cardiovascular events in those with coronary artery disease.”2 This shows the importance of promoting and providing access to these better foods for people in ‘Food Desert’ areas, as it has a huge impact on the heart health for families in those communities.
During the COVID- 19 Pandemic, it has also been made clear the difficulties families have faced even being able to go out to their local grocery store as it is a great risk for them with contracting the virus. According to the organization City Harvest, which works to end the food access and hunger crisis in New York, “The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crash that followed have made New York City’s hunger crisis even worse. Food insecurity is expected to rise 38 percent citywide in 2020.”3 The difficulties of being able to get food and being put at risk for the virus have made it more difficult for families to have food access.
The article from the Rand Organization entitled, Food Access: Challenges and Solutions Brought on by COVID-19, describes how the pandemic has made it even more difficult for families who are in ‘Food Deserts’ and already have limited resources when it comes to groceries now have the difficulty of limited access with store hours and travel due to the pandemic. The article states how “individuals living in neighborhoods with already limited access to grocery stores and restaurants are likely experiencing additional difficulties due to business closures and transit restrictions.”4 The evidence shows that lack to access to basic food resources before and during the pandemic has made it extremely difficult for families to have their necessary food supplies let alone their food necessary to sustain a heart-healthy diet.
“individuals living in neighborhoods with already limited access to grocery stores and restaurants are likely experiencing additional difficulties due to business closures and transit restrictions.”
There are support systems to help families in need of healthy food and grocery options. Especially during the COVID- 19 pandemic when this food access has been even more limited. New York City has created a portal for families to access emergency food and grocery supplies they need. Families can access these resources at https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/