Monday, December 12, 2005

Bodega Health Plan

In yesterday’s NY Post there is a letter from Candace Young, a nutrition director at the NYC Department of Health. Ms. Young, in defending the Health Department's plan to utilize bodegas in an effort to bring healthier foods to low-income neighborhoods, claims that bodegas, "are a primary source of food for people in those neighborhoods." She goes on to say that the targeted neighborhoods have the city's highest rates of obesity and diabetes.

We have commented on this elsewhere but it's worth repeating that small store owners are not the best soldiers in the war against bad eating habits. Frequently it is these same store owners who become the scapegoat for the eating patterns of their customers, habits that they have absolutely no influence over.

We've also pointed out that the space-constrained, low profit margin bodega is not the Department's best target. If stores are going to be enlisted at all it should be the local independent supermarket. Apparently, however, the city's policy makers continue to believe the canard that there aren't enough of these food outlets in low-income neighborhoods.

That being said, if the city wants to enlist neighborhood stores in its war on obesity it should as an appropriate incentive, be looking to relieve the onerous regulatory burden it places on these immigrant entrepreneurs. Lowering the cost of doing business, something the city should be doing anyway, might make the bodeguero a willing conscript. At all times, however, no one should forget that life-style decisions are best made by the individuals whose lives are affected by the choices being made.