At the start of spring, the eager faces of our borough’s future walked down their school halls ready to not only be part of the Healthy Beverage Zone’s anniversary video, but also take on a new task: pave the way for a healthier community. For the students at M.S. 327, the Comprehensive Model School Project, it was the first time they had tried fruit-infused water. They each curiously took a sip, followed by immediate smiles.
“I was not expecting that. Can I take some home to let my mom try?” asked a student.
Ambassadors of the Bronx Healthy Beverage Zone (HBZ) gifted each student a fruit-infused bottle and in return, the students unknowingly rewarded the Ambassadors with the best anniversary present.
In April, the Bronx HBZ proudly celebrated its one year anniversary. It was one year ago that the HBZ launched its initiative to help Bronx organizations create an environment to inspire co-workers, and their communities, to choose healthier beverage options by ditching sugary drinks. Today, the HBZ has secured almost 50 worksites across the borough who took the pledge to not only rethink their drink, but actively select drinks that encourage a healthier tomorrow.
“Setting a positive example for our community is the first step in cultivating change. It’s a privilege to help lead a borough-wide movement of small changes that will help improve the health of our community” shared Union Community Health Center’s Dr. Vanessa Salcedo. It was Dr. Salcedo, Bronx Health REACH, and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Bronx Neighborhood Health Action Center that led the HBZ initiative to what it notably is today. After bringing national attention to the Bronx and having the honor of being the recipient of the Aetna Foundation’s HealthyCommunity50 challenge, the HBZ has worked diligently to change the borough’s health statistics. With the goal to change the Robert Wood Johnson’s Bronx ranking of being the least healthy county, the HBZ has been working in tandem with its community members to win a grand prize of $500,000 to support the initiative.
“I supported this initiative since it began because the Bronx HBZ works to make our community healthier,” shared New York City Council Member Fernando Cabrera. “I am going to continue to support the Bronx HBZ and we are going to win!”
The HBZ support expanded this year with the help of over 40 partners. Bronx elected-officials Borough President Rubin Diaz Jr., State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Assemblyman Victor Pichardo and Councilman Fernando Cabrera contributed greatly by promoting the HBZ initiative, ensuring Bronxites understand how sugar-filled beverages effect the body. PS 811, a public school partner of the HBZ, became the youngest travel ambassadors by sharing their knowledge of the adverse effects of sugary beverages with their families. The students have committed to abstaining from consuming sugar sweetened beverages, proving that the initiative is one that can be adopted by people of all ages.
“Thank you for working with us and for working with the Bronx,” Borough President Rubin Diaz Jr. shared with the HBZ. “While we still have a long way to go, this HBZ anniversary is a milestone in that the Bronx is headed in the right way.”
For the HBZ, celebrating one year is just the beginning. The Bronx initiative plans to keep working towards a healthier future for the community. There is no statistic too scary, or drink too sugary, that the HBZ won’t campaign to change.