Two Queens neighborhoods are getting access to more fruits and vegetables.
The renovation and expansion of two supermarket sites in Jackson Heights and Corona will offer options for shoppers who want more variety and access to better produce in areas designated by the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) initiative.
Bogopa Service Corporation, which owns and operates 13 supermarkets citywide, received assistance through the initiative to expand or renovate six supermarket locations in New York City.
“New York City was very happy to see a home grown company be successful and I think they were happy to see that we wanted to open more supermarkets,” said Justin Shon, director of corporate affairs for Bogopa.
The company plans to expand their Food Bazaar supermarket at 34-20 Junction Boulevard with a 4,000 square foot produce section and open a new 10,000 square foot supermarket at 57-08 99th Street in Corona.
Shon said the expansion at the Junction Boulevard location would be complete by the end of September or October if the company was “optimistic.” The timeline for the Corona supermarket was still up in the air, but Bogopa was ready to start construction as soon as possible, he said.
The two neighborhoods have high concentrations of obesity and diabetes – access to healthier food options might help to abate those health issues.
“One way to do that is to make sure that there are enough full service supermarkets in the area to provide fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Nevin Cohen, assistant professor of environmental studies at The New School.
The FRESH initiative gives companies financial and zoning incentives to supermarket stores and developers. The initiative began in 2009 after a study by Mayor Bloomberg’s Food Policy Task Force showed the lack of supermarkets in many low-income areas across the city.
Close to 20 percent of residents in western Queens live below the poverty level. One in five adults is obese and one in 12 adults have diabetes, according to a 2006 community health profile from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
In addition to parts of western and southeast Queens, FRESH also targets areas such as the South Bronx, upper Manhattan (Harlem, Inwood and Washington Heights) and Brooklyn to open supermarkets.
“The target areas for the FRESH program include where we have the most serious issues around access to fresh produce and fresh and perishable foods,” said Kim Kessler, New York City’s food policy coordinator.
Through the initiative, Bogopa received $450,000 in income tax subsidies they can put towards their $8 million investment in the six locations. That means when the company purchases materials for construction – the city and state won’t tack on income taxes to their costs.
The two new supermarket locations also mean more jobs for the neighborhood. Shon said he expected a few clerical and managerial positions to be available once the locations officially open.
The new markets will service the area’s diverse Hispanic and South Asian population and will cater to the needs of the community, Shon said.
While expanded food options is good news for residents in the area, food advocates hope that it can address many of the health and economic issues communities such as Jackson Heights and Corona face, said Joel Berg, executive director of the Coalition Against Hunger.
“Options are extraordinarily useful. We know if food is affordable and available, people will buy it,” said Berg. “This could help with hunger and obesity.”