The YEZ at Banana Kelly: Surveying the Health of the Bronx

By Stephanie Gilman, Program Manager

This year, Banana Kelly’s Youth Engagement Zone is transforming science classes with service learning. During my last update, I talked about how our work with 10th grade students would be scaffolding upon 9th grade activities from last year. Our goal, once again, is to provide the teens with an opportunity to complete their own neighborhood investigation, data gathering, and research. During the first session, we discussed the differences between healthy neighborhoods and unhealthy ones, and then we developed a survey we could take to the streets. We wanted to discover what Bronx residents think of their community in terms of health.

We went out in small groups this week to a variety of locations: Subway stations, grocery stores, laundromats, and in front of Banana Kelly itself. The students interviewed whoever would stop and answer the following questions:

[pullquote]Overall, the Bronx is in the middle of healthy and unhealthy.[/pullquote]

1) Do you think the Bronx is a good place to live?
2) Do you think the Bronx is healthy?
3) Does your community have a local farmers market and/or healthy food choices?
4) If yes, how often do you shop there?
5) What are the most common health problems among your family and friends?
6) How often do you eat fast food?
7) Do you smoke?
8 ) Do you recycle regularly?
9) Do you feel safe in your neighborhood?
10) Would you be willing to go out and help the community for a day?

The students collected and entered over 200 survey results themselves. YEZ Program Coordinator Haddi Waggeh noted this approach. “What’s great about this,” she said, “is that instead of us coming to students with a plan, they are determining the flow of the project and what direction it will take. Even the process of entering data was enlightening for the students as they saw the results coming in.”

So far, most survey respondents say they think the Bronx is a good place to live, but that it is not healthy. The top health problems are asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Interestingly, most citizens are aware of local farmers markets and produce stores, but shop at them infrequently.

“Some neighborhoods have farmers’ markets,” commented student Christina Merced. “But some just have unhealthy food, like fast food. Overall, the Bronx is in the middle of healthy and unhealthy.”

Another student, Sabrina Dalmau, discussed the experience of administering the survey. “It was fun because we got out the classroom and we walked around Prospect Avenue,” she said. “We met some cool people and we met some weird people. Looks can be deceiving, because one lady didn’t look drunk, but she was drunk.”

“I was nervous at first,” mentioned Merced. “But then I built up confidence in myself in asking people what they think about the Bronx. I got negative and positive responses. But then again that’s their opinion. It was a good experience, because I wanted to get outside my shy comfort zone.”