Marble Hill Senior Center took a 1-mile walk to Shop & Stop on Oct. 11. There seniors they learned about exercise and produce with high potassium that reduces high blood pressure.

Seniors take first steps towards healthy eating | Riverdale Press

Written by Stacy Drakes

If there’s anything Cecilia Santana and Rosa Ogando learned during their recent field trip from the Big Center to a neighborhood grocery store Shop & Stop, it’s about living a healthier lifestyle.

Ogando recently started shopping in the fruit and vegetable section of the supermarket rather than making its way into the middle of the store, where sodium literally “sits” in processed cans.

They were part of a group of 18 other people from a senior center led by the Riverdale Seniors Services Health Community Initiative team members.

RSS has started a program targeting seniors in hopes of educating them about healthy eating. Their studies show that older adults do not eat or exercise properly as their doctors would prescribe them.

Santana said that due to the social distancing required during the pandemic, many programs in the Northwest Bronx have closed for exercise and healthy eating.

Some have not yet reopened. Therefore, Santana is trying to find different ways to stay healthy.

That’s until I heard about Walk and Shop.

“The project empowers older adults to improve health outcomes through education and health management workshops,” said Margie Shostak, Director of Communications at RSS.

Walking and shopping is nothing new. The previous program event was at the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center.

The way the program works is basically an event where the group walks with a dietitian to stop and shop. During the store tour, they discussed the importance of reading labels and eating fruits and vegetables.

Some elderly people have limited access to fresh produce and a lack of knowledge about healthy eating. Shostak explained that this usually leads to the deterioration of the health of the elderly.

A recent survey from RSS showed that 65 percent of people between the ages of 70 and 89 receive food from stores in Marble Hill and Kingsbridge Heights. 22 percent of these people also have some form of diabetes and high blood pressure.

However, the only problem is the language barrier.

“We don’t know how to shop, a lot of our food has a lot of salt, and we have trouble reading labels,” Ogando said.

However, Isael Tejeda – Program Head – Community Engagement Coordinator at RSS claims it may be Ogando’s opinion, but it happens a lot.

“A lot of times when they go shopping, they don’t read the marketing part, the[Nutrition Facts]labels,” he said.

Many Marble Hill Centers for Seniors have a Hispanic and Latino demographic and monolingual Hispanic speakers.

Tejeda has orchestrated the event to be culturally relevant in that it somewhat acts as a workshop. The 20 residents are not required to purchase what has been offered.

Just as the program shows seniors what to eat, they get a discount on it as well. Shop & Stop offers an individual $10 coupon for anything in-store.

People like Ogando and Santana, who may spend $10 each, are expected to pay the price difference if the amount increases.

They were led by a woman with many titles. But to the larger residents of Riverdale, Deborah Johnson is known as a community nutritionist, health coach, and RSS advisor.

“I’m so excited today!” Johnson said to her group before leaving the home base of Marble Hill Senior Center at 5365 Broadway, but remember, walk at your own pace.

The walk was about a mile, a straight lane, and took 20 minutes.

Johnson said Riverdale Press That many – but not most members suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes. She is there to teach them what sugar is bad and what is extra salt.

Walking five days a week and incorporating 20 minutes of walking into their lifestyle can lower blood pressure and manage other conditions they may have concerns about.

“We’re going to be talking about vegetables today, so we’ll be spending most of our time in that aisle,” she said during the event.

“We’ll be in the production aisle and talk about foods that are high in potassium.”

Foods rich in potassium are important in managing high blood pressure because they reduce sodium.

Johnson and Tejeda usually start with dairy and bread.

However, on this trip, they stayed in the Fruit Department.

There Johnson described the correct way to wash fruit that may have come into contact with pesticides. Blueberries and other berries should be washed three times or soaked in water.

“I didn’t know much about that before,” Santana said. “But I do now, it’s something to think about.”

It’s even better if they try to find the word “organic”, even though it may be more than a few dollars.

Insecticides do not wear out quickly. According to an environmental group, 70 percent of non-organic fresh produce are harmful pesticides.

Johnson explained the different foods the group usually ate that were high in potassium. Items include spinach, broccoli, kiwi, banana, watermelon, dry beans, and lentils.

“I love beans and lentils,” Johnson said.

She explained that studies have found that the more plant products a person consumes, the more this helps in treating blood pressure.

Ogando, who is of Spanish descent, draws on its culture’s famous cuisine of rice and beans.

However, according to Johnson, canned beans should be avoided because they are full of sodium to preserve the beans.

During the lesson, not only did the Marble Hill group pay attention, but also other shoppers stopped to listen. They even asked their own questions.

But only people who are registered are allowed to participate. The group plans to go on the trip on Tuesday, November 1.

“The supermarkets are changing now, bringing in more organics, and they have calendars with fruits and vegetables,” Santana said.

“My family is not here,” she said, “but they want me to eat healthy, high-quality food.”

They say ‘Now is the time to settle all those issues with quality of life, and fortunately, I’m fine. “

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