Area restaurant collective looks to help change unhealthy eating habits
A new Bronx Salad will soon be hitting neighborhood restaurants.
The United Businesses Cooperative, a collective that encompasses several local, immigrant-run eateries, partnered with two local chefs at an event during the last week in October to create a nutritious five-ingredient salad that will be served in about a dozen local restaurants by early next year.
The initiative is part of a larger plan by the cooperative and local businesses to get more healthy food on their menus and bring fresh and affordable food options to the neighborhood.
Visitors at the Made In the Bronx mixer in the historic Old Bronx Courthouse building in Melrose sampled two versions of the kale salad—one with roasted chicken, sweet potatoes and cranberries and the other with beets, feta cheese and walnuts—and reviewed which one they preferred.
The salad, created by chefs Bobby Hellen, executive chef of GG’s restaurant in Manhattan, and Marisa Davis, owner and chef at Kirven-Lopez business development company, is meant to push back on the stereotype that the South Bronx is a food desert with no fresh and healthy food options.
Henry Obispo, president of the United Businesses Cooperative, hopes that the salad will become emblematic of the area and encourage people to make healthier food choices both at home and when eating out.
“The idea is to change the perception that the Bronx is unhealthy,” said Obispo. “Maybe sometimes that perception can be reality—the idea is that we’re changing the narrative in terms of what a lot of these restaurants would traditionally serve and allowing them to offer a different option.”
The larger push for healthy food in local neighborhoods comes through the #NOT62 campaign, an initiative launched by borough president Ruben Diaz to bring organizations such as Bronx Health REACH and Montefiore Medical Center together with businesses for more nutritious food alternatives and better health services in the borough. The campaign is part of a wider effort to raise Bronx County’s ranking as the least healthy of New York’s 62 counties, according to an annual report conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin.
David Germain, who commutes to his job selling real estate in the borough every day, said he would like to see more neighborhood restaurants with healthy menus.
“Everybody needs to eat,” said Germain. “There’s a lot of opportunity for people, restaurants, business owners to start a restaurant and succeed.”
The vegetables used in the salad are all grown in gardens and greenhouses in and around Mott Haven. According to Obispo, this keeps the salad affordable and shows the community that fresh food doesn’t have to come from far away.
“This will then feed the restaurants, so that they could have that incentive to promote it in their establishments as it would be more affordable given that we’re growing it ourselves,” said Obispo.
While the salad will be served in over ten borough restaurants that comprise the restaurant collective and put on the menu of new ones that open, its creators also hope that the simple recipe will encourage people to recreate it at home every day.
“We’re just trying to do it to get it out there and promote something easy for people to make and to get in front of them at home rather than at restaurants,” said one of the servers.
Germain said that he would definitely try to recreate the salad at home—if he could cook.
“I don’t know how to cook, so I don’t know if I’d ever replicate it, but if I could cook, I would definitely try,” said Germain. “It’s something that I would like to try.”