Bronx Roots Vegetarian and Wellness Festival aims to improve borough’s health outcomes – Bronx Times

Holistic naturopaths Abena Anum and Marilyn Johnson hosted the Bronx Roots Vegetarian and Wellness Festival in an attempt to promote healthy living in the city’s unhealthiest borough.

The Bronx, which currently ranks last of New York State’s 62 counties in health outcomes according to the 2022 County Health Rankings National Findings Report, includes neighborhoods in the southern portion of the borough known as food deserts where residents are limited Have access to quality nutrition, rely heavily on processed foods and are often glutted with bodegas instead of supermarkets. Additionally, one in four Bronx residents — some of the highest rates in the country — is food insecure, according to a 2021 report by the United Hospital Fund and the Boston Consulting Group.

The Bronx suffers the state’s worst unemployment rate at 8.6% as of the start of August and was disproportionately hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with cumulatively higher death and hospitalization rates than all other counties in the city, according to a 2021 report by State Examiner Thomas Dinapoli.

The Health Ranking Report further found that 30% of health outcomes, including longevity and quality of life, are based on health behaviors, including tobacco use, diet and exercise, alcohol, and drugs use and sexual activity. This statistic, while not specific to the Bronx, sparked the #Not62 campaign for family wellness in the Bronx, a call for action to improve the overall health of the borough’s residents.

“I saw #Not62 and said ‘wherew. wWe really need to put this right,’” said Anum, Founder of Bronx Holistic Healing. “As a lifelong resident of the Bronx, I see the fast food places everywhere and the other parts of the Bronx are a food desert.”

In her more than two decades of holistic healing—an idealistic form of healing that Anum describes as focusing on the entire body, mind, and spirit—Anum has been compelled to travel to other districts to attend events that promote what referred to them as a clean lifestyle. Now she says she has everything she needs to live a healthy lifestyle in the Bronx and believes others have, too.

“I would say we are 62 years old and rising,” said Anum. “The Bronx has gone through a process of waking up and making the connection between food and overall health.”

The Bronx Roots Vegetarian and Wellness Festival welcomed local artisans, vendors and wellness enthusiasts to Seabury Park. Photo courtesy of Abena Anum

Anum knew a small network of healthy lifestyle enthusiasts in her neighborhood before hosting the festival. Despite misconceptions of healthy activists only practicing in “haughtier” counties, Anum says the Bronx is full of the vegan restaurants, juice bars, massage therapists and spiritual practitioners needed to curate this health-promoting way of life.

Anum began coordinating holistic events in the Bronx in 2012 and has since created more than 40 opportunities for Bronx residents to collaborate and share their products and ideas.

“It’s all connected in your body and soul,” said Anum. “Eating living foods…brings more life into you. When you take care of yourself along with eating healthy, it increases your energy and increases your vitality.”

The July 23 Wellness Festival at Seabury Park was sponsored by Partake Foods, a vegan, allergen-free and gluten-free biscuit company; Nature’s Fynd, a food fungus protein distributor; Raw Rev, a vegan snack company; and Black Girl Everything, a resource for black women and girls. The free event hosted more than 30 guests with 11 providers passionate about holistic healing and healthy living.

“My mission has always been to expand the network and spread awareness about (healthy living) so people know you’re looking here in the Bronx,” Anum said. “I’m just trying to encourage some change as well.”

The festival featured an array of local vendors, artisans and speeches from health advocates from the Bronx community who share a common goal of improving the quality of life in their community.

Afterwards local restaurant Bronx Eats hosted a food demonstration using local produce to prepare a Mediterranean salad, and attendees took part in a panel discussion to discuss ideas on how to bring what they learned from the festival back to their communities.

John Gray hosted a Revitalizing Chair Massage booth to “realign, rejuvenate and restore” attendees. By stretching and massaging different parts of the body, Anum says clients feel more relaxed and energized by the end of the session.

John Gray offers participants a revitalizing therapeutic massage. Photo courtesy of Abena Anum

Abiodun Bello, founder of Crotona Park Running Club, and holistic nutritionist Genny Mack were the festival’s keynote speakers. Mack introduced the benefits of a plant-based diet and Bello spoke about the benefits of his running club.

One vendor, Eli’s Baage, sold authentic Ghanaian goods, including waist beads and raw organic shea butter. Waist beads are a traditional way of monitoring weight loss and weight management by observing where the beads fall on the body over time to see progress. The booth offered free waist bead training and samples of organic shea butter.

“What I hope to bring with me is just the knowledge of what things are used in Ghana for a healthy lifestyle, like skin care and waist beads,” Garner said.

Other vendors at the event include Evolving Wellness Shop, Aligned Wire, Goddess Innergy, Royalty Body Cream, S&S Health and Wellness and The Wild Juice.

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