New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker was in Poughkeepsie earlier this week as part of a series of events across the state marking National Public Health Week. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne reports.
Commissioner Zucker brought together senior citizens and children at the Mid-Hudson Heritage Center for healthy snacks and a discussion of what public health means for people of all ages.
“How many of you eat healthy foods besides the greens that are back there? Alright, what else do you eat?
“Salad. Excellent. That’s good. Salads are great. I’m all for salads. What else?” asked Zucker.
The answers were either fruits or vegetables. In fact, one student surprised Zucker with his answer of carrots and broccoli.
“And it’s important for the children here to understand the nutrition. I was really thrilled that they knew what foods are healthy,” Zucker says. “This was not set up. These were just ad lib questions to them. And I was really pleased by it. And I was also pleased to see the seniors aware of some of the concerns that they have that they need to do to maintain their health as well, and to see the two generations talking.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro was in attendance.
“Can we be the healthiest county in the State of New York?”
“Listen, I want to thank the kids first because I don’t know if you know this but, on the way in, there was junk food and there was the healthy microgreens and, all of you, whether it was in ice cream or on a cracker, you all took the microgreens, and that’s pretty cool,” Molinaro said.
Brud Hodgkins is with Indoor Organic Gardens of Poughkeepsie, which provided the microgreens, an early stage vegetable, in smoothies, ice cream and chicken dip on a cracker.
“This is going to be big. The nutrient density of a microgreen is just becoming known to the medical community. And that’s why the commissioner of health was interested in seeing what we’re doing,” Hodgkins says. “So we can literally feed people thousands of milligrams of nutrition with a fraction of the vegetables that they otherwise would have to eat.”
Molinaro says the county is working on providing healthy food choices to those who may not have access, such as low-income residents and those in more remote parts of the county.
“Dutchess has received the Healthy Cities Challenge through the National Association of Counties so we’re working with the Indoor Organic Gardens of Poughkeepsie to bring microgreens to schoolchildren and to seniors really throughout Dutchess,” Molinaro says. “So we’re going to continue to grow that partnership as we really encourage people to make healthier food choices.”
After a discussion of healthy eating habits, Dr. Zucker sat with the kids on the floor and read “A Sick Day for Amos McGee.”
(Dr. Zucker reads from book and talks with the kids.)
“Well I chose that book because it spoke about a couple things, one is about what happens if you’re ill and how to address some of those concerns, and also sort of the issue of caring,” says Zucker. “And even though it’s about animals, I felt that it’s about caring and how others care for you as well as you care for them.”
After the story, the kids and senior citizens descended upon a table to make a collage about healthy habits — intergenerational art, the health commissioner called it. Fourth grader Madison Silvera began work on her piece.
“I am doing a picture of how you can keep us healthy,” Silvera says.
She was incorporating flowers and butterflies, and exercise.
“Well, we’re going to be walking on a flower field and see a butterfly,” says Silvera.
And she gave a reason for being healthy.
“Because if you don’t be healthy you could get bad diseases,” Silvera says.
Zucker also wanted to impress upon the children the importance of checking on older neighbors who may not have been seen for awhile, to make sure they’re OK. The commissioner kicked off National Public Health Week at Hofstra University on Long Island and he held events in Albany, Schenectady and elsewhere.