The Shape-Up Bushwick Parade Aims to Raise the Community’s Awareness of Living a Healthy Lifestyle

Anna van der Heijden

[email protected]

It’s better to prevent illnesses than to cure them, which is why living a healthy life is important. Shape-Up Bushwick aims to raise awareness on Bushwick’s biggest health issues within the community.

On Thursday, June 6, the parade will snake through the neighborhood to educate the community on available resources. Brooklyn Community Board 4 organizes the event with the support of local health agencies. After the parade, everyone will regroup in Irving Square Park for fun activities, a healthy lunch, and more important information on a healthy lifestyle.

The event used to be part of Brooklyn-Queens Day—all kids in these boroughs would get the day off of school to give school employees the opportunity to take courses or discuss the state of their school—and would include a parade and a barbecue. About seven years ago, after a discussion about the state of health in the neighborhood, the community board decided to take things in a different, health-centered direction.

“They realized that hot dogs and hamburgers—although they’re fun—they’re not the healthiest,” said Celestina León, District Manager of Brooklyn Community Board 4 and one of the organizers of Shape-Up Bushwick.

The main health issues that Bushwick struggles with, according to León, are obesity, high blood pressure, hypertension, asthma, and diabetes. “These are all things that can be a result of diet and lack of exercise. They can also be a result of a lot of stress,” said León.

Besides that, Bushwick sees a low percentage of people who have health insurance, and a high number of people who use emergency rooms as primary care providers.

“This event is meant to start the dialogue,” said León. By bringing together the community, health providers and organizations promoting healthy lifestyles hope to educate people on what problems already exist, how to solve them, and prevention.  

The event starts at 10 a.m. on the corner of Knickerbocker Avenue and Weirfield Street. After the parade, locals and residents will regroup at Irving Square Park for a short ceremony to honor key members of the community, and activities promoting health in a fun way.

All participating organizations have a table and will showcase their services. There are lunch boxes and games for the kids, fitness sessions for the adults, and musical performances for everyone.

The healthy lunch from the event is being sponsored by Broadway Stages, one of the largest TV and film production companies in NYC with a stage in Bushwick.

“We want to encourage the entire family to live a healthier, more active life,” said León.

Participants at last year’s Shape-Up Bushwick event, courtesy of @Rose_Modernmd.

According to León, Bushwick has always been family and community-oriented. She explains that a few decades ago, the neighborhood was plagued by drugs and crime, so many people left. The ones who stayed behind created a strong community network that you can still see today. People look out for each other, and might trust each other’s opinion more than a health official’s.

“Sometimes it takes your village to tell you ‘wake up and take advantage of what’s going on.’ You trust your community, because that is your family,” said León about the people of Bushwick.

NYC Health data shows that access to healthy food is limited in Bushwick. For every supermarket, there are 31 bodegas—which don’t always have a diverse selection of fresh produce.

“You have to remember that Bushwick was frozen in time for a while,” said León. “There wasn’t the same investment like you would see in other areas of the city. Bushwick had been forgotten.”

New supermarkets do open, mainly thanks to an influx of new groups of people. León’s worry is that some of these groceries stores might not serve the entire community, because of high prices. She believes that these new, health stores could be a great thing for the neighborhood, as long as the new business owners consider the community’s needs and try to keep it affordable.  

“It’s all about finding a middle ground,” said León. And that’s exactly what she hopes to achieve with Shape-Up Bushwick.

Cover photo courtesy of Pixabay.

For more news, sign up for Bushwick Daily’s newsletter.

Latest articles

Related articles