Poor New Yorkers Dying For Their Own Food Craze: Diabetes

NEW YORK — The Big Apple has been home to a wave of food-related fads in recent years, but none have made as much of an impact as the latest craze gripping parts of the city. Many New Yorkers are literally dying to be part of the trend, with the New York City Health Department confirming that, in 2011, a person died every 90 minutes due to diabetes, or as a result of a cause related to it. Five of the 10 most affected neighborhoods are in the Bronx, and other areas with comparatively high obesity rates include the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bushwick, East New York and Brownsville, which are among the most economically depressed in the city.

Meanwhile, Robert Alesandri of Morrisania was still waiting to try diabetes first hand: “A lot of my friends have tried it, and I don’t want to be the odd one out, but if the statistics are right, I shouldn’t have to wait too long.”

Food fads play a big role in impacting the city’s culture, but have mostly been restricted to Manhattan or the parts of Brooklyn with fewer ethnic minorities. None of the major frozen yogurt chains have locations in the Bronx or less prosperous sections of Brooklyn or Queens. Ditto cupcake chains. Alison Jones of Brownsville said she was looking forward to it: “I heard you could only really get diabetes in Mississippi, Alabama and Texas, so I’m glad it’s finally made its way north.”

“We pretty much always get passed by,” says East Tremont resident Joseph Washington, who has lived in the area for 67 years. “Every time there was a boom in something downtown – Asian sandwiches, Nordic cuisine, organic bodegas, even Jamba Juice – I’d be crossing my fingers that a place making bánh mí or smoothies would open up in the neighborhood, but it never happened. So it seems fair that this new diabetes thing should be mainly for us.” Washington’s assertion is accurate, as 59 percent of those who have diabetes are black or Hispanic, while making up 53 percent of the city’s population.

April Martinez of Kingsbridge was more wary of the new trend, noting: “At least we have Citi Bikes up here now, so we can all get some exercise to help balance out the diabetes. Oh, no, wait … we don’t.”