Grantee Spotlights | February 25, 2022

Harlem Children’s Zone Spotlight

Empowering Harlem Children to Take Charge of their Health

Positive long-term health outcomes are influenced by habits we develop at a young age. Yet in Harlem, one of far too many communities across New York State lacking sufficient access to nutritious food, nearly 20% of children struggle with obesity—a much higher rate than the national average.

For children to live long, happy lives, they must first have their health, making an early intervention into childhood obesity critical for our children’s long-term well-being. To improve health outcomes for children living in Harlem and empower them to take charge of their health, the Foundation provided a grant of $350,000 to the Harlem Children’s Zone for their Healthy Harlem program. 

Founded in 2000, Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) serves tens of thousands of children and families annually and aims to disrupt the cycle of intergenerational poverty in Central Harlem, where the median household income is nearly half the rest of Manhattan’s. HCZ provides comprehensive wraparound services that ensures access to vital resources for families and children from birth through college graduation and careers.

In 2005, as a direct response to the public health crisis of childhood obesity and the recognition that poor health outcomes can derail children’s happiness, productivity, and success, HCZ created a healthy living initiative to serve the community at scale. The initiative was designed to encourage students and their families to incorporate healthy food choices and physical activity into their daily lives. Seeking to deepen the work in this area, HCZ embarked on a planning process to develop a best-in-class obesity prevention program and launched Healthy Harlem in 2012.

Healthy Harlem’s approach focuses on prevention, treatment, and medical support for everyone ranging from those at-risk of becoming obese to those suffering severe health outcomes. In particular, the programming focuses on six key areas: nutrition education, healthy food access, physical activity, parent engagement, targeted intervention, and community programs. HCZ tracks the progress of all its Healthy Harlem participants, focusing on gains in health literacy, nutrition knowledge, and increased interest in healthy food and physical exercise. HCZ’s wrap-around programming annually supports approximately 7,000 youth and adults in Harlem to live healthier lives and make for a healthier community.

To learn more about Harlem Children’s Zone, please visit their website.