Planting something in a food desert

No fresh food for an entire town is something no one wants to imagine.

I’ve got some thoughts rambling through my head at the moment, so maybe some of you can help straighten them out.

One of our local towns, population about 2,000,  is about to become a food desert; that is, a town with no source of fresh food. The only grocery store is set to close shortly. There are other grocery stores outside the city limits, but for many people without cars, those are not within walking distance. And pubic transit here sucks.

I write about food, and I am particularly passionate about fresh and local food. Organic fresh and local food is good, but this town’s inhabitants have a median income that does not lend itself to buying the more expensive organic food, so fresh and as local as possible would be good. Unemployment is high and high-paying jobs almost nonexistent.

The town has other issues: crime, drug and gang violence. There are neighborhoods that are not safe at any hour.

The town has a primarily African-American population. What I love about this town is the number of small ethnic restaurants: Jamaican, Haitian, Mexican, Central American and Caribbean places that offer great food in less-than-glamorous surroundings, which of course means that the price of a meal is right.

There are large corporations doing business near this town, but they are either national companies and/or have around a long time and have a loyal and steady workforce, and that workforce makes enough money to have personal transportation. There’s no city money to pay an incentive for someone to come in here and open a grocery store. And with profit margins pretty thin (between one and one and a half percent), who would take the risk?

But what about everyone else? How do people who cannot access a grocery store eat? And do they have the right to expect such access?

They rely on friends and family for a ride, eat unhealthy and expensive fast food or from convenience stores, use food pantries, free school lunches, free senior meal deliveries and the occasional holiday handouts. It’s a tenuous way to live, especially if you are feeding your kids.

I’d like to get involved in feeding a community, not just for a day, but for a lot longer. Maybe forever. Never been in that line of work, though. How do I get started? How would you get started?

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Filed under budget, Children, Current news, food, hunger, poverty

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