Sunday, August 16, 2009

Illinois Provides Fresh Produce for Low Income Homes

According to an press release, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary Carol. L. Adams and Department on Aging Director Charles Johnson have announced a $1 million grant from the US Department of Agriculture for the 2007 Woman Infant and Childrens and Senior Farmers Market programs in the state. This money will allow low income families to buy freshly grown produce at local markets and grocery stores.

WIC and the Senior Farmers Market programs want to encourage low-income families and seniors to improve their diets with the help of the government. They hope that this would help them afford locally-grown fruits and vegetables.

IDHS Secretary Adams said, "Everyone, regardless of their financial status, should have access to healthy, affordable foods. It's exciting to see this program continue successfully because it not only provides a healthier source of produce for low-income families and seniors, it also improves business for local farmers and promotes fresh, home-grown products."

From now on, checks will be given to those participating in the program. Booklets with the $3 checks will with be given out between July 1st and October 31st. Seniors will receive $21 booklets and WIC participants will get $15 booklets.

All of the participating programs hope that this will encourage long-term consumption of fruits and vegetables, and also support healthy eating and help fight obesity and poor nutrition in Illinois.

Nearly 60,000 women, children, and senior citizens have been able to consume locally grown healthy fruits and vegetables on a normal basis.

Department of Aging Director Charles Johnson said "Good nutrition is essential at any stage in a person's life. The Illinois Department on Aging is proud to be part of the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program- a program that encourages seniors to improve their diets and get the nutrition they need, while at the same time helps our farmers gain sales."

Information provided by
Post by Tally Gunstone

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Growing Power in an Urban Food Desert brings to light Growing Power, a two acre farm in the middle of Milwaukee which is home to 14 green houses that help feed the local food desert inhabitants. Growing Power also works in partnership with the Rainbow Farming Cooperative and together they are working to fight health issues and food racism, as founder Will Allen calls it, in the Milwaukee food desert.

"At the northern outskirts of Milwaukee, in a neighborhood of boxy post-WWII homes near the sprawling Park Lawn housing project, stand 14 greenhouses arrayed on two acres of land. This is Growing Power, the only land within the Milwaukee city limits zoned as farmland.

Founded by MacArthur Foundation “genius” fellow Will Allen, Growing Power is an active farm producing tons of food each year, a food distribution hub, and a training center. It’s also the home base for an expanding network of similar community food centers, including a Chicago branch run by Allen’s daughter, Erika. Growing Power is in what Allen calls a “food desert,” a part of the city devoid of full-service grocery stores but lined with fast-food joints, liquor stores, and convenience stores selling mostly soda and sweets. Growing Power is an oasis in that desert."

Read the entire article at

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mayor of Cleveland is Adding More Food Carts to the City’s Streets

The Mayor of Cleveland, Frank Jackson has plans to diversify the type of food that is currently offered on the streets by creating a food cart program. Currently, the majority of food carts sell hot dogs or sausages. Jackson aims to reduce hurdles for potential business owners and is planning on partnering with a local nonprofit to help implement his vision. The city is lending $400,000 dollars to go towards purchasing carts that would then be rented by entrepreneurs. Further, he is giving priority to vendors who would offer diverse menu items and use locally grown food. He is also altering city code to make it easier to operate a food cart in the city. Frank Jackson realizes the many benefits of food carts which bring healthy food and provide a way for people to be self-employed. Hopefully, Cleveland will set a positive example for other parts of the country that would benefit from more abundant and diverse food options.

To read the full article for more information visit:

First Lady Michelle Obama Garners Support for Gardening and Nutritious Eating

Recently, during a harvest celebration at the White House first lady, Michelle Obama spoke to a group of students from Bancroft elementary school congratulating them on their implementation of a garden at the White House and at their school. Michelle Obama also addressed the growing need for a change in the way Americans eat. She stated that 1/3 of the children in the U.S. are overweight or obese and that 1/3 will suffer from diabetes in their lifetime. The first lady pointed out that these numbers are even higher in African American and Hispanic communities. She also pointed out that many people live in food deserts and do not have access to healthy food and rely on convenience stores and fast food places for their food. With these gardens, she is hoping to not only make healthy food available, but also to get kids excited about healthy eating. Michelle Obama also emphasized that more needs to be done than just plant gardens and is working on improving the quality of food in subsidized meals, as well as, improving the child nutrition program. I encourage you to follow Michelle Obama’s example. If you are an educator, make it a point to inform students about healthy eating. Lastly, whether or not you are an educator or a student, advocate for your own school garden and start cultivating a healthier future.

To view the speech visit:

To watch a CNN overview of what she is doing visit:

Written by: Briana Surin

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Nashville Food Deserts Benefit From New Farmers' Markets

Four Nashville neighborhoods that had previously been identified as food deserts are benefiting from new farmers’ markets established through the Veggie Project, the Examiner reports. Spurred from research conducted three years ago by a Vanderbilt University student who examined childhood obesity, family nutrition and food security, the Veggie Project aims to improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables in underserved communities. The project already has added farmers’ markets in the Andrew Jackson, Preston Taylor, Antioch and Wedgewood-Houston neighborhoods. In each, children get the opportunity to learn the business behind the farmers’ market and then are rewarded with special vouchers that can be used to purchase items there. Adults also can earn vouchers by participating in the Super Shoppers program, which provides similar vouchers to those who submit recipes that include items available in the farmers’ market (McInnis, Examiner, 6/28/09).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Poverty In America

It's not the problem of not finding food to find at all, its that fresh, affordable and healthy food are much harder to come by than the fried chicken and Big Mac's found on nearly every street corner. It is a problem of access and affordability more than anything else. In the article "Food Deserts Benefit From Farmers Markets" by Greg Plotkin, he mentions that from a statistic, families do not only need help accessing fresh food, they also need help learning how to eat healthy and understanding why it is so important to their health. And thus, the Veggie Project was born. The Veggie Project is committed to "improving access to fresh fruits and vegetables in food desert neighborhoods while supporting local agricultural systems with the hopes of improving the obesity epidemic.

"Children are the cornerstones of the markets, and are responsible for coordinating set up, determining the amount of produce available each week and are even allowed to set the prices for all the products"(Plotkin). In return for their labor, the children receive vouchers which they can use to purchase fresh food at the markets.

Parents and community members are also encouraged to participate through the Super Chef Super Shopper program which provides market vouchers to participants in return for completing surveys, submitting healthy recipes that use locally-grown produce or attending cooking classes hosted by the Veggie Project staff. This is designed to give the project leaders more information about the barriers that keep fresh food from being a routine part of the lives of food desert residents. There may be no better way to achieve a reduction in the rate of childhood obesity than promoting healthy eating habits from an early age.

Abdelrahman Odeh

How Farmers Markets Benefit the Consumer by Ariana Bray-Sweet

Farmers Markets have many benefits beyond helping the food desert problem. Did you know that the average grocery item must travel 1,300 miles just to get from the field to your table (WSFMA)? Furthermore, most produce is harvested while it is still immature so that it can withstand travel better. You could also be eating ethylene gas, which is used to treat some fruits and vegetables to make them look ripe, but the appearance doesn’t mean it tastes ripe (WSFMA)!

Many people would be shocked to find out that the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables begin to decline right after harvest. Broccoli loses 1/3 of its vitamin C in two days and by the time Mexican asparagus gets to Seattle, it has already lost 2/3 of its vitamins (WSFMA).

When shopping at a Farmers Market, the majority of the time the produce was harvested hours before arriving at the market. Many people believe that shopping at a farmers market might be more expensive than a grocery store, but a national survey of 15 cities found that the food items were cheaper at a farmers market a whopping 91 percent of the time (WSFMA)! When a dollar is spent at a farmers market, the farmer keeps the entire dollar. When selling to grocery stores, a farmer only sees a percentage of that dollar. This allows the consumer to save money by buying directly from the farmer. Next time you need fresh produce, get real freshness at your Farmers Market instead of foods that have already lost the majority of their vitamins and nutrients. You’ll find that it tastes better, you’re supporting your local economy, and you could save money! Try supporting your local Farmers Market or try to get one set up if you don’t already have one.

All Information Derived From: Washington State Farmers Market Association Informational Handbook:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Look to East L.A. for Inspiration

Across the country communities are getting together to combat the healthy food shortage issue. A great example of this is a community garden in east L.A. that was started by Robert Krochmal, a local doctor who was inspired to do something after seeing so many obese children that clearly were not eating healthy nourishing food. Dr. Krochmal got together with his community and transformed a vacant lot into a thriving community garden. The garden is open to anyone and grows standard vegetables as well as, harder to find Latino favorites. The garden has been received well by members of the community who appreciate the social interaction as well as the fresh food. To discover more about this read the article “Seeds of Change in East L.A.” by, Danna Harman which can be found at Hopefully, you too will be inspired to take action against the growing food desert problem that is expanding waistlines and leading to other health problems. As Dr. Krochmal states in the article, an important thing to remember though when embarking on your project is that, “this is not an overnight thing.” However, eventually your efforts will reach fruition and be appreciated.

Written by,
Briana Surin

Monday, August 10, 2009

Can America's Urban Food Deserts Bloom?

I just finished reading an article from Time online published this past May. It was interesting that they had a focus on Chicago, because that is where I am originally from. Although the Farmer's Best Market is not turning a profit I think that Karriem Beyah has shown great initiative and has set an example for healthy eating in Chicago's south side where grocery stores are typically not available.

Here is the full article:
Inside the supermarket, uniformed workers are stacking pineapples into neat rows across from bundles of fresh mustard greens, tamarind pods and nopalitos — sliced cactus ears common in Mexican dishes. In much of the country, Farmers Best Market would not be an extraordinary sight. But here on 47th Street, a gritty stretch of Chicago's South Side flush with Golden Arches and purveyors of Colt 45 Malt Liquor, the store is an oasis. It's also raising an intriguing proposition: Can an inner-city supermarket profitably specialize in fresh produce and meats — and, ultimately, be a model solution to urban America's health crisis?

For years, major supermarket chains have been criticized for abandoning densely populated, largely black and Latino communities in cities like Detroit, Los Angeles, Memphis and Newark, N.J. — contributing to what many experts call food deserts. Many of these communities are, quite literally, starving for broader and healthier food options beyond the seemingly ubiquitous fast-food chains and corner stores selling barely a handful of fruits and vegetables — at relatively high prices. (Watch TIME's video "Urban Deserts: Fresh Food-Free.")

Simply put, people eat what is convenient and affordable — and if it's fat-heavy fast food, that's what they'll chow down on. The prevalence of obesity among American youth overall increased to 16.3% in 2006, from 5% in 1980, but some 28% of non-Hispanic black females between ages 12 and 19 are obese, as are about 20% of Mexican-American females (the statistic for non-Hispanic white females in the same age group is 14.5%). In congressional testimony earlier this year, a top official from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified food deserts as a cause of these grim statistics.

Experts have declared roughly half of Detroit (pop. 916,000) a food desert and estimate that nearly 633,000 of Chicago's 3 million residents live in neighborhoods either lacking or far away from conventional supermarkets like Jewel, Pathmark and Winn-Dixie. The paucity of affordable, healthy food options in urban communities is ironic in a country with an abundance of food. "Everyone deserves to eat," says Mari Gallagher, president of the National Center for Public Research, a Chicago group that studies urban issues. The crisis, she adds, "really is a matter of life and death."

Karriem Beyah, 47, is out to change all that with Farmers Best Market. He grew up on Chicago's South Side and worked in his godfather's neighborhood grocery store. So it isn't surprising that he embarked on a career chopping raw meat, loading food trucks and, eventually, managing a dairy distributor's operations. As he built his personal savings and a base of industry contacts, he noticed the growth of stores like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods in Chicago and its suburbs. "This should be on the South Side," he recalls thinking. But, he says, when he approached industry colleagues with the idea of opening such a store, they reacted by saying, "Who wants to go over there, in that negative element?"

Nevertheless, about four years ago, he began scoping out properties, just as research began to emerge identifying vast sections of Chicago — particularly its black neighborhoods — as a food desert. But the initial idea of opening a store in a black neighborhood was dashed. "I'd have to have a higher class of African Americans, that recognize the value of fruits and vegetables," he recalls thinking. Real estate was too expensive in neighborhoods like Bronzeville and Hyde Park, which boast high concentrations of black professionals. At the same time, he observed that many Latinos tend to have large families and buy fresh fruits and vegetables more frequently than blacks and the general population. So he settled on a vast, 35,000-sq.-ft. building that had been abandoned by a national supermarket chain about 15 years ago. It's in a largely Mexican-American neighborhood known as Back of the Yards. Just to the east lie Bronzeville and Hyde Park.

The store, which opened last July, is airy and well lit. The produce section is stocked with fresh mustard greens, popular among blacks with roots in the Deep South. There's also elephant-ear-size fried pork skins, a Mexican-American favorite. The neighborhood has few bakeries, so Farmers Best sells cakes and loaves of bread. Produce, meat and dairy products account for roughly 62% of Farmers Best's sales. Slowly, it is attracting customers like Vera Johnson, a restaurant cashier who lives nearby.

One recent afternoon, Johnson, a 29-year-old African American, led her two daughters through the produce section. She tossed a pineapple and bags of apples into the shopping cart. "See, these are all real fresh," she says, pointing to a bag of blueberries. "You put these on little short cakes, with whipped cream," she continues, explaining the night's dessert, "and they love it." Johnson is now a Farmers Best regular and eschews nearby grocers that, she says, are often overcrowded and dirty and where "the oranges have brown spots."

Experts across the country are exploring a range of potential solutions to the urban health crisis, including creating neighborhood gardens and courting chains like Aldi, Family Dollar and even Wal-Mart to fill the void created by food deserts. But the supermarket industry suffers from especially tight profit margins and is thus particularly risk-averse, so supermarkets' entry into low-income neighborhoods has been slow. Furthermore, many low-end chains are hardly bastions of fresh, healthy produce and meat.

So far, in 10 months of operation, Farmers Best has failed to turn a profit. Beyah attributes that partly to slowed consumer spending amid the recession, as well as a need to grow awareness about his venture. He is running ads on black radio stations, hoping to lure affluent blacks, who are likely to shop more frequently and not just at the top of the month, which is when customers who rely on government assistance to buy food receive their aid. Meanwhile, he regularly invites local students into the store. "We're trying to teach the children how to eat properly," he says. Despite such tactics, Beyah regards himself as a pure businessman, not an activist. He's also an optimist — and hopes to open at least five stores in the coming years. "I will survive," he declares.


posted by Maria David

PBS Special - Unnatural Causes.. is inequality making us sick?

PBS is going to rebroadcast a special on food inequalities and health related illnesses. This show broadcasts on friday nights at 10PM. They will be broadcasting this particular episode on October 9, 16, 23, 30, 2009, check your local listings. Check out the website @

"This is a story about health, but it’s not about doctors or drugs. It’s about why some of us get sicker more often and die sooner and what causes us to fall ill in the first place."

UNNATURAL CAUSES criss-crosses the country investigating the stories and findings that are shaking up conventional notions about what makes us healthy or sick. It turns out there’s much more to our well-being than genes, behaviors and medical care. The social, economic, and physical environments in which we are born, live and work profoundly affect our longevity and health – as much as smoking, diet and exercise.

The series sheds light on mounting evidence of how lack of access to power and resources can get under the skin and disrupt human biology as surely as germs and viruses. It also reveals a health gradient tied to wealth: those at the top of the class pyramid average longer, healthier lives, while those at the bottom are the most disempowered, get sicker more often and die sooner. Most of us fall somewhere in between.

What's more, at every level, many communities of color are worse off than their white counterparts. Researchers believe that chronic stress over the life course may create an additional health burden for people of color.

Compelling personal stories illustrate obstacles and inequities in society but they also point the way to new possibilities, as individuals and communities organize to gain control over their destinies and their health.

As Harvard epidemiologist David Williams points out in the film, investing in our schools, improving housing, integrating neighborhoods, better jobs and wages, giving people more control over their work – these are as much health strategies as disease prevention and education efforts."

- Sir Michael Marmot, Chair, Commission on the Social Determinants of Health. All information provided by PBS.ORG.

Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty

This book published in 2008, highlights the growing trend of food deserts from the 1970s to the present day.

"Having been a part of the movement since the 1970s, serving as (among other positions) the executive director of the Hartford Food System, Winne has an insider's view on what it's like to feed our country's hungry citizens. Through the lens of Hartford, Conn.—a quintessential inner city bereft of decent food options apart from bodegas and fast food chains—he explains the successes he witnessed and helped to create: community gardens, inner city farmers' markets and youth-run urban farms. Winne concludes his tale in our present food-crazed era, giving voice to low-income shoppers and exploring where they fit in with such foodie discussions as local vs. organic. In this articulate and comprehensive book, Winne points out that the greatest successes have been an informal alliance between sustainable agriculture and food security advocates... that shows promise for helping both the poor and small and medium-size farmers. For the most part it is a calm, well-reasoned and soft-spoken call to arms to fight for policy reform, rather than fill in, with community-based projects and privately funded programs, the gaps left by our city and state legislators."'

The author Mark Winne writes a variety of books about nutrition and big food industry leaders. Some of his other works include these articles and blogs: Slow Food for a Dying Planet, Community Food Security Coalition, The Poor Get Diabetes; The Rich Get Local and Organic.

Book description courtesy of © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A produce isle on wheels keeps New York residents healthy

"The Veggie Mobile is a produce aisle on wheels, run out of a box truck, with refrigerators and shelves displaying fruits and vegetables for sale.

The truck was retrofitted to suit the needs of the program by an amazing crew of multi-talented local volunteers. Solar panels sit atop the roof to collect power to run refrigeration units and other electrical equipment. The truck runs on biodiesel and is equipped with an awesome sound system that plays lively music to announce its’ arrival at our scheduled market stops."

Read more about the Veggie Mobile here

Get Involved with ACGA!

Get involved with ACGA, American Community Gardening Association.

Their mission statement: The Mission of the American Community Gardening Association is to build community by increasing and enhancing community gardening and greening across the United States and Canada.

About ACGA's history:
The American Community Gardening Association recognizes that the diversity of its board, staff and communities is a source of strength and knowledge essential to its development as an organization. In principle and in practice, the ACGA values and seeks a diverse membership. There shall be no barriers to full participation in this organization on the basis of gender, race, religion, age, sex, color, disability, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, language, level of education, geography, national or ethnic origin.

Where can the garden be:
We at the ACGA have a broad definition of what a community garden entails. It can be urban, suburban, or rural. It can grow flowers, vegetables or community. It can be one community plot, or can be many individual plots. It can be at a school, hospital, or in a neighborhood. It can also be a series of plots dedicated to "urban agriculture" where the produce is grown for a market.

What are the benefits:
• Improves the quality of life for people in the garden
• Provides a catalyst for neighborhood and community development
• Stimulates Social Interaction
• Encourages Self-Reliance
• Beautifies Neighborhoods
• Produces Nutritious Food
• Reduces Family Food Budgets
• Conserves Resources
• Creates opportunity for recreation, exercise, therapy, and education
• Reduces Crime
• Preserves Green Space
• Creates income opportunities and economic development
• Reduces city heat from streets and parking lots
• Provides opportunities for intergenerational and cross-cultural connections

Get supported, start a campaign:
At ACGA we recognize the importance of making community gardens permanent. The Board of Directors of the American Community Gardening Association is pleased to announce a campaign to directly help ACGA members by writing letters of support for you!

There are two kinds of Letters of support Reactive and Proactive. Reactive Letters of Support are sent to a person or organization (such as a landlord, city official, or neighbor) who has expressed negative sentiment towards your garden and this sentiment might threaten the viability of your community garden. Consider this tool if you are fighting for your community garden's survival.

Proactive Letters of Support are sent to a person or organization (again, such as a landlord, city official, or neighbor) who deserves your thanks. They may have just signed a new lease with you, given you a grant, or voted to support your garden, for example.

Go to to find out more about this organization, how to get financially supported. Already have a community garden, go online to register it as an ACGA garden!

Blog post provided by Tally Gunstone

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Top Ten Food Barriers

I recently came across a very informative article about why people are unable to access healthy, affordable food options.

The article lists the top ten reasons that attribute to this issue and was compiled by the staff at Local Foods Connection which is a non-profit organization that purchases produce, meat and other products from small family farmers and donates this food to low-income families. They are based out of Iowa and their website is 

After you have read the list below, give us your own thoughts on the issue of food deserts and how you would alter the list below to fit the barriers in your city. The article in its entirety can be read here:

The Top Ten List:

1. Financial Restrictions

Most of us know that purchasing organic and local produce and food is more expensive than purchasing  processed food. This is one of the reasons people buy less nutritious foods or opt for fast food where they get more for their money. In food deserts there are no healthy options that are affordable.

2.  Preparation and Storage of Food

Low income families do not have all the kitchen gear needed to prepare meals that are healthy and can be stored for several days. In addition, the storage of foods is difficult due to the fact that these families usually live with multiple people or other family members and have lack of space in the refrigerator or freezer. They may also encounter appliances such as stoves and ovens that do not work properly or may be broken altogether.

 3. Distribution of Food

Food Deserts, and the main topic of our blog and website, is number three on this list. Knowing where to find healthy option in these food deserts as well as getting to areas that do have some option are true barriers. Most low income families cannot afford vehicles so are forced to take public transportation which is not always a simple task especially when trying to negotiate five bags of groceries or more and sometimes having children in tow.

4. Lack of Knowledge and Education ­- Low-Income Individuals

Low income families may not have the knowledge in preparing fresh foods because of their culture and lack of education. They may also have low family values, i.e. no interest in showing children how to prepare food or the desire to throw something together.


5. Cultural Values and Lifestyles

Some cultures develop habits early in childhood to prepare meals using lard, sugar, canned and processed foods even for special meals like holidays. Even public schools do not enforce healthy eating and do not serve healthy options in the school cafeterias.

In addition, low income families are a target audience for fast food chains in terms of advertising. This is all some people can relate to because there may be one of these chains a few blocks from their home.

6.  Disabilities

Many disabled individuals also fit in the low income category. It is even more of a challenge to get these disabled individuals the food that will sustain them. For one, they are unable to go and get food and two, they are unable to prepare themselves meals in many circumstances. Some are unable to take care of themselves and rely on individuals to care enough to feed them good food. Using a microwave and delivery take out are sometimes their only options.

7. Preparation and Storage of Food ­ - Social Service Agencies

Many social service agencies who are willing to help the low income population may lack the time, funding, experience and education to do so. Food pantries, neighborhood centers, churches, homeless and domestic violence shelters, family resource centers, and environmental action groups are some of the groups that are great at doing their part in curbing this barrier but there is only so much time, money and volunteers to help. These agencies often lack appliances to prepare and store foods safely or may not have the manpower to prepare the foods necessary.

8. Fulfillment of Government Nutrition Standards ­ - Agencies & Institutions

There are stringent state and federal restriction on the foods in which agencies can serve to people in, for example, senior centers and schools. These foods must meet government nutrition standards, which means healthy, sanitary foods which may not be in the price range of what some of these agencies can provide. They are only able to help so much due to funding issues. It certainly can be a burden to meet these standards and this prevents many from moving forward with their efforts.

9. Lack of Education ­ - Social Service Agencies

Social service agencies may believe that no matter what they serve they are helping the lives of those less fortunate. That may be the case to some degree but if they are not educated in nutrition and are feeding these people processed food they are truly not doing them any good. 

In addition, without the knowledge of nutrition they are actually increasing the financial stresses as well as health stresses on these low income people as they find themselves with diabetes and heart issues due to poor diets not to mention medical bills.

10. Lack of Education - General Population

This is where Ecopol comes in. This is #1 in terms of what we are trying to accomplish. We are striving to get the word out to the general public and create awareness of these barriers. Our hope is to educate and inform the general population as to how they can help and make a difference.

~Leslie Kobyluck

Friday, August 7, 2009

Can We Start a FoodShare Program in Our Area?

Various solutions to food deserts have been proposed. However, according to Eric de Place (2009), there haven't been many pleasing resolutions. He identified few major downfalls to the common solutions that have been discussed in our blog: 1) due to economic reasons, larger scale grocery stores are not willing to locate to low-income neighborhoods. 2) Weekly farmers’ markets are not year-round but only in around April to October. 3) Shopping groceries online may be appealing, which has been offered by Safeway and even However, to do so, it requires a computer, Internet access, and some sort of knowledge on how to use computers. Most food deserts exist in low-income communities. Understandably, some of the families may not have any access to computers or access to high-speed wifi. Moreover, it is of little use to elderly who do not know how to use computers or people who do not have credit cards or bank accounts. Hence, each answer works differently respecting diverse areas and backgrounds.

Upon researching online for a better solution, I have found a non-profit organization in Toronto Canada, which works with Toronto Public Health, farmers, and other community agencies. It is called FoodShare. They deliver fresh vegetables and fruit in a “Good Box” to people who request. Since it is non-profit, they guarantee their top quality products with reasonable prices. They are there to serve the community; thus, it makes them more appealing to people and gain people’s trust. Moreover, they not only offer community kitchens where people may come and prepare meals to take home; but also they educate the communities and school kids regarding the importance of healthy food and how to obtain one. They have taken the initiative to widen out to the society and to provide a better solution to people who are living in food desert whether willingly or unwillingly. By this, FoodShare solves the problem for those who are not able to receive fresh food; it also raises the awareness of “better” food for those who never knew the difference.

Can we bring this type of organization to our area? FoodShare has been around over 20 years and has been very successful in solving the food desert problem. Can we do the same providing fresh produces while educating people? Sure we can! All it takes is just love for the neighbor and volunteers. Let us work together and help those live in food deserts.


De Place, E. (2009, March 5th). Deliver Us From Food Deserts. Retrieved Aug 7th, 2009 from Slightline Daily Web site:


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Victory Gardens

People don't realize that gas prices are not the only increasing domino effect we have here in America. When fuel costs rise, consumers must realize this hits their wallets in more places than at the pump. According to Cristen Conger 'Will Victory Gardens Help Us Beat High Food Prices?' she makes a really good point about how pricier gasoline means higher costs to manufacture and transport food, in which people don't realize that this is happening. "A trip to the grocery store today costs you noticeably more than it did a few years ago. A dozen eggs now costs twice what it did in 2000". According to statistics ­overall, from spring 2007 to spring 2008, the average price of all goods we buy has gone up 3.9 percent. It may not seem that high but when you look at the big picture, food is what we spend most of our money on, more than anything else.

With this, some people are looking at other alternatives with buying groceries. (Using the idea from World war II) during the war, the U.S. government instituted a food rationing policy to free up supplies for troops overseas. As a way to encourage the American public to grow their own food and supplement the rations, the Department of Agriculture established the "Food Fights for Freedom" campaign. Lawns converted into so called victory gardens became a patriotic symbol of helping the war effort at home. This also sparked the first community gardens in public spaces that people collectively cared for. By 1943, 20 million households had set up victory gardens, supplying more than 40 percent of the nation's produce. Even the white house hosted a victory garden of beans and carrots. This idea is to help people economically and also help them physically and financially. I think if people were to start victory gardens then not only will it help them physically to be eating healthier foods, but also help save a few dollars in their pocket, not to mention it will help the environment as well.

Abdelrahman Odeh

Revolutionizing Online Grocery Shopping by Kimberly Shibles

There are many companies that offer delivery service for online grocery shopping including major grocery chains such as Safeway and Albertson's. The problem always seems to be whether or not these specific companies delivery to areas in real need of fresh foods such as residential food deserts.

Look no further! is an online full service grocer offering nationwide delivery via FedEx including delivery to Alaska and Hawaii. It’s easy to sign up and even easier to get started. You simply login to your account, fill up your shopping cart, and then click your way through the checkout stand. Netgrocer offers an array of products from fresh fruits and veggies to whole grain breads, to lean meats and dairy products. Shipping costs are based on how much you spend and where in the U.S. you reside, however, prices are reasonable and well spent for the arrival of fresh fruits and veggies on your doorstep within 3-7 days.

Check out for more information and to get started today!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How Hong Kong's Small Markets Survived Commercialization

Today, the U.S. is full of expensive, high-end restaurants in many cities. Just around the corner from these restaurants are people struggling and living in food deserts. Traditional grocery stores and supermarkets have been shutting down to make way for fast food and drug stores for several years. This is due to financial struggles especially in pricey cities. It is not surprising that these neighborhoods that have lost their grocery stores report a higher rate of obesity and diabetes. From the work researched and written by Susanne Freidberg, she has explored how the small wet fish markets in Hong Kong (equivelant to our small grocery stores) have survived through all the odds and their strategy behind it. The research she has done is a great example on how to apply a strong relationship between policy, culture and the economics of urban food supply. Her excerpt here:

"I visited some of these markets when I went to Hong Kong to research the live fish trade. According to conventional thinking, they should have perished decades ago, when supermarkets first began to offer a clean, well-lit, one-stop shopping environment. Instead, the wet markets have survived and modernized. How?
The answer lies in the relationship between policy, culture, and the economics of urban food supply. The Hong Kong government originally built wet markets wherever pedestrian food shopping made most sense, such as near transit centers and public housing estates. For many years, it rented market stalls at subsidized rates, both to discourage illegal street vending and to ensure a competitive, affordable choice at each market. Most markets are now privately managed, and many have been renovated.
The government’s involvement in turn reflects a cultural value. As I toured the wet markets with my 20-something translator and her 73-year-old grandmother, the older woman explained: it’s the freshness that supermarkets couldn’t beat. Hong Kong’s Cantonese cuisine (much lighter than what you’ll find in most American Chinese restaurants) depends on fresh ingredients, and local standards are high. The grandmother pointed out what “fresh” meant: live fish, not chilled; poultry still warm from slaughter; vegetables not wrapped in plastic.
Marketing studies back up this explanation. They also note that wet-market standards of freshness will likely survive the recent privatization, even if some of the markets do not. This is because Hong Kong’s biggest supermarket chains have lured customers by offering the old alongside the new: mini wet markets — complete with independent vendors and tanks full of live fish — inside their own stores."

Susanne Freidberg

Post by Tally Gunstone

Supermarkets and their role in food Deserts

In an article in the LA Times entitled, "Filling in 'Food Deserts'," the hope that supermarkets will take on the issue of food deserts themselves is discussed. If supermarkets take it upon themselves to place stores in areas with a high concentration of poverty and a lack of access to healthy foods, not only do they help the community, but they help themselves by garnering good publicity. Sounds like a good deal, right? Just one problem: sticking with it. In the past, large supermarket chains have attempted to place stores in struggling areas, but often pull out. The area simply isn't profitable and the supermarket has already gotten its share of good publicity, so the supermarkets soon close their doors and move on, leaving an area to fend for itself in the search for food.

Supermarkets need to be encouraged to stick with it, even if they are not making a sizable profit. If supermarkets were given financial aid from the government for their stores in struggling food desert areas, perhaps they would not be so inclined to leave and they would be encouraged to build more stores in struggling areas.

Link to the article:

--Kyla Tom

Monday, August 3, 2009

Local Food Challenge By Will Dillon

The idea of the local food challenge is for a person to think about were their food comes from. Twenty years ago a person was able to consume the majority of their food that came from an area 100 miles or less. The following suggestions encourages a person to consider the possibilities that could enlighten them to think locally and to support the elimination of Food Deserts.
Think about how far your food has traveled.
Plan three meals around local foods.
Host or attend a local foods potluck.
Obtain as much food as possible directly from the producer, or a source that buys direct.
Grow food yourself or participate in a community garden.
Share food from your garden.
Reference: "Finding Paradise in Local Foods", july09

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Victory Gardens (Rose)

During World War II, it was commonplace for Americans to have small “victory gardens” in their yards – growing one’s own vegetables, fruit and herbs helped drive down the cost of produce, so the military could afford to reduce their food budget and spend more money on ammunition and supplies. About 20 million Americans planted victory gardens, and the Department of Agriculture promoted this cause with booklets and short films educating the public on how to start victory gardens.

Last March a vegetable garden was planted on the White House lawn in order to provide food for the Obama family and White House staff and visitors, as well as families in need in the Washington D.C. area. It is the first vegetable garden on the White House lawn since Eleanor Roosevelt started her own victory garden during World War II. A wider, national revival of the victory garden might help fight the problem of food deserts. The lengthy and involved transportation process that American food often goes through can require a lot of energy. This contributes to higher food prices and puts strain on the environment. A victory garden would provide those living in food deserts with their own fruits, vegetables or herbs, so they would always have healthy food at hand. Also, if enough people joined in the victory garden movement, the healthier foods available at grocery stores would drop in price.

The website Revive the Victory Garden suggests such options as using seed exchanges, starting gardens in one's yard or starting container gardens if space or sunlight is limited, joining community gardens or sharing a yard garden with a friend or neighbor, and freezing or canning any extra fruits and vegetables.

How NY kept its city from starvation

How do we keep our cities from starvation?

For the first time in history, our culture has changed where more people live in the city than in rural areas. The question arising is, how do we feed a city full of people? Our society has taken food for granted for years that is is a wonder our cities get fed at all. Carolyn Steel states that "We are as dependent on the natural world as our ancient ancestors were."

One example of how a large city can provide fresh produce to thousands of residents was written about in Good Magazine. "New York City has very little land that is not covered with buildings, forcing New Yorkers to find innovative solutions if they want to keep their agricultural production truly local. But while some people grow a few herbs on their fire escapes, Ben Flanner is transforming an entire industrial rooftop into a living garden. Atop a defunct bagel factory in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood—a Polish enclave more known for its pierogies than its organic tomatoes—Flanner dropped 200,000 pounds of dirt on 6,000 square feet of rooftop (by crane), and in so doing brought new life into a mostly concrete neighborhood."

"Built with the help and support of Goode Green, a green roof design and installation firm, found the building and helped Flanner with the logistics. In addition to being a working farm, the farm is also a green roof for the building. It occasionally holds volunteer days where people from the community can help contribute, as well as workshops, led by Novak, on topics like how to bring the lessons of the rooftop farm into individual homes." (Look: Six Thousand Feet of Rooftop Vegetables by Morgan Clendaniel)

With the example of Ben Flanner and the help of Goode Green, it is possible to grow healthy, natural foods in the hardest environments. Even in such a populated city such as New York, the inspiration of one man helped grow thousands of plants and feed many local people. As we think of ways we can get gardens started in our communities, we can ask large companies and individuals to help get the process going. Many people who care about their city and community can take the example of Ben Flanner and apply it to their own life. Writing letters to politicians and getting the community involved with local gardens can help feed not only themselves but those in need living in the food deserts of the cities.

By Tally Gunstone

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Get Ready for National Food Desert Month!



Now that it’s August, there is a month to prepare for National Food Desert Awareness month.

Work with your community to raise awareness and find solutions for food deserts. Help bring healthy alternatives to fast food and resulting poor health. Be a part of the solution and help solve this problem!

National Food Desert Awareness Month is sponsored by The National Center for Public Research, whose founding president, Mari Gallagher, is based in Chicago and is Principal of Mari Gallagher Research and Consulting Group. Gallagher is a pioneer of in-depth studies and research on food deserts, and has been instrumental in making a dent on the food desert front.

To learn much more about food deserts and read Gallagher’s groups research, go to Mari Gallagher Research and Consulting Group’s website at:

To participate and to learn about how to implement solutions in National Food Desert Awareness Month, e-mail Mari Gallagher at or

-Marisha Wadsworth

Solutions to Food Deserts

Deserted: How to Solve the Crisis of Poor Access to Healthy Food is an excellent video of experts explaining the origin of food deserts in the flight of citizens from inner city living to suburbia around world war two, resulting in big grocery stores following suit. The panelists explain how access to quality food in inner cities has evolved to the present day, and discuss solutions at the end of the video.
The panelists are Duane Perry, founder of Philadelphia-based The Food Trust, Theresa Hastert, Senior Research Associate for the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, and Amanda Shaffer, Director of Communications for the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College. They discuss why there are so many fast food restaurants, why they are successful, and how to bring quality food back into inner city food deserts. The focus is on smaller markets, due to the reluctance of the large supermarkets to enter inner city communities; the panelists hint on causes as to why large grocers do not want to conduct business in inner cities; including perhaps ignorance of ethnicities, and how to service/market to them, as well as a frank desire to cater to only middle to upper class populations.
They refer to research which shows obesity and diabetes, as well as other diet related disease do not necessarily have their foundations in poverty, but in proximity to fast food restaurants, and lack of access to grocery stores; even high income areas and communities suffered a higher rate of diet related diseases if the proximity of fast food was closer than a grocery store. Research also revealed that if a grocery store moves to a food desert area, then people do change their habits. Fast food is a matter of convenience; when one has a few children, works all day and it’s time to eat, it is much easier to succumb to the convenience of fast food when a grocery store is not near.

Solutions offered in this video include:

-Citywide ordinance/policy advocating community benefits via agreements with supermarkets.
-Direct produce from farm to consumer via Farmer’s markets at hospitals, community gardens, and employers offering fresh food from local farmers once a week.
-Reforming School Food—provide and educate children on nutrition—who in turn educate their parents.
-Identify smaller stores that can be improved, and improve quality of offerings.
-Fast food restaurants provide nutrition information in hopes of fueling consumer demand.
-Statewide level policy development. Position issue around more than social justice issues; stress levity of children/children’s health and nutrition and health long term, for they are the vulnerable constituents.

To watch the video, go here:

-Marisha Wadsworth