Solutions: Some Examples
(contributed by Christie Manisto and Adam Stubbendick)
In light of these facts the question for communities and churches becomes what can we do to reverse this trend? We first need to get honest with ourselves and understand that the problem with poverty in our communities will not end if we do not step up and, following Jesus call to love one another, do something about it. While it may seem overwhelming, especially when one begins to look at the social, institutional and historic structures in place that create the conditions for poverty, there are steps that we all can take which will move us in the right direction. Following are a few examples of creative ways in which churches and community members are combating the issue of the Urban Food Desert and helping to provide nutrition to children, the smallest victims in this ongoing struggle.
The examples that follow are just a beginning and show the way that we can creatively and faithfully deal with this issue.
The Vanderbilt “Veggie Project” is a project to bring Farmer’s Markets to urban areas in Tennessee. The project was begun by a Vanderbilt graduate student as a part of his dissertation and underwritten by Monroe Carlton Children’s hospital. Community members work with farmers and organizations from the area to have fresh produce brought in and sold. The proceeds from the markets go to area Boys and Girls clubs to continue this work and education. For more information go to: http://www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/reporter/index.html?ID=5642
Garden Ministry at Madison Christian Community in Madison Wisconsin. The May 2008 issue of The Lutheran did a timely piece on an ecumenical partnership between Advent Lutheran church and Community of Hope United Church of Christ. Not only do these congregations share a worship space, they also partner in a 6,000 square foot vegetable garden. They use this garden as a part of a summer camp for low-income children, teaching them about growing vegetables and cooking the vegetables that they grow. For more information see the May 2008 issue of The Lutheran pp 22-24.
The Organic School Project—Chicago Chef and Caterer Greg Christian has founded a pilot project in the Chicago Public Schools called the Organic Schools project. Concerned by the epidemic of childhood obesity and lack of nutrition in the inner city, Greg decided what he needed to do was get involved. He created a program which, according to a feature article about him in Conscious Choice magazine involves many facets of the community which “ brings together Chicago-area educators, public and private gardens, farms, food retailers and suppliers, and cooking and health care professionals to raise kids’ awareness of food. His challenge: getting healthier foods into a system of 617 elementary and high schools that serve more than 380,000 meals each day on a very limited budget.”
The Backpack Program. In Lincoln, Nebraska nearly five thousand children participate in the public schools free lunch program. For many of them this is the only nutritious food these children will eat each day, if they eat anything else at all. In cities all around the country the story is similar. In 2005 17.5 million children across the country participated in government sponsored free and reduced lunch programs. Yet many of these children still go hungry. Each weekend and when school is not in session these children need to find food, and many cannot. Cities and other communities in 39 of the 50 states have instituted a backpack program in local schools. On Fridays when many children are leaving school they take home two backpacks, one with school work and another with food for the weekend. Nationally more than 35,000 backpacks are distributed each week, and the numbers are growing. These backpacks are filled with nutritious, kid-friendly food that will provide for them and their household over the weekend.
Conclusion Healthy food is often not available to those who live in inner cities. Without grocery stores and other access to healthy food, people who live in these areas suffer from a variety of nutrition related health problems. Those who often suffer the most are children who need healthy energy as they are growing physically, emotionally, and intellectually. These children need access to healthy food choices. Our role as community and church leaders is to advocate and work for those in need. We have presented a few ways in which different cities are seeking to alleviate these problems. These things are helping children to live healthier lives. One child, one neighborhood, and one community at a time, a difference can be made. And it is people who make that difference.
The food desert website: http://www.fooddeserts.org/ Facts about childhood hunger:http://www.secondharvest.org/learn_about_hunger/fact_sheet/child_hunger_facts.html
Summary of the report on Chicago's food deserts: http://marigallagher.com/site_media/dynamic/project_files/LaSalle_Bank_Chicago_Food_Desert_4_Page_Brochure.pdf and http://cbs2chicago.com/seenon/food.deserts.health.2.659062.html
Full report available at: http://marigallagher.com/site_media/dynamic/project_files/1_ChicagoFoodDesertReport-Full_.pdf
The Backpack Project: http://www.secondharvest.org/how_we_work/programs_we_support/back_pack_program.html and http://www.lincolnfoodbank.org/backpack%20program.asp
Bread for the World: http://www.bread.org/learn/us-hunger-issues/obesity-and-hunger.html
Chicago Foundation for Women: http://www.cfw.org/NETCOMMUNITY/Page.aspx?pid=442&srcid=469
Collective Roots: http://www.collectiveroots.org/oasis_food_desert
Farmer’s markets in Chicago’s food deserts: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-chicago-farmers-marketsmar29,1,5274316.story
The Organic School Project: www.organicschoolproject.org
Lydia Marchuck "Chicago’s Conscious Caterer Goes back to School” Conscious Choice Magazine (February 2007)
The Lincoln Food Bank website—http://www.lincolnfoodbank.org/backpack%20program.asp—accessed May 6, 2008.
http://www.secondharvest.org/how_we_work/programs_we_support/back_pack_program.html—accessed May 6, 2008.