When I visit the Walgreens at the corner of Providence and Broadway, I am often amazed at the number of people buying basic grocery items like bread and milk. This type of purchase seems as if it should be the exception instead of the norm when one considers the high price of such items in a store like Walgreens. I was pondering this situation when I realized that central Columbia is a small “food desert.”
A British group studying poverty in the mid-90’s popularized the term “food desert” and defined it as an area “of relative exclusion where people experience physical and economic barriers to accessing healthy foods.” Urban food deserts are areas where people without access to motorized transportation have a difficult time accessing affordable fresh foods. Mari Gallagher, a researcher and consultant from Chicago, has also done some amazing studies on Chicago’s urban food deserts.
Access to healthy fresh food is a factor in both health and success and plays a large role in the recognition of overall freedom. Children need a healthy diet to perform to their full potential in school. Adults need a healthy diet to avoid diet and obesity related illness like diabetes and heart disease that are a strain on our healthcare system. When adults and children get their dietary staples from drug stores and convenience stores, no good can come of it.
One solution that is being explored by First Ward City Council candidate Mitch Richards is to bring a medium sized grocer to the center of town. The folks at the helm of the Special Business District have expressed a need for more people to live downtown. Recently, a 100 unit apartment complex was approved for a downtown corner lot. It goes without saying that with an influx of inhabitants comes the need for accessible food. Mitch is exploring ways the city can get bureaucracy out of the way and encourage a grocer to locate in the downtown area. This would be an important step to revitalize and maintain both the health and economy in and around the center of Columbia.
Another group that is doing good work in the area of food access in the city center is the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture. “The mission of the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture is to demonstrate the viability of urban food production and commerce, educate the public on production methods, provide support for local foodshed, and advocate for like-policy. Through these efforts CCUA will empower the citizens of Columbia to improve their access to local healthy foods.”
This group works to turn abandoned urban lots into working urban farms. They also do a great deal of educational work with both school children and adults through their classes and hands-on workshops. An aspiring urban farmer can even hire one of their experts to provide some one-on-one assistance with setting up a personal garden. CCUA has a working production farm in the First Ward along with a couple of other plots near the center of town.
I recently spoke with one of their staff members who said that the city staff and leadership has been very supportive of their efforts. He also said they have big plans for expansion in 2011. But not all cities have been as friendly to urban agriculture as Columbia. Kansas City’s urban agriculture proponents have met with quite a few legal roadblocks at the hands of city leadership.
There is no doubt that food is power and if you can control food you can control people. People who control their own food production realize a measure of autonomy and sovereignty. In recent years there have been some valid concerns brought to light regarding the intentions of food giants like Monsanto, ADM, and the like. The collusion of big government and big agri-business has served to tie the hands of medium and small producers while allowing all sorts of egregious violations of the Natural Law by corporate giants. It is not uncommon for giant businesses to lobby in favor of regulation that the giant can afford but will likely bankrupt the upstart competitor. It’s frightening when our government becomes a tool for the corporate giant. Of Course, if our federal government had not grown to its current abusive size, this wouldn’t be a problem because there would be no federal ax for the corporate lobbyists to purchase — but that’s for another post.
If we fail to support individual food sovereignty and reasonable food access and continue to allow big business and the government to usurp our natural rights, we are doomed.
Share on Facebook