Do You Live in a Food Desert?

This week is Thanksgiving and as many of us are preparing to either host dinner or attend dinner,  we will head to our local supermarket. I know for me this means either a run to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods both of which are in close proximity to my home and work. Both of these supermarkets have organic and healthy food options available to me. I also have several Farmer’s Markets in my neighborhoods; I don’t take these options for granted as there are millions of Americans that live in food deserts.

Food deserts are neighborhoods which do not have access to healthy, fresh food. Not surprisingly, food deserts are most likely found in poor neighborhoods where the inhabitants are people of color.  Here in NYC, all of the Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and farmer’s markets are in predominately white neighborhoods. Lack of access to healthy and fresh food increases the risk of heart disease, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases; all of which are found at higher rates in communities of color.

Here in Brooklyn, the Central Brooklyn Co-Op is trying to change that.  A Co-Op is a food cooperative which is managed and owned by its members.  These members are also the staff and the customers which helps to keep costs down. The Park-Slope Co-Op is one of the oldest examples of this, but Park Slope is a predominately white middle-upper class neighborhood.

The Central Brooklyn Co-Op primarily serves Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy, two neighborhoods which have been singled out for being food deserts. There is an assumption that people of color do not care about the foods that they put into their bodies; this is not true. People are creatures of habit and tend to shop in areas that are convenient to them. If my local supermarket does not provide fresh, organic produce but the supermarket 5 miles away does, then I will go to the location that is more convenient.

In order to meet the needs of the communities that they serve, the Central Brooklyn Co-Op started a Kickstarter to secure the down payment for a brick and mortar location. As of Tuesday, of last week, they had raised $44, 101 dollars of their $25,000 goal and were still 3 days away from their deadline. There is obviously a need and desire for access to fresh food in our communities.

When you sit down on Thursday to enjoy a delicious meal with your loved ones, give thanks for the meal, but also take the time to think about what really went into that meal. Access to fresh food, is not a privilege it’s a right. We should all be able to decide if we like broccoli rabe or not( it’s disgusting,btw).

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