Man Versus Urban Food Desert

Growing Power.pngI recently moved to a vibrant, diverse neighborhood in Brooklyn. The people are friendly, it's close to work, it's safe, but there remains one problem: it's a food desert. I am hard-pressed to find one item in a local grocery store or bodega that is not processed, packaged, and injected with chemicals. The restaurants are either fried chicken shops, Americanized Chinese food take-out places, or pizza parlors. I know I am not alone in this urban conundrum- unless you live in a gentrified, upper-class part of a city, it seems that there is little opportunity to find healthy, fresh food and produce nearby.

Enter Will Allen, an urban farmer who looked to solve this problem in Milwaukee's inner city by beginning Growing Power. Growing Power is an organization that runs a combination of greenhouses, hoophouses, and animal pens, employing almost 40 local citizens, with loads more volunteering. Recently, Allen has been granted World Hunger Year's Harry Chapin Self-Reliance Award, as well as a MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant." With this money, he hopes to grow his farm higher: literally. His dream is to build a vertical farm, transforming his already progressive effort into a learning center for local children, in addition to expanding the farm's production capacity.

Growing Power has already expanded in Milwaukee since its inception, building small gardens throughout the city, purchasing a nearby farm outside the city, and even expanding into Chicago. Mr. Allen sees his effort as a way to feed his neighbors with healthy, chemical-free food, and also as a way to give power to his community. As reported by the New York Times, Mr. Allen's "efforts are not meant simply to keep people well fed. He sees Growing Power as a way to organize people whose voices are rarely heard and to fight racism." Mr. Allen's effort is just one way that Americans are working together to end the food crisis in America, as well as in the global sphere. Donors and volunteers interested in this issue should look to support grassroots efforts like these, as they solve problems locally and efficiently. For more on the global food crisis, see PhilanthroMedia's videos of World Hunger Year's National Food Day event, featuring Alice Waters and Raj Patel.

Dana Variano

Posted at 1:00 AM, Nov 05, 2008 in Environment | Health | Poverty | Permalink | Comment