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food desert

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Chicago Teens Transform Liquor Store Into Fresh Food Market

A liquor store on the West Side of Chicago is being transformed into a pop-up food market after Austin area teens were given the chance to come up with solutions to their neighborhood’s challenges.

Much of Austin is considered to be a food desert. The pop-up market will be opened at 423 N. Laramie Ave., and within a half-mile radius around that site, there are 12 liquor stores but only two markets where people can buy fresh food.

The Austin Harvest food mart pop-up was brought to life by neighborhood teens who recognized the food scarcity in the area and decided to take matters into their own hands.

The market held a soft opening Wednesday where the teens offered produce, fresh-cut flowers, and refreshments.

The market will officially launch Monday and run for 12 weeks. It will be open 3-6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the site of a former liquor store, 423 N. Laramie Ave.

The project was funded by former Chicago Bears linebacker Sam Acho and other Chicago athletes, as well as By the Hand Kids Club. But it was the teens themselves who envisioned the food mart and brought the idea to fruition.

Young West Siders had their hands in every part of development, from designing the space to crafting a business plan to managing the pop-up.

“We’ve been behind the scenes completely, as well,” said Azariah Baker, one of the teens who created Austin Harvest. “We’ve discussed how we want to show our market, where we wanted our market to be, what we sell, what we look like. This is who runs it.”

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Azariah Baker

The teens started working on the pop-up after the protests for George Floyd in June. By the Hand hosted a series of listening circles to give young people a platform to voice their frustrations around the systemic racism they see in their neighborhood, and to talk about how the civil unrest had impacted them.

There, they discussed how the food scarcity in the neighborhood was part of a legacy of city neglect and racism on the West Side that worsened when some of the few grocery stores in the area had to shut their doors temporarily after being looted.

Keith Cankson

“Food is a basic necessity. But it’s also a basic necessity we don’t have access to,” Baker said.

Realizing the young people were serious about creating a plan for addressing the food desert in Austin, the Chicago athletes raised $500,000 to tear down the liquor store so the teens could develop a neighborhood food resource. Meanwhile, By the Hand worked with architects and placemaking firms to help the kids figure out what the store would look like.

The Hatchery Chicago also chipped in to give the teens entrepreneurship training so they could learn how to implement their business plans.

Baker said the Austin Harvest is giving the teens meaningful jobs where they learn about marketing, customer service and management. Their work has resulted in internship offers.

“The amount of opportunities that we are creating for ourselves is incredible,” Baker said.

Keith Cankson said creating Austin Harvest has shown him how much of an impact young people can have on improving the local economy and promoting health in the neighborhood.

“This is my first job,” Cankson said. “And also, all the trainings that we get, it’s really building us so we can be entrepreneurs later on. That means we can do so much more. We don’t have to just be bound to this one thing.”

The teens turned their idea into a reality in just two months, but they see the project as ongoing. After their 12-week pop-up fresh market, their goal is to acquire a brick-and-mortar building and develop it into a full grocery store to satisfy their neighborhood’s dire need for food throughout the year.

Baker said their model is proof that when given adequate resources, residents in under-resourced neighborhoods can create innovative solutions to address their challenges. She hopes to see similar projects across the city following their lead.

“We’re popping up with the question as to why our community doesn’t look as great as everybody else’s,” Baker said. “This took us two months to do. We are the blueprint. So think about how much you can build off of this over time.”

 

Source: Block Club Chicago

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Black Grocery Coop Celebrates 10 Years and an Expansion

Mandela Grocery is a Black Grocery coop that’s on a mission to nourish their neighborhood of West Oakland with healthy food, wellness resources, and collective ownership. Their full-service grocery store sources from entrepreneurs and farmers in California with a focus on black and brown farmers and food makers.

Prior to 2009, residents of West Oakland had to drive or take public transit to get groceries, or else resort to dollar stores and liquor stores for their grocery needs. Some might call it a food desert.

The Crew

Mandela Grocery calls it a site of “food apartheid” — that is, a place where systemic racism has shaped the neighborhood’s lack of access to fresh food.

Black Grocery Coop

Now, the worker-owned grocery store is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The anniversary comes at a time when the co-op is undergoing a lot of exciting change.

The market was recently renovated and got a brand-new logo. And since long-term subletter Zella’s Soulful Kitchen moved, Mandela Grocery has taken over the space’s commercial kitchen, called The Co-op Kitchen.

Black Grocery Coop

It offers a selection of grab-and-go sandwiches like turkey cheddar and chickpea salad, plus coffee. Plans are in the works to offer green smoothies, espresso drinks, hot foods like rotisserie chicken, and plenty of plant-based options.

“It feels like a new beginning with all the transition that we’re in,” said Adrionna Fike, one of the co-op’s 10 worker-owners.

The 10-year celebration took place on June 5th. and featured around 15 food vendors and live music.

Booths included healing massage, acupuncture, yoga, herbal medicine, cooking demonstrations, blender-bike smoothies, a women’s refuge trailer, free books, free barbers, and more.

Meanwhile, Mandela Grocery is also helping to spread the model of the worker-owned cooperative grocery store. In order to support new cooperatives, Mandela Grocery will offer training programs in its store for the members of a new grocery cooperative currently known as The East Oakland Grocery Co-op.

Black Grocery Coop

The new cooperative is spearheaded by Aya Jeffers-Fabro of Acta Non Verba, an urban youth farming program in Deep East Oakland. The store will carry produce from Acta Non Verba’s urban farms right in East Oakland. While Fike said the cooperative is still searching for a location, the store is expected to open in fall 2020.

 

Source: EastBayExpress

Feature Image Credit: SF Chronicle

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Farmers Market on Wheels Brings Fresh Produce to Brooklyn Food Deserts

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams and The Campaign Against Hunger, joined by Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuels, presented on Wednesday the “Fresh Vibes Mobile Market,” a retrofitted RV that will bring affordable produce, cooking and nutrition workshops combined with social services to underserved Brooklyn neighborhoods. 

Brooklyn Food Deserts
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams announced on Wednesday at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center. Photo credit: Office of Brooklyn Borough Eric Adams.

The initiative kicked off at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in East Flatbush, a community facing some of the highest levels of food insecurity in Brooklyn.

“Hippocrates said to ‘let food be thy medicine,’” said Adams. “The ‘Fresh Vibes Market’ is a vehicle for change, a fresh approach to combating diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, obesity and other chronic illnesses that are preventable and reversible through dietary changes. This RV will help us navigate Brooklynites in need through the challenges of accessing some of the basic services that are just in arms’ reach.”

The mobile unit will make three stops per day, five days a week to offer below-market price produce grown locally by TCAH and will accept benefit programs such as Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT); Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP), as well as Women, Infants and Children (WIC). 

Equipped with a cooktop and refrigeration, produce storage bins, a classroom and a benefits access area, the RV will be staffed with a chef-educator, an outreach worker and a SNAP specialist to offer cooking demonstration and workshops, as well as SNAP screenings, job referral services and even fitness classes.

The “Fresh Vibes Market” targets the most underserved Brooklynites including the elderly, new mothers, children, students, NYCHA residents and undocumented immigrants, allowing TCAH further expand its mission to increase access to healthy foods in high-need areas.

“TCAH’s core mission is to empower our neighbors to lead healthier, more productive and self-sufficient lives by increasing their access to nutritious food and related resources,” said Dr. Samuels, founder and executive director of TCAH. “Unlike other emergency feeding programs, our primary goal for this vehicle is to increase the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables by engaging families to make healthier eating choices and to introduce measures that can make a dent in high levels of chronic disease.”

(L-r:) Councilmember Ampry-Samuel, BP Adams and TCAH Executive Director Dr. Samuels on board the Fresh Vibes Market RV. Photo credit: CM Ampry-Samuel/ Twitter.

The launch of the mobile market also marks the beginning of numerous outreach campaigns, developed by TCAH in partnership with Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, to eliminate barriers to food access and social services in the community, officials announced. 

“We know that improving access to healthy foods and needed social services are key to one’s overall health,” said Enid Dillard, director of marketing and public affairs at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center. “We look forward to growing this partnership and impacting the lives of those who are food insecure within our communities.”

 

Source: BK Reader

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The Mobile Good Food Market Brings Fresh Produce To Low-Income Neighborhoods

Urban areas are difficult for someone who wants to maintain a fresh diet. The main reason is money: fresh vegetables and fruits are expensive, because the produce has to be shipped and you end up paying for the delivery cost more than for the quality of the product itself.

With the Mobile Good Food Market, you can have your fresh veggies and greens without traveling. Thanks to a collaboration between FoodShare Toronto, the City of Toronto, and United Way Toronto, an old bus was converted into what is a mobile food market. Everything from broccoli and lettuce, to apples and onions or other fruits and vegetables are available when the bus comes to town, twice per week.

Mobile Good Food Market

The price isn’t that much lower, because they have to take care of the costs involved by the bus, but all in all, the idea behind such a conversion is easy to praise and be impressed by. You can find more details in the video below…

 

Source: Good Home Design

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6 Black Issues That Public Policy Must Address Immediately

Despite the importance of economic empowerment, I would argue that political power plays a bigger role in wealth creation.

Political power influences public policy and legislature that address many socioeconomic issues that affect our ability to even start building a strong economic base.

Here are a few issues affecting the Black community that public policy must address right now.

1)Prison Industrial Complex

The prison industrial complex can be described as the overlapping interests of government and industry that use policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social, and political problems. To fuel the growing demand for profitable prison labor, Black people, in particular, are disproportionately incarcerated and given longer sentences than any other race.

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This is not new news though. Neither is the fact that there are several corporations that benefit from the mass incarceration of Black people. In many cases several of these corporations have become part of our daily lives. However, its time to cut the cord and divert our money into alternative options, preferably Black owned.

2)Education

In his book,  Mis-Education of the Negro, Dr. Carter G. Woodson wrote, “Blacks are the only group of people who take their most precious possessions, their children, and ask their oppressors to educate them and mold and shape their minds.”

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Currently, the education system waters down our history and completely ignores many of our accomplishments. Black students all over the country also face verbal and physical abuse not only from students, but from those hired to educate and protect them.

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In addition to this, many Black students are increasingly becoming victims of theschool to prison pipeline” that pushes them out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

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Educating Black children should involve more than teaching them math and reading skills. They must also be taught how to produce goods and services and not just be consumers.  They must also be taught the skills needed to become business owners and job producers not just job seekers.

3)Lack of Affordable Housing

By affordable housing I don’t just mean Section 8 or low income housing. I literally mean housing that is affordable. Being able to afford your home or apartment is vital to the Black community’s economic strength. It provides the foundation for families and individuals to succeed in their careers or at school, as well as to thrive in retirement.

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There is a epidemic of gentrification that is occurring in Black neighborhoods all over the world, causing sharp increases in rents and home values and resulting in actual or imminent displacement of residents.

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There are several ways to combat gentrification using policies but in this instance I’ll suggest how to utilize economics to do so. Invest in Real Estate Investment Trusts(REIT’s). REIT’s are corporations that own and manage a collection of real estate properties and mortgages. Individually or as investment groups, we can invest or even form REIT’s that acquire and own residential homes and apartment buildings in Black neighborhoods across the country.

4)Food Deserts

In many Black communities, access to grocery stores, supermarkets and other food retailers that offer affordable and nutritious food is limited. These food deserts force members of the community to be more reliant on convenience stores, fast food or similar retailers.

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After almost 20 years of unsuccessful attempts to attract a corporate grocery chain to their community, The Renaissance Community Co-op of  Greensboro, NC raised over $2.4 million and was able to build a grocery store that served the community and provided jobs.

We need more examples like this in other areas that are deprived of healthy food options. One could purchase a van, buy produce from Black farmers and make scheduled stops in these areas to sell healthy produce. The American Community Garden Association (ACGA) provides resources for over 18,000 community gardens in the U.S. and Canada.

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5) Supporting Black Farmers

Black farmers have been facing discrimination from the USDA for decades. The National Black Farmers Association offers resources and programs that teach “the basic, sustainable practices of building and maintaining a garden.”

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They offer workshops on seed and variety selection, planting practices as well as how to plan and manage your crops throughout the seasons. We listed some Black owned farms in a previous post about health and wellness.

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6)The Growing Wealth Gap

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“To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships.” W.E.B. Dubois – Souls of Black Folks

Pew Research Center data from 2014 states that that the wealth of white households had reached 13 times the median wealth of black households, compared with eight times the wealth in 2010.

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Let’s not be fooled by reports that Black income has risen. Income does not equal wealth. According to a recent working paper, high-earning married black households have, on average, less wealth than low-earning married white households.

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The ever widening wealth gap exists for several reasons including racial discrimination,  tax policies that favor the (disproportionately white) rich and lack of sound financial education and practices. The wealthy get wealthier through tax cuts on investment income and inheritances, retirement accounts, home mortgages and college savings.

 

The Role of Elected Officials

Who creates and has the power to influence policies and legislature that affect us positively or negatively? Your elected officials do. They were elected to serve us. Therefore, we need to make sure they are doing so and not taking our votes for granted.

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Ask them, “What have you done for me lately?” Hold them accountable and make sure they address the issues that are important to you.

 

Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG: @thebusyafrican)