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These Local Initiatives Are Combatting America's Food Desert Issue


Access to fresh food is not just an issue in third-world countries. It’s a problem right here on American soil, and it’s affecting millions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines food deserts as “areas that lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk, and other foods that make up a full and healthy diet.” This issue is also compounded by factors like lack of financial resources and an excess of convenience stores rather than large retail markets that stock healthy foods. Due to this problem, many communities in the U.S. struggle with a deficiency of proper nutrition, leading to a significant increase in child and adult obesity.

But not all hope is lost. There are some incredible organizations and individuals who dedicate their time to combatting this widespread issue. Read on to learn how 11 amazing groups are doing their part to put an end to food deserts.

1

Sam Polk and David Foster – Los Angeles, CA

Sam Polk and David Foster, the co-founders of Everytable, feel that every community deserves healthy, accessible, and affordable food. That’s why they created the sustainable model for Everytable — an eatery that provides fresh, quick, and nutritious dishes. Low production costs, bulk producing, and the minimal staff keeps the business profitable and prices low. They currently have eight L.A. locations, with over half located in economically-depressed areas.

2

Rev. Richard Joyner – Conetoe, NC

Located about an hour east of Raleigh lies Conetoe, North Carolina — a severely impoverished town with a population of less than 400. Enter Reverend Richard Joyner, founder of the Conetoe Family Life Center nonprofit, which spans across 20 plots of land and produces over 50,000 pounds of fresh goods per year, most of which is donated. The children who assist on the farmland also sell some of the goods to local businesses, raising funds for scholarships and other community initiatives.

3

The Farm Express – Phoenix, AZ

Launched in 2014 by the Discovery Triangle Development Corporation, the mobile food market known as The Farm Express brings the produce aisle directly to the areas that need it most. The bus-turned-grocery store travels across various underserved areas in the Phoenix-metropolitan area and accepts EBT cards (even matching dollar-for-dollar).

4

Leah Lizarondo – Pittsburgh, PA

No stranger to food, Lizarondo is a Pittsburgh Magazine food journalist and founder of The Brazen Kitchen, but her hard work doesn’t stop there. She also created 412 Food Rescue, which connects food retailers with community organizations, delivering fresh food that might typically go to waste to the populations that need it.

5

Fresh Works – CA

The Fresh Works loan fund is a multi-million dollar investment pool built to provide financial assistance and grants to grocers wanting to expand their businesses to food-insecure demographic regions. Bringing healthy, sustainable, impactful suppliers to the food desert regions of California.

6

Detroit Vineyards – Detroit, MI

A repurposed 30-square-mile stretch of vacant land in the Detroit area provides the perfect opportunity for productive growth. That’s exactly how Blake Kownacki saw it when he decided to open Detroit Vineyards — the first winery to open in the Detroit region in over 60 years. Converting spare land to micro-vinyards has the potential to create an economic and agriculturally-rich domino effect.

7

Growing Home – Chicago, IL

The Chicago community of Englewood has been underserved for many years and the nonprofit Growing Home is doing something to combat its many issues: Unemployment, poverty, and lack of fresh goods. The organization works to provide farmhand training to those who need employment and furthermore uses the Englewood-based farm facilities to serve the area with healthy goods at reduced prices.

8

Doug Rauch – Boston, MA

After serving as president of Trader Joe’s for over 14 years, Rauch decided to hit the road. In 2012, he founded Daily Table, a not-for-profit store that offers fresh produce and healthy to-go meals for a diverse and impoverished Boston neighborhood.

9

Detroit Hives – Detroit, MI

Similar to Detroit Vineyards, Detroit Hives has seen much of the region’s vacant space as a golden opportunity. Part of the long-term food desert solution is creating innovative approaches to bringing farming to urban areas. Their investment in introducing bee farms to the city provides educational programs to the local schools that teach students about an integral part of our ecosystem.

10

Ford Mobile Farm – Detroit, MI

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The car company that invigorated the Detroit community for so many years is giving back in a new way. Their Ford Mobile program provides clean-eating education programs to the local youth, and the company has worked on innovating shipping container farming. The freight facility, fitted to produce 52 harvests, is housed in the Cass Community Social Services and provides fresh goods to much of the struggling Detroit-metropolitan area year-round.

11

Robin Emmons – Charlotte, NC

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When Emmons recognized that many people in her community lacked the necessary funds and the transportation to get to the affluent areas providing fresh produce, she looked at her backyard. In a 2013 CNN profile, Emmons remarked, “I really thought it was an injustice. … Healthy food is a basic human right.” She transformed her backyard into a garden – growing chemically-free produce and donating it to local churches and food pantries. Thus forming the nonprofit, Sow Much Good, which has provided more than 26,000 pounds of fresh produce to various impoverished Charlotte-area communities.



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