Charlotte Fresh has a question for you: Do you know what a food desert is? If you don’t, you should. According to the Mecklenburg County Community Food Assessment 2010 summary report, over 72,000 residents of Mecklenburg County live in a food desert. We have 11 food deserts in the Charlotte area. Learn more about food deserts in our community here. Usually I write about items that are great finds for those of us who have the ability to feed our families well and nutritiously. It’s time to get involved and to help our neighbors in need.
This is the story of a feel-good, do-good, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-take-action project. It’s something you can help spread the word about by sharing this post and by voting here at the Global Green USA Citizen Entrepreneur Contest. Please vote for Cassie Parsons who is being nominated for “being a farmer and restaurateur/chef of farm-to-table Harvest Moon Grille, and working with members of a low-income communities on a start-up urban farm to provide healthy produce and economic opportunities.” Winning the prize money will support a project close to my heart and that Charlotte Fresh is very involved in for reasons I’ll share below.
Welcome to Seigle Farm:
Believe it or not, what you see in this photo started off as a random, grassy, weedy piece of land, and it is now the beginnings of an urban farm.
Seigle Farm is a partnership between Seigle Avenue Presbyterian Church and Harvest Moon Grille with wonderful donations from local farmers and volunteers that serves to address food availability through leveraging urban gardening as part of a sustainable solution. The location of this project supports a food desert that has a poverty rate of over 20% with low access to supermarkets or large grocery stores. The lack of food access causes these neighbors to rely on convenience stores to obtain food (often packaged high-carb, high-sodium and low-nutrient food), increasing the risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity in children. Poverty also correlates with crime rates because residents have fewer opportunities to improve their future.
The vision for Seigle Farm is to create an urban organic growing area on unused property belonging to Seigle Avenue Presbyterian Church. The objective is to actively take on the food inequality issue and to provide this Belmont neighborhood food desert with fresh organic vegetables. On this property, the community will learn urban farming techniques and skills to cultivate fresh seasonal vegetables in high volumes. Current plans are 1) that a quantity of vegetables will be sold back to Harvest Moon Grille and to other local restaurants and establishments, infusing the community with a sustainable income stream, and 2) that a quantity of vegetables will also be distributed to the neighborhood through means to be determined.
Not only will urban farming be taught, but in partnership with the county extension service, lessons in the arts of canning and preserving will help increase the bounty that can be shared and that can generate income. Already we are seeing that the project is creating meaningful and enjoyable work for the youth who are becoming involved. Charlotte Fresh and Hubby have been volunteering with the project for a couple of weeks and have seen much progress. I will load the album to my Facebook page.
Why this is important to me: I don’t like to see people go hungry, for people to go without access to fresh food. I was born in a general hospital in a city with high poverty and crime rates, near where my Dad went to school. In my early toddler years, we lived in a neighborhood similar to Belmont, but a little better off, until my parents created better circumstances for us. We were lucky due to the perseverance and hard work of my parents who attained college degrees and built a business for themselves. My old neighborhood has been cleaned up some by a large university, but Hubby and I went walking through it for an hour a couple of months ago when I traveled to take care of my Dad. Still, I see corner stores and bodegas from where residents get food, a fried chicken establishment and an independent drug store within sight distance. In the midst of all this, university students ride the school trolley, and likely have meal plans to eat at their cafeterias. I have no ill will toward the university, but it creates a striking picture of inequality. This is why I volunteer at a farmers’ market and get involved with crisis assistance, local food advocacy and activism.
But this is not my sob story because I now live a life that I am truly grateful for, with the means to be able to give back. And that’s just what I’m doing. Won’t you please help Charlotte Fresh support the Seigle Farm project and vote today? As we continue with this project, I will share more details and progress, and I hope to find ways for more people in the community to work hand-in-hand with the residents of the Belmont neighborhood and hopefully others like it as the opportunities arise.
Much appreciation for you and thanks in advance for your participation and vote.
For more information on food deserts:
As defined by the USDA:
“To qualify as a “low-income community,” a census tract must have either: 1) a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher, OR 2) a median family income at or below 80 percent of the area’s median family income;
To qualify as a “low-access community,” at least 500 people and/or at least 33 percent of the census tract’s population must reside more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store (for rural census tracts, the distance is more than 10 miles).”