I went along with the freshmen to weed a community garden. The weather was sweltering, but it was a great way to start the semester. The gardens let people grow their own food.
The community gardens help combat food insecurity and the lack of access to fresh produce in food deserts. Deserts are areas that that do not have fresh produce in their stores (if they have stores). In these areas, people are dependant on fast food and restaurants. This increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, and malnutrition.
The underlying issue is that nutritious meals are more expensive to cook and source ingredients for. Supermarket chains and grocery stores only find it profitable to sell produce in higher density areas and to those who are mobile. The USDA’s food desert map shows where to find food deserts.
Federal, state, and local governments can invest in free and reduced cost meal programs for students. During remote learning (the 2020-21 school year for my town), our town expanded the lunch program to cover all students and increase eligibility for breakfast. These programs have shown to be effective. But they don’t expand to adults. Similar proposals for adults like funding community kitchens (soup kitchens, bread lines, church programs, etc), do not enjoy similar support. A soup kitchen in my town has partnered with the local hospital to provide produce, but I don’t know much about the program.
I used to think that increasing income levels and helping people out of poverty would indirectly solve this issue, but I’m not so sure anymore. I learnt in racial studies that even high income minority families tend to live in low income neighborhoods, that lack resources like well funded schools and grocery stores.
For me, Service Day was a one day glimpse into the lives of the residents of Colmar manor. The local residents spend way more time actually growing the crops. We were just in here for a day to "reset" the garden.
It was motivating to know that we were indirectly helping feed nearby families (well, helping them help themselves). I’ve volunteered at meal packing centers, and theres a disconnect because the people who receive the food packets are thousands of miles away usually.
I participated in this service because I thought scholars was cool, and because it was one of my first activities. I wanted to bond with the SDU freshmen and catch up with the other mentors.
I’m from NJ, where food deserts are less common due to the higher population density. I’ve noticed that College Park’s neighboring towns are much smaller than I’m used to (the size of individual neighborhoods back home). I wonder if the town lines are partly responsible for why this area is part of a food desert.