I'm about half way through Closing the Food Gap by Mark Winne and getting really mad. So many of the issues in the news today were identified so many years ago. Mark and his confreres started working on food and community issues in Hartford, CT in the SEVENTIES and were developing creative solutions to food deserts and food insecurity in urban areas. How is it possible that we would still be dealing with the same issues today?
In his book, Mark is candid about successes and failures — like a community co-op that closed after 19 months because of a lack of management expertise and financing. But beyond financing, he says, co-ops and farmers markets succeed when they appeal to a “well-educated member/customer base with a highly evolved food consciousness.” What lower income communities want is easy access to an up-to-date chain supermarket with broad selection and lower prices.
While our region does have fairly good grocery store representation in our cities, there remains a food chasm between local food producers and low income consumers. The chain stores carry token amounts of local produce but to eat local/organic you must go to the co-op, farmers markets, or invest $450 in advance in a CSA — all of which are barriers to busy, cash strapped families.
So this morning my frustration dissipated just a little when I read what the Capital District Community Gardens is doing. Since 2007 Community Gardens has been hosting Veggie Mobiles, which deliver fresh, locally grown produce to low income neighborhoods. On Wednesday, they launched an online marketplace — a "Virtual Veggie Mobile" — stocked by more than a dozen local farmers from around the region. This wholesale marketplace will serve group homes schools, hospitals, day care centers, restaurants and convenience stores. It’s an ambitious and holistic approach to bridging the food chasm. To learn more, or sign up your organization to purchase whole foods wholesale, visit market.cdcg.org.