What?! I have heard of Food Courts, Food Guides, Open Table, but what in the heck is a Food Desert?! In my 46 years, I had never heard that term until 2 months ago. Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons have been customers of ours for over 20 years. We have worked on many projects together but nothing resembling a desert until I met Tony Johns, COO of the City of Refuge.
We were fortunate to be asked to join Mr. Blank and the Falcons organization again to assist with their community service day. Last year we worked on Atlanta’s BeltLine Project, but this year was very different. Our mission was to be part of the service team to help the City of Refuge in their mission to help the homeless and affected children and the residents of the area to take significant steps to eliminate one of Atlanta’s worst Food Deserts.
Ok, so what is a Food Desert? Wikipedia defines it this way – A food desert is a food environment unsupportive of health; it is defined by barriers that restrict access to healthful foods. Barriers may include lack of access to food retailers, availability of nutritious foods, or food affordability. Food deserts are generally described as areas with high poverty rates and low access to healthful food. Here is a map of Atlanta’s Food Deserts:
The folks at the City of Refuge have done truly remarkable work. They not only house and feed residents on-site, they provide meals daily to the local community, education for children, and job training for people who are not only unemployed but also unemployable.
Our primary focus on this day was to help build raised planters that will be used to grow vegetables that will be used in the City of Refuge Kitchen and provide plots for residents to grow their own vegetables.
I could joke that I have my own Food Desert as I drive my kids back and forth to Lacrosse games, acting classes, etc. We end up eating fast food in the car. But I know at the end of the day, I can get healthy food easily at the grocery store. I have been to this location. These people can’t live without major effort.
It was a great day. We made a difference. However, one day will not do enough. Mr. Blank and the Atlanta Falcons will be back to help. So will HighGrove. What we did make a difference, what we will do will make a bigger one. I am talking to them now about helping to train some folks to be small engine mechanics. I am going to reach out to some of the colleges we work with to help. The comment about “being unemployed is one thing but being unemployable is another” stuck with me. It reminds me of the old tale of giving a man a fish will feed him for a day but teaching a man to fish will feed him for a lifetime. We are going to help create some great fishermen…