Why create more food oases to make food ubiquitous? Isn’t farming enough? Well, one in five people are food insecure and one in six children do not eat daily meals in the US. Hunger in the US has many faces: children, seniors, veterans, rural and marginalized communities are not immune. Many of the well-fed want to help and the hungry would prefer to help themselves. Also, as humanity is urbanizing rapidly, so too are urban food deserts expanding and/or densifying while experiencing nutrition injustice. For instance, Asia’s largest slum, Dharavi, lacks sufficient infrastructure to provide sewage, water, electricity, or housing for residents, yet this dense community in the heart of India’s financial capital has a thriving informal economy with an annual economic output of up to $1 billion. Urban agriculture solutions can bring new life to food deserts and serve as a driving force for community development. Despite the increased presence of grassroots efforts to support our farmers with Farmers’ Markets and Community-Supported Agriculture, and to ensure we eat high quality food by leveraging rooftop and community gardens, and choosing restaurants that locally source their ingredients, these efforts alone are not viable alternative to the inefficiencies of our massive food system and prepare to feed our growing population.
Fortunately, one solution lies in our yards and neighborhoods through the use of edible gardens. In the 1940s through the success of the victory gardens to the success of the recent White House garden to current urban farms and vertical farms all over the East Coast, we empower our communities to take their health and well-being into their own hands when we make food production a local concern. Natalie, is a food insecure teacher who started a garden in the elementary school where she teaches. Her students tend to eat their daily hot meal at school. So she teaches the kids to garden, and they grow a lot of food. Natalie and her students grow so much food that she no longer needs to buy vegetables to feed herself. She also sends the students home with fresh produce. It’s a temporary win-win: Natalie and her students receive fresh fruits and veggies and nutrition injustice is somewhat addressed. How can we relate to food as an abundant resource such that we will feed everyone, including Natalie, and help move humanity forward?
We all need to be good stewards of our bodies, our communities, and our planet. And clean food ought to be a fundamental right just like the right to clean air. Growing your vegetables or purchasing them from less than a few miles away while sharing with your neighbor or donating what you cannot consume ought to be a civic duty. You will feel empowered by your contribution to your nutrition and to your community as you eat safer and more nutritious produce, save money, be food independent, and reduce your carbon footprint and local hunger. After all, food should be grown right where humans live.