Like Minded People
The most difficult aspect of conceptualizing our project is assessing the challenges involved with creating a national organization. We determined that the best way to be proactive about this is to contact other similarly structured organizations and learn from their experiences. The Delancey Street Foundation is a program that helps ex-convicts and substance abusers re-assimilate into society. The foundation provides housing and jobs to people who have hit rock bottom and require them to adhere to strict regulations that limit poor habits and behavior. This program is very successful, and now has locations all across America. Our team has arranged an interview with the Delancey Street Foundation to discuss the challenges a nationwide program faces and strategies to combat them. 4-H is another example of a widespread organization. It is a youth development program that has chapters all over the world. Each chapter is unique, but the overarching organization is there to provide a common purpose and support. Our next step is to reach out to organizations and programs that fit our project criteria and gauge their interest in joining the Urban Food Alliance.
Invisible Food Deserts
Attending Cornell University has exemplified the fact that many affluent Americans are unaware of the issues regarding local poverty. A main goal of our project is to raise awareness of food deserts, so that we, as a country, can proactively confront this problem. There are currently 6,500 food deserts in America. A food desert is defined by the USDA as "urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food." The USDA also estimates that 23.5 million people live in these food deserts. An urban food desert differs from a rural food desert by the distance necessary to travel to reach a supermarket, or other location for fresh food. An urban food desert uses a mile radius without access to fresh food as an indicator, where as rural food deserts use a 10 mile radius. A major issue for combatting food deserts is that it is exceedingly hard to attract businesses to these low income areas. There may be high crime rates, or not enough of an economic incentive to expand to these impoverished communities. This makes it imperative to address this problem from inside the community, and we plan to do this by creating a brand to promote and support community gardens and food education.
The average middle-class American is oblivious to the issue of food deserts because many of our cities are socio-economically segregated. People of affluence have no incentive to travel into food deserts, and it is difficult to be aware of something that you do not experience yourself. A strategy that the Urban Food Alliance will use to help unveil this problem is to create a brand, like Rainforest Alliance or Fair Trade, that will signal to consumers that they are supporting the fight against hunger. By bringing this problem to the table in a way that is accessible to all Americans the UFA will initiate awareness, support, and concern.
USDA Map of Food
The USDA has identified 6500 food deserts in America and published this map.
Through hard work, lots of collaboration and research we finally came up with an idea!
We realized that there were some incredible programs working towards combatting food deserts in America. Urban gardens provide food for communities, create important educational opportunities, and occupational opportunities as well. These programs often target local youth, including those at risk, teaching them real life job skills such as, networking, retail, professionalism, etc. Furthermore these gardens can help educate locals on healthy eating and participating in a healthy lifestyle.
While many of these types of grassroots organizations are tremendously successful, others struggle to get off the ground. There are inherent obstacles with starting and maintaining such organizations.
We believe that a national alliance will bring these organizations to a whole new level. Through collaboration and networking with other organizations with similar purposes, the alliance will help build a national community of like minded people all working towards the same goal. This alliance will provide a means for support, not only for established members, but also for new grassroots efforts just beginning to form. This alliance will also create a brand which can help establish credibility and help raise awareness about food deserts across America.