The most brilliant thing

Cup o' watermelon

This is one of the most brilliant things I have seen in awhile. Yes, it is a plastic tub of watermelon.

Detroit is a food desert. There is a lack  of grocery stores, small markets, and other avenues in which people can purchase fresh food and whole food to cook. However, fast food options abound.In the city, over 90% of food stamp recipients purchase their food at a liquor store, gas station or pharmacy (source). This is what is available near them.

While I visited the city for a work conference, I was able to tour many different ventures addressing the lack of access to food in the region, including community gardens and  large scale urban ag(riculture)projects.

There was one that especially riveting. Peaches & Greens is a local market in an underserved neighborhood, providing healthy foods at a reasonable price to an area that otherwise would not have access to such choices. In addition, there is a truck that travels 5 days a week around the city. It is an ice cream truck model of providing fruits and veggies to this food desert.

I had a chance to stop in the market of Peaches & Greens on a hot and sticky June day. As I started to browse, I noticed these:

Yum-o. Across the way, I saw a cooler that had some diced watermelon in cups. As I wolfed down my purchase, the founder, Lisa Johanson, explained how this came about. Neighbors would come into the store and shop around. A grouping of men often came in looked at the watermelons, but never purchased. One day a worker asked why not. “Cause I don’t have any way of eating it”. These men were homeless, squatting nearby. They had no knifes, no way of eating the watermelon they wanted. Brilliantly, Peaches & Greens began to serve watermelon cut up. Now, watermelon is one of their biggest selling items.

Access. Access to food is needed, from the ability to bring it in to neighborhoods, all the way down to making sure that it is accessible in a form to eat. We need to at least provide the choice of healthy foods.

What is wonderful here is the compassion that is occurring. There is true listening of the needs of the area, with help and change coming from within. Lisa lives in the area and she understands the lack presence of healthy options. How simple is it to cut up a watermelon. How true is it that I would have never thought about people walking in and out of a home down the street from the store, wouldn’t have a knife to eat their food with.

Hope starts small:

but, it makes a big difference.


So, now what? Don’t read this and think you don’t have a role here!

What can you do TODAY to make a difference:

1. Read and ask your ask your Representative to support H.R. 4971 Greening Food Deserts Act, which will support projects that provide access to healthy food. You can also ‘vote’ on it here.

2. Have a garden? Think of donating some of your goods to a food pantry. Find one near you that accepts produce donations:

3. Donate your time, talent, or treasure to Peaches & Greens or a local food pantry:

4. A 30 second action: Ask our President to help the hungry and stick to the Millennium Development Goals we agreed to:

5. Remember those who are hungry, be it in your prayers, your thoughts, your actions.

Have more ideas? Post a comment!


5 responses

  1. Nice one Kate. It blows my mind that Detroit is a food desert considering how agricultural Southeast Michigan is. However, in a globalized food economy, this is the reality. Thanks for shinning a light on the problem, the solutions that are emerging, and how we can be a part of those solutions.



  2. Amen to that! Doing a little goes a long way.
    Yesterday my family and I decided to start a tiny “pay it forward” experiment. We were returning home from a weekend away and had to cross the small, family run bridge to get back. It is one of those tiny treasure bridges where you actually have to pay your toll to one of the family members standing in the center of this one lane in, one lane out crossway. We gave the guy the toll for us, as well as for the car behind us, who we did not know. We were so curious about what the response of the passengers would be. They remained behind us for quite some time….not a wave, a honk….no response really, which was fine since we were happy to do it. We all felt a natural high from our action. Eventually, when the it became a 2 lane road, the car passed us. We rolled down our windows so that we could all wave to them. The woman in the passenger seat looked at us suspiciously, as if we were nuts. When we waved she meekly gave us a little wave in return and drove ahead of us. My whole family laughed. We really wanted to hear the conversation they were having, if any at all. It’s too bad that people cannot just accept good deeds without thinking suspiciously. We are hoping they remember this very tiny incident and eventually “pay it forward”. We will certainly do it again soon!

    • Beth- I love that idea! How fun to do as a family and enjoy that excitement together. It would be cool to be a fly on the wall in the other car. We do all react differently to generosity. It can certainly be harder to receive than to give!
      Can’t wait to hear about the next pay it forward moment.

  3. It’s so great that people outside the state of Michigan are recognizing problems that the city of Detroit is facing. Granted cities like Baltimore and others also have this problem, but being from metro-Detroit I’m always happy when the city makes it into proactive and positive conversations.

    Not only are the urban farms planning on making huge strides in alleviating the health problems associated with food deserts but they are also making some pretty symbolic social messages. Some of the areas that the farms rest has been land that until recently was untouched and vacant for over thirty years. It was land where entire neighborhoods stood but were burnt to the ground during another hot summer back in the 70s. The race riots that exploded for an entire weekend have left a permanent mark on the city and state – a negative mark. It’s good to see land that had once stood as a reminder of the problems that eternally plague our area now be turned into emblems of hope for a city and region that still haven’t given up.

    • Ashley- thanks for sharing, what great points! I was part of Environmental Justice tour of Detroit back in June of 2010, and have been impressed with the creative solutions people are forming. I was just back in the Detroit area to talk about food issues. You might like this website that we created after our presentation:
      Are you majoring in science or food related studies?

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