The following was written by Kevin Daniels, our Program Fellow, who is spending a year with the Episcopal Service Corp.
Prior to this year’s Walk the Road event, I did not realize the devastation that has resulted from the increase of food deserts in the local neighborhoods of Atlanta, such as Peoplestown. After attending the event, I became more aware of and knowledgeable about the socioeconomic plight caused by the food insecurities that pervade urban communities. Our executive director, Joseph Mole, addressed participants at the beginning of the event to define its purpose and to invite us to engage in dialogue and education. In his opening address, he mentioned that Atlanta ranks third in terms of food deserts.
By definition, a food desert is an area where there is no grocery store or food market within a one to two-mile radius of an urban residential community. At the panel discussion during the Walk the Road event, a panelist suggested an optional solution known as limited resource farming. In limited resource farming, independent farmers advertise and sell their own produce to third-party markets or stores in urban neighborhoods. Both farmer and consumer benefit from the flow of profitable capital from those businesses and from the experience of being a stakeholder in their community. This strategy also provides more cost-efficient and healthy food options for consumers with limited food budgets. Most importantly, this method would help to eliminate food disparities in urban areas.
Legally, a perceived disregard for equal opportunity in the judicial branch of government hinders the implementation of this solution. The prospect of expanding urban agriculture has faced a prolonged effort to block increased opportunities and access to more resources for urban farmers. For example, a 1999 class action lawsuit between the USDA and a considerable number of African-American farmers resulted in a promised that over $1.3 million dollars would be accessible to aid the minority farmers in boosting their revenue and to nurture entrepreneurial potential in urban agriculture. In actuality, less than 2 percent urban farmers received funds that in total equaled no more than $55,000. The discriminatory practices of the USDA have resulted in the denial of once guaranteed benefits and resources.
As a participant of this year’s Walk the Road experience, I have been compelled to commit my life to help reform policies that enhance and uphold the total welfare of all people. Access to food is a fundamental human right that we must pursue by advocating fair opportunities and resources for urban farmers and by subverting the injustices associated with food disparities in low-income neighborhoods. In the spirit of Psalm 24, the earth’s fullness must be savored and shared impartially and its bounty must not be constrained.
Kevin J. Daniels
Episcopal Service Corps
2014-15 Community Service Fellow
Emmaus House / Lokey Center