Food Deserts

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photo: livescience.com

Remember reading The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in school? “Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.” It’s a fantastic epic story in poem form. If you haven’t read it, you should. Even if you don’t like poetry (or think you don’t), this is very readable.

What does an eighteenth century epic poem have to do with anything, you might ask. Well, quite a bit. The poem is about a ship cursed for the cruel actions of one of the sailors. Caught in a becalmed sea, surrounded by undrinkable salt water, the crew becomes desperate.

Here in the U.S., we are blessed with huge swathes of our country that are agricultural, capable of tremendous food production. I’m not even going to attempt to explain (mostly because it’s inexplicable) the political calculus of paying farmers not to plant or allowing huge corporations to control and export so much of the agricultural production in this country. The point is, we should be able to feed every single person in this country, plus millions of people around the world.

Instead, we have innumerable areas – rural and urban and in between – where there are no viable sources of healthy food. Grocery stores close, leaving people with no place other than convenience stores or fast-food restaurants to purchase food. I have seen this happen in small towns in West Virginia, leaving people with hour-plus drives to my town to get to an actual grocery store. It’s well-documented how much more poor people pay for food in urban areas. If there are actual markets in poorer sections of a city, they typically stock fewer choices and have to charge more to cover increased insurance premiums and higher delivery costs. If there aren’t any markets, again, those people have to take public transport to get to a grocery store, adding time and expense to the trip.

It has even happened, on a smaller scale, here in my town.

I live in a fairly ordinary small city of about 25,000 people in a large surrounding county with a few smaller towns. In my city, there are areas of lower-income housing that were within walking distance of a local grocery store. More than once, I stopped to offer rides to people who were walking home, loaded down with heavy bags.

A couple of years ago, that chain of stores sold off most of its locations to another chain. Prices went up, but people still shopped there because they had to. Then that new chain shut the stores down for good. Those folks who depended on those stores now have to catch a bus to one of the other grocery stores further away from where they live. It’s doable, but it adds probably an hour to their shopping trip.

When you have a car and easy access to stores in any part of your town, like we do, you don’t think about how inconvenient it is for some people to perform that necessary chore.

All of this adds up to millions of people who are food-insecure – that is, they don’t know where their next meal (healthy or not) is coming from.

Ask any public school official in this country, and they will tell you how much the low-income students in their district depend on free breakfasts and lunches. Snow days, holidays, any days that students aren’t in school are days those kids may not eat at all.

Summer vacations – those days my friends and I longed for – are times of hunger for a lot of families. Instead of long days spent playing in the woods and nights catching fireflies, those kids wonder if they’re going to eat.

Food banks get hit hard during the summer. A lot of people think of donating to their local food banks at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but not so much during the summer.

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To help my local Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, I am repeating my spring fundraiser. I will donate 100% of my May royalties to the food bank. Any books you buy this month will go toward this donation. I know in years past, some readers have contacted me to tell me they already own all of my books, but they were going to donate to their own local food bank. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have connected with such kind, caring people!

If you’ve been thinking of purchasing any of my books you haven’t read, this is a great time to do it. If you have all of my books and are in a position to donate to your local food bank, I know they would appreciate your support.

Peace and full bellies to all,

Caren

 

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7 thoughts on “Food Deserts

  1. Here’s another idea: purchase Caren’s books and donate them to the Gold Crown Literary Society silent auction held during their July annual conference . Even if you’re not attending you can donate items for this fundraiser. What a cool idea! Buy once, give twice!

  2. The Gold Crown Literary Society promotes and educates lesbian writers and has awarded several of Caren’s novels.

  3. It’s wonderful that you are so generous with your fundraisers, Caren. Thank you for reminding us all about this important issue. It should really be that there are food desserts for all (including healthy ones like fruit), instead of food deserts.

  4. How shameful, that we have come to this, with the worldwide lurch to the corporate, selfish right. I do our weekly shopping before I go to work on a Tuesday, and always buy a few tins and packets for the foodbank trolley by the door. In all fairness local people are consistently generous (this is not a wealthy area, being a Thatcher-blighted community where steel furnaces once roared). Those who have little do seem to be more endowed with the giving gene. Lots of luck for your fundraiser, Caren.

  5. Suzanne, that’s a great thing for your market to do, and, while I’m happy that people are so generous, I’m sad that they need to be. Like you, I’m sick (sick and tired, sick in my soul) at the corporate greed and continued wrangling by the wealthy to line their own pockets at the expense of the most vulnerable of us. Take care, Caren.

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