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On the Edge – Re-inventing Food

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Touch the Soil News #692 (photo courtesy of Lawrence Community Garden) Federal Government finances seem to always be a few months away from shutdown. But economic shuttering in many areas of the U.S. has become a stark reality. The small town of Lawrence, Indiana, which is on the edge of the Indianapolis metropolitan area of some 2.5 million people, just happens have some of the largest food deserts in America. A food desert is an area where robust finances, food stores and many jobs have left the scene. In response to the situation, the Lawrence Community Gardens was born. It is not your typical community garden in that there are…

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Bonton Farms – A Deeper Message?

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Touch the Soil News #584 (Feature photo courtesy of Bonton Farms) The historic Bonton neighborhood of Dallas, Texas is not a pretty place. To get to the closest grocery store is a 3-hour trip by bus. Bonton typifies everything that could be called an economic black hole. Most of the residents are plagued by high rates of degenerative diseases. No health and welfare programs, no economic recovery and no education have stemmed the tide of this neighborhood falling to its lowest ebb. There was no hope until a couple of years ago when the 1.1 acre Bonton Farms was born in the midst of this hopeless place. An outsider –…

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Seeds of a Different Economic Order?

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Touch the Soil News #537 Oklahoma State Senator Kevin Matthews has a problem. His small voter district( #11 in northern Tulsa, Oklahoma) is mostly a food desert. Many of his constituents have limited or no access to fresh produce and meats. Ditto for 32 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties. Kevin Matthews’ district #11 – an area of approximately 70,000 people – has financial and economic shortcomings – affordability and ready access to food have been compromised. Matthews is exploring the possibility of creating an urban farming system that bypasses the grocery stores that financially cannot come into the area. He has raised the topic in the State Senate and is now…

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When the System Fails – Build Your Own Grocery Store

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Touch the Soil News #532 The Northeast area of Greensboro, North Carolina received the unwanted distinction of being the most food-insecure area in the nation. The last time the neighborhood had a grocery store was in 1998 when a Winn Dixie grocery store was in the process of closing its doors. Over the past 18 years, local officials have been trying to get another grocer to come to town – but with no luck. In what could be termed one of the more grass-roots efforts in America, some 900 community members spent the last 5 years working to build their own grocery store (using a co-operative business model). Called the…

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A Public Edible Fruit Park?

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Touch the Soil News #468 We have heard of gleaning clubs that care and harvest fruit trees in neighborhoods and we have heard of Web sites that show you where fruit trees are located in a city. But an emerging faction in the food security movement has come to reality in West Seattle – Puget Ridge Edible Park. Locals care for the park which is located in a food desert. The USDA defines a food desert as a low-income census tract where at least 33 percent of the tract’s population has low access to a supermarket or grocery store. The Puget Ridge Edible Park (2/3 of an acre) hosts heritage…

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Public Orchards – A New Kind of Investment

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Touch the Soil News #448 (feature art work courtesy of Louisville Grows) The industrial food chain is a reflection of massive investments whose ability to drain family food enterprises of their cash flows is legendary. As a result, most neighborhood grocery stores are gone, most family farms are gone and the largest grocery chain is the nation’s food banking network with over 50,000 partners that have a charitable feeding program. On the horizon, however, is a new kind of food chain struggling to emerge. Investments in this new food chain are building blocks that stay in place and serve humanity via food, jobs and environmental stewardship. Human-oriented investments have been…

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City Mayors of America Weigh in on Hunger

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Touch the Soil News #282 The mayors of the major cities in America (cities of 30,000 and more) get together each year to discuss topics of mutual concern – one of them being hunger. Their umbrella organization is called the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM). There are 1,407 cities of 30,000 or more and each city is represented in this organization by their mayor. President Obama addresses the United States Conference of Mayors. To the extent that America’s mayors get involved in solving hunger and homelessnes is the extent to which political power may increase for the nation’s mayors. Every year, the USCM puts together a report on hunger…

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23.5 Million Reasons to Rethink the Economy

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Touch the Soil News #222 The following news piece is partly a satire on the present economic system using a serious food issue as the point of discussion. This is not a criticism of America, as much as it is poking fun at economic dilemmas that really require new thinking and approaches. If there is insufficient purchasing power in the hands of Americans, they can be starving and the grocery stores will still move out of town. This has become a big issue at the USDA, the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. Health and Human Services. They have identified more than 23.5 million people who live in food deserts. A…

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Food, Social Enterprise and the Caring for Others

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Touch the Soil News # 142 So what is the world coming to? A bright young woman with a Masters in Business Administration from Portland State has no interest in pursuing the Wall Street Model of business and profit. Instead, she is striving to bring healthy food to the underserved with a goal of only breaking even. Meet Amelia Pape. After graduation, she bought a van and started a mobile business called My Street Grocery in Portland, Oregon. Her mission was to sell healthy food in areas of Portland where there was little access to grocery stores. As her work and idea began to gain visibility she eventually approached Whole…

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