By: Katie Sobiech
Something fresh and new is on the horizon for local, inner city communities and corner stores located in what are known as “food deserts”.
Believe it or not, food deserts do exist here in Akron.
Lack of fresh, healthy foods is an issue for many of our inner city communities. Just stop by any convenience store and you’ll see rows of candy, soda and other unhealthy items, while quality, whole foods are scarce. Akron Summit Community Action (ASCA), Let’s Grow Akron (LGA), Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA) and other food-movement-minded groups and health conscious individuals have noticed this and taken action.
Some of their initiatives include the Taste it & Make it Series, Corner Store Project and Talks in the Garden. This all has brought healthy foods and education into blighted areas.
Taste it & Make it Series
One of ASCA’s newest collaborations has been their “Taste it and Make It” series, where members of ASCA and LGA gather at inner city corner stores to provide healthy cooking demonstrations, samples and tips. You can find them at Little Mike’s Market on Ira Ave. every other week now through October from 10-noon.
“It starts with education and the community. We’re showing people how to cook things they’re probably not familiar with. We’re trying to reach out to the community as far as demonstrating and giving them fresh, organic foods and teaching them. I think it’s wonderful,” Beverly Williams, Family Support Specialist at ASCA, said.
Veronica Sims, Administrator of Special Projects and Governor Affairs at ASCA, added “We believe that if you change the way people eat, you can change the way they think. That’s transformative in and of itself.”
“Kids don’t really know what it means to eat whole food anymore. And people don’t necessarily make the connection between how they’re feeling and what they’re putting in their body,” she continued.
The term “food desert” may not be well-known yet, but is rapidly growing in food-movement circles.
“The leader of our movement in urban agriculture is our CEO, Malcolm J Costa. ASCA is a premiere agency on poverty in Summit County and Malcolm’s been in this fight a very long time and understands the essentials of having good food to eat,” Sims shared.
Another pioneer of this movement was the dearly loved Elaine Evans, who passed away not long ago.
“Elaine Evans loved the community. She could look at something so blighted and see the promise of it and that’s how we have to see our communities and the entities that exist within them, like the corner store,” Sims explained.
“So often we kind of brush them off as being a haven of everything that’s going wrong in underserved communities, but to know it can have this transformative effect in the community is awesome. We are really passionate about it,” Sims continued.
Stay tuned for next week’s story where you will get a glance inside the world of an inner city corner store and the effect it’s having on its people, as well as other health initiatives going on in the area!
If you are interested in finding out more please visit http://www.aksumcom.org .