Stigma surrounding food deserts; what we can do to help

“Food desert” is a short term to describe an urban area where finding affordable and fresh food is almost impossible.
Of all the terms that could replace food desert, the best one I’ve heard is a “damn shame.”
Although deserts are thought of as desolate and bare, they are also some of the most magnificent creations on Earth.
Similarly, “food deserts” are just as beautiful. The only difference between a food-secure city and a food desert is that they have been stripped of their basic needs.
I recently visited Detroit for spring break where I experienced the reality of food insecurity, as well as the immense opportunities and growth that urban farming provides a community.
Food security is when someone has consistent access to a food source or market.
When going to Detroit over spring break, I got a lot of questions and at first, I felt somewhat ashamed, the same way I feel when I say I live in Erie.
It seemed to be nothing special and was definitely not as tropical of a getaway as the Bahamas or Hawaii.
The people I met in Detroit were far from ashamed, though. They were some of the proudest individuals I have ever met, and I can safely say that I learned more from them than I could have ever hoped.
A stigma in urban areas with a partially impoverished population is that beggars cannot be choosers.
Unfortunately, those who feel they are entitled to make that statement do not understand the basic respect and dignity that every person deserves.
Besides being healthy, the cultural relevancy of food can act as the backbone of a community.
Erie, like Detroit, has many significant populations that are being deprived of ingredients that are crucial to their culture.
Food is the simplest way someone can express love and appreciation and gather as a community.
It can help rebuild a city and replenish the vibrant souls that make it shine so brightly.
I spoke with residents who drove Cadillacs and went to Whole Foods, and I also spoke with men and women whose lives were changed just by a free hot meal a day before they trekked back into the cold to sleep in their cars.
The divide in a community is only worsened by the stigma that surrounds these areas.
I see similar situations in Erie, a place that is trying to rebuild itself and focus on the needs of its residents.
I don’t have rose-colored glasses that tell me everything will be perfect, but I think small changes are incredibly important in our community.
Volunteer at Goodwill Gardens, advocate for those who are not able to and have those tough conversations.
Hopefully we can begin to see our city as a place to plant seeds of opportunity rather than somewhere we are ashamed of.
We do not need fixed, but rather to be heard.

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