Memphis Backyard Farmer


Food Desert Where?
May 14, 2011, 5:25 am
Filed under: Policy

Some things just don’t make sense.

This week I became aware of a new “Food Desert Locator” published by the USDA. I followed the link and looked at my home town of Memphis. I looked for some specific areas where I’ve done volunteer work, places that are among the poorest in the nation. No surprises.

But then as I broadened my search, I found something that made me go “hmmmm…” And then ask, “Why?”

A couple of days a week I work in Henderson, TN, about 80 miles from where I live. It’s a drive that is picturesque. A half dozen small towns along state highways 64 and 100 guard the roads. There are small Mennonite farms with attached bakeries, right next to large orchards. Acres of corn, cotton and soybeans draw your eyes to the horizon. There isn’t much that is more beautiful than a sunrise coming up across the farmland and wilderness on this drive.

And this is a food desert.

How is it that this land of potential has become a place where people can’t get the food they need? How is it that country people have lost their ability to feed themselves? There was certainly a time when to be  a land owner in the country meant that, while you might not be wealthy, you could always eat like a king (which is worth a fortune).

We often think that urban centers are the places where good food is scarce. We often equate nutritional poverty with the inner city. My mind can’t fathom the idea there are open spaces and farmland along Highway 100 that are food deserts.

Things are worse than I thought.

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