The “Real Food” Farm|Quenching Baltimore’s Food Desert

We’ve gotta talk about this ’cause the thirst is real. Open scene…”My stomach is eating a hole through my back”. I could simplify that saying with one word–“hangry” (no typo). “Hanger” may run up on you after a long day at the office when your only nourishment has been a coffee and a pack of mixed nuts courtesy of the mini snack bar in the breakroom at work. It normally happens when you’ve been savagely focused on a project and you opt out of a lunch break because…well, you’re floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee and you wanna flex on every-damn-body with your presentation in tomorrow’s meeting. Justifiably, you skip a meal but you’ve pushed it to the limit and by the time you set your sights on a food, you’d pretty much eat an entire cow. Any cow. It can be a cow covered in poo, a cow with ten eyes, a cow dipped in dextrose or a cow glazed in sugar. “Get in my belly!” is all you can think.

For most of us who live in Black and Brown neighborhoods, healthy food options are few and far between.

For myself and others, getting to the “hangry” state is pretty risky business. I mean, I do my darndest to make sure “hanger” doesn’t creep up on me because I tend to make thee worst food choices when I’m famished. I’m talking a Popeyes and KFC. Why? Because their proximity is convenient (walking distance from my job). I’m ashamed but look at my situation. Let’s say I wanted to grab a fresh smoothie or a salad, right. My options are limited to fast food smoothies (a joke), fast food salads (yuck and also comical) and grocery store salad bar salads (also yucky and germy). Often times, I end up grabbing a piece of fruit to hold me over until I get home. Once I’m home, I toil over a meal for about an 1.5 hours before I eat the food my body is so desperately in need of. The willpower required to bypass all of the sweet and salty fast food-immeasurable. Honestly, sometimes I fail, even though the consequences have proven to be lethal.

See the difference in mortality rates based just on popular food items in neighborhoods in Baltimore City below.

fooddesertsfinal2

But let’s rewind, real quick. To a time when I worked in Southside Jamaica, Queens and I was in an extreme food desert. In NYC I had no car and I used my feet and Metro card to get around. In Jamaica, every store within a 10 minute walking radius of my job was either fried chicken, pizza or a dollar store. I remember my boss eating a slice of cheese pizza, cheetos and a gatorade for lunch every day and thinking to myself “How is he alive right now?”. I mean, the calories were there but the nutrients were not. “Who could survive off of that type of diet?” I asked myself. The answer is–lots of us do. We satisfy our hunger for the moment but in the long run, we’re slowly killing ourselves. In impoverished neighborhoods, there are lots of people who rely on public transportation to move about their daily lives. But who is going to hop on a bus to get food when you can walk right up to the Chinese restaurant on your block and order an egg roll, four chicken wings, french fries and a soda for $4.75. Save the bus fare and save the hike, right? That’s why I was so elated when I noticed The “Real Food Farm” parked across the street from my job today. “Real Food Farm” works toward a just and sustainable food system by improving neighborhood access to healthy food, providing experience-based education, and developing an economically viable, environmentally responsible local agriculture sector. Yep, most of their produce is grown right here in Baltimore and tended to by the hands of those who live here. They’re also stocked with produce from local farmers. I snagged some delicious watermelon from Black Dirt Farm, a black owned farm, on the Eastern Shore. Sweet! That was actually two birds with one stone because I’ve been trying to support Black-owned business when I can.

It’s wonderful to know that there are initiatives like Civic Works’ “Real Food Farm” that prioritize people who really need the access, education and opportunities. Yep, in addition to the mobile food truck, you’ve got the opportunity to take your school group for a visit to their Clifton Park farm to see how all the juicy goodness is grown right out of our Baltimore soil. Educational opportunities like this are made possible by donors and volunteers who devote their time to making healthy lifestyles a possibility for all.

The best part? The Real Food Farm accepts EBT! Yep, there’s no excuse not to grab up this healthy goodness as an alternative to all the yuck that is strewn about the neighborhood.

Oh! There are volunteer opportunities if you’re interested.

This Saturday Oct. 1st is the 14th Annual Ricky Myers Day Of Service

Join in at the Clifton Mansion to earn your $5 credit towards Real Food Farm produce! Register at civicworks.com/dayofservice.

Do you guys shop locally for your produce? Do you have your own garden? Do tell below!