A food desert is loosely defined as a district where residents have little or no access to supermarkets and nutritious food. The term has been around since the 1990s, but only recently has it become a buzzword, showing up in Michelle Obama’s campaign to end child obesity, and Senator Steve Cohen’s bill to bring supermarkets to underserved areas.
South Memphis is home to one of the city’s food deserts. Now, as part of the recently passed South Memphis Revitalization Action Plan (SoMe RAP), South Memphis will have its own farmers market — a positive step towards eliminating food deserts in Memphis.
In September of 2008, St. Andrew AME Church convened a group of local groups and residents called the South Memphis Renaissance Collaborative. The nearly 75 people in attendance quickly determined the need for and interest in a comprehensive South Memphis Revitalization Action Project. The first step was to analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (known as a SWOT analysis) in the neighborhood. The discussion immediately turned to food-related problems; namely, the lack of access to high quality, low-cost food, especially fruits and vegetables.
“People felt that that was connected to a rather serious problem with diet in the neighborhood,” says Kenneth Reardon, member of the South Memphis Farmers Market Advisory Committee and Professor and Director of the U of M Graduate Program in City and Regional Planning. “And that this, in fact, left increasing numbers of residents, especially young children, in a position of eating a lot of processed foods, and over time developing conditions of obesity. And they felt that it was affecting all kinds of other issues, including the skyrocketing of juvenile diabetes. People felt that it was really important to do whatever we could to try to actually bring fresh fruits and vegetables to the neighborhood, and in the long run bring a supermarket.”
They are still solidifying their vendor list, but Reardon says they already have some interested parties, including the Richardson Vegetable Farm, the Ly Vu Family farm, and members of a coalition of African-American farmers, the Southern Cooperative, in Jackson, Tennessee. There will be ten booths, at a cost of $20 a market, or a reduced rate of $18 a market for the entire summer.
The South Memphis Farmers Market opens officially on July 15th and will operate on Thursdays from 2 to 6 pm at the corner of South Parkway East and Mississippi Boulevard (formerly Carter’s Fish Market.)
For more information, contact Curtis Thomas, 946-9675.
Read more on how Memphians are addressing food deserts in next week's Food News.