Wednesday, April 06, 2011
The Philadelphia Experiment
"I ain't talkin bout chicken and gravy mang"
My homie Drew Lazor wrote a piece in a recent Grid issue (which is not available online yet) profiling "The Minimalist," Mark Bittman. In the interview, Bittman revealed (to me at least), that he was about to move from writing about cooking to writing about food politics. In his new role, and possibly as a result of his conversation with Drew or perusal of the Grid "Food Issue" that contained his interview, he developed an awareness of Philly's attempts to improve access to healthy food. His most recent entry is a glowing recounting of Philadelphia's nascent efforts to localize its food systems and discourage economic discrimination that is manifested by food-related health consequences.
As most know, Philadelphia has large swaths of concentrated poverty, even after decades of relatively impressive and innovative experiments with mixed income housing, transitional housing and public housing redevelopment. Most of these areas are defined by their relatively poor access to jobs, services and goods, including healthy food, which generally costs more than processed food. This arrangement is not a coincidence - decades of neglectful and racially or economically discriminatory policies by business and municipalities combined with market forces that created "food deserts."
Over the last several years, working a sort of consigliere to my fiancee's career efforts in community garden organizing, urban agriculture and sustainable food systems, I have gained an appreciation for the momentum this movement has in Philadelphia, and it's nice to see recognition from a national news outlet.
All in all, there have been some great accomplishments that I have personally witnessed, big and small. I've helped build two gardens, one of which is a community farm where young men and women from West Philly learn about food systems and business skills. Mainly through these efforts, and meeting my fiancee's acquaintances in this field, I have met a lot of people from a broad range of backgrounds who have come together because they care about food with an intensity equivalent to its importance in each of our daily lives. Alex Mulcahy, publisher of Grid, deserves a lot of credit for creating a well-produced publication that has communicated much of what I already knew to a broad audience.
I could list the accomplishments of the fine Philadelphians in this field in this space - new supermarkets deep in the ghetto, farms and farmstands and green roofs - but instead, I'll just direct you to some choice links at the bottom and let you explore some of what's going on in the 215.
Mark Bittman "Better Food in Philadelphia"
Farm to Philly
Philadelphia Orchard Project
The Food Trust