On any given Saturday morning or Wednesday afternoon, we can wander through the farmer’s market in our college town. Each time I do so, I am guaranteed the opportunity to select from a wealth of local and organic veggies, fruits, goat cheese, and hormone-free, grass-fed, humanely raised meat. The farmer’s market in Market Square Park has become a normative part of our community supported agriculture (CSA) and a little piece of the slow food movement in our own neighborhood.
I was struck once again by the injustice of unequal access when I listened again to this report on a food desert in L.A. It isn’t often enough that I think about food deserts. I should, though, because scarce access to a wide variety of fresh, unprocessed food isn’t just a problem for the residents of inner city Los Angeles. We can find food deserts of various kinds in most regions and many small towns, including those just beyond the geographic and cultural boundaries of our campus where Hokie nation is replaced by a fast food nation, one in which over-processed ‘food’ becomes the most affordable and easily accessible option.
Thinking about problems of access and equity in ways that don’t end up sending us into emotional paralysis (or into denial) about the social problems we face is important. Awareness should encourage us to think about both individual and/or collective action(s) we can take, of next steps–whether they seem to be big or small as we begin to move. It’s the forward movement that is important. Action, activism, positive problem-solving can so easily build community, or strengthen and reawaken and unite communities that have stopped functioning as such. Ron Finley has refused to let the status quo continue. He refused to let initial push back stop him from forward movement, from his community-empowering action, from creating the opportunity to reconnect with one of the touchstones of building community–growing food together. His activism is a reminder to me that action and collective activism trump emotional paralysis and denial every time.