Okay, the next things to explain about not teaching dirt.
Early in the semester, we had a visitor from the Mayor’s office of resiliency. He talked to my students about some of the food-goals, initiatives and related groups in Atlanta. (Resource list to follow)
We came in that day having read Wendell Berry’s “The Pleasures of Eating,” where we find the (now proverbial) phrase “eating is an agricultural act.” We also read a chapter of Eileen Schell’s in Rural Literacy, where we started to build our rhetorical toolkit for rhetorics of agriliteracy. We started there.
Our visitor explained what he sometimes describes as “the spiral,” It’s for understanding the moving parts in food sheds (urban or otherwise): Consumption, Reclamation, Manufacturing/ Distribution/ Aggregation, and Production.
These things are more complex than a circular flow chart. They must be thought of as a spiral. This is his metric, reach out to know more.
He talked through the stats on food deserts in Atlanta. It’s defined by a USDA metric that doesn’t include food sources/markets that are often strongly related to a community’s ethnic identity.
My critique is from a place of rhetoric and frustration. It is with the “rhetoric of lack.” The rhetoric of lack is a rhetoric applied to a rural area where things are thought to be lacking—education, sophistication, safety, money. Think Deliverance. That’s the stereotype fostered by a rhetoric of lack.
The phrase “food deserts” does the same thing. Implies a lack. Lack of water becomes lack of food. Lack of lush vegetation becomes lack of informed/monied, consumers. It’s not empowering to be told you live in a “food desert.” It’s not a new idea, it just isn’t very loud yet.
In my opinion, the words don’t fit the situations, and the politics of place. That’s my argument to have with the USDA (not our visitor, or the Mayor’s office). I think it’s wrong to be using metaphors that evoke naturalization in communities that don’t have high levels of food access. There’s nothing natural about not having access to food.
Moreover, desert, swamp or oasis all imply natural biosystems. And honey, there is nothing natural about a food desert/swamp/oasis. These are all the result of urban planning (or lack thereof), and capitalism. Period. We cannot naturalize poverty the way that was en vogue in the 1980’s. We know better. We need policy language that does better.
Same thing goes for “food swamp,” an area simply swamped with unhealthy choices. All the fast food you can dream of! Also not very empowering to be told you live in a “food swamp.” But “food oasis”? With a sparkly whole foods on every corner? That sounds very nice.
The focus of the visit wasn’t about “food desert literacy,” that’s just a tiny part of food literacy that matters to me. Our visitor’s mission isn’t to change the language, it’s to change the physical distance between consumers and food access—to make that space smaller. ]
Our visitor is coming back again this week to see some ideas we have for strengthening food access in Atlanta. More to come on that!
(if you are following along, or has something to add to our conversation jump in on twitter with #ATLFoodLit. Random tidbits, things that remind you of Atlanta food, food literacy, poetics of food, or any combination of things or questions)
So for a basic primer on what’s going on with food ideas, within the Atlanta system, I invite exploration of the following links!
“Welcome to AgLanta, your digital food hub for all things urban agriculture from the Mayor's Office of Resilience in the City of Atlanta. A city with a strong local food economy is a resilient city” https://www.aglanta.org/aglanta-allotments_what1/
Mayor's Office of Resilience in the City of Atlanta: https://www.atlantaga.gov/government/mayor-s-office/executive-offices/office-of-resilience
“The Common Market is a nonprofit regional food distributor with a mission to connect communities with good food from sustainable family farms. We strive to improve food security, farm viability, and community and ecological health. Currently operating in the Mid-Atlantic and Georgia, The Common Market is expanding to other U.S. regions to build a nation of vibrant regional food systems. Choose a location to become a customer, producer or to learn more about our local initiatives.” https://www.thecommonmarket.org/locations/the-common-market-georgia
USDA Map for Low Income and Low Access (national). NOTE: “This USDA website will not be updated during a lapse in federal funding. Content on this website will not be current or maintained until funding issues have been resolved.” Great.
“What if Georgians Ate Georgia Produce: $10 a week per household = $1.9 billion for state”
“Wholesome Wave Georgia believes that all Georgians should have access to fresh, wholesome and locally-grown food. By increasing the affordability of healthy, locally-grown foods, WWG makes healthy, nourishing choices accessible for Georgia’s food insecure families.” https://www.wholesomewavegeorgia.org/
“Global Growers is the only organization in Georgia that connects the agricultural talent of the local refugee community to opportunities in sustainable agriculture. Global Growers specializes in providing comprehensive agricultural support including: farmland acquisition and management, aggregation and distribution services which facilitates market access and sales for partner farmers, as well as education and technical assistance in organic fruit and vegetable production. Global Growers is an independent 501c3 nonprofit organization based in Atlanta, GA.” https://www.globalgrowers.org/farmshare/
“Home for Dinner: Abiodun Henderson, founder of Gangstas to Growers” http://www.atlantamagazine.com/tag/gangstas-to-growers/
Last but not least, THIS IS MY FAVORITE!, It’s like blueapron but Local GA food! I’m probably going to look much further into this…