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We have embarked on a journey to reduce food insecurity in African-American households in Memphis, where food insecurity is more than double that of white families, and food sovereignty to reduce reliance on the dominant food system.  We will focus on the most effective actions to build a sustainable local food system that provides access to healthy, nutritious, culturally appropriate food for low to moderate-income Black Memphians and demonstrate and teach those actions. 

In 2019, the Met the Meal Gap report by Feeding America, a national hunger-relief organization, showed that 140,940 residents of Shelby County, including Memphis, were food insecure in 2018. Meaning about 15 percent of the population faced "lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. In addition, feeding for America estimates that the pandemic increased food insecurity 4.3 percentage points. 

Persons with disabilities, Blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians are among the most food insecure. Food insecurity in these groups tends to be 50 percent greater than food insecurity of Whites. African-American households face hunger at two times the rate of white, non-Hispanic households.  Food insecurity is linked to adverse outcomes, such as inadequate diet, poor physical and mental health, challenges to cognitive development, and noncommunicable diseases in adulthood. This project develops solutions to food insecurity and ultimately addresses the adverse outcomes Blacks face. While this project emphasizes serving the Black community, other marginalized groups will benefit from developing and testing evidence-based solutions. The concept of intersectionality teaches us that people's overlapping identities and experiences cannot be ignored. Thus, while we serve the Black community, we also serve people with disabilities and other underserved and marginalized communities.

This project will directly or indirectly impact 423,000 Black Memphians, particularly those living in the marginalized areas of North and South Memphis and the 25% living at or below the poverty level. They will be on a journey to achieve food justice. They begin exercising their right to grow, sell, and eat healthy, fresh, nutritious, affordable, and culturally appropriate food.   Food grown locally with care for the land and the well-being and safety of those involved in the local food system includes all processes and labor involved in keeping them fed.

We will address disparities in food access, specifically for communities of color and low-income communities, by examining the structural roots of our food system. Because this project has many layers, we will wrestle with intertwined questions of land ownership, agricultural practices, distribution of technology and resources, workers' rights, the historical injustices communities of color have faced, and environmental justice.

Our journey to food justice and food sovereignty has three legs. Leg One involves planting, nurturing, and harvesting church gardens. Leg Two combines the fruits of Leg One with other products to establish a traveling farmers market. Finally, Leg Three builds on the previous two, exploring the potential to develop a community-owned grocery.  The leaders and members of Black churches will lead each leg, acting and teaching the social, economic, health, and environmental aspects along the journey.

Our project will build community by addressing the three main elements of food insecurity and the right to food: availability, contributing to long-term sustainability; adequacy, providing food that is nutritious and culturally appropriate; and accessibility, requiring that our economic systems make it possible for everyone to afford food without compromising their other basic needs. Improving access to food results in wide-ranging positive impacts, including economic growth, job creation, and poverty reduction. Our focus on locally grown and distributed food will build the local economy as money circulates to farmers and businesses in the area. And it will help build relationships among people, making our community a more robust and healthier place to live.  We also recognize the importance of community participation and will leverage how social networks contribute to a community's health and well-being.


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