La Lucha por La Comida

por Khamilah Muhammad

What is so incredibly surprising to me about racial inequality within the food system are the “benefits” given to those in need. SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) grants individuals a grand total of $200 a month per person. To those who don’t steadily rely on government assistance to acquire food, $200 a month could seem great! It’s $200 less a person has to pay out of pocket to go grocery shopping with. But to me, the true horror is the reality in which we live, where $200 does not go very far in grocery stores today. Even more so for individuals who live in food deserts. The quick access to fresh foods proves to be another monster of its own, once you calculate the cost of transportation needed to get to a fresh foods supermarket. Ron Finley mentioned in his Ted Talk, it would take “45 minutes round trip to get an apple that wasn’t impregnated by pesticides.” This is the horrifying reality of individuals that live under a 5 mile radius of our neatly polished USC Village Community.   

24th Street Elementary Garden

   Beyond the 2.5 miles radius DPS patrols, the South Los Angeles community is one of the largest food deserts in the nation. Ron Finley mentioned that the City of Los Angeles owns 26 sq miles of vacant land within this community alone. South Los Angeles is riddled with just about everything but fresh food markets. The LA Times also reported that, “En Estados Unidos, el 80 por ciento de la población vive en áreas urbanas y millones no tienen acceso a los alimentos nutritivos como son las verduras y frutas.” There is an exuberant amount of liquor and fast food stores in comparison to markets. And one can find a reliable market, prices are not that affordable, especially on a $200 per person budget for the month. Just as a side note, my family of 3 spends well over the government allotted amount on a month on groceries. It quite frankly is unsustainable for the average person living in the confines of a food desert. 

    “The food system is not broken; it’s working exactly the way it’s supposed to: as a caste system based on demographics, economics, and race.” (Karen Washington) This unfortunately is the terrifying reality many in food deserts have had to face. Knowing that people in cities such as Beverly Hills, which is under 8 miles from South Los Angeles, live an extremely different lifestyle as far as food acquisition goes. They also have to come to terms with the notion that the government, though providing some relief by means of SNAP benefits, does little else to help foster any other sustainable means of accessing fresh foods for members of food deserts. To me, this is truly where communities show their strength and resilience. By disregarding the government’s disregard for their food security, they come together and form community gardens or programs where fresh foods are made equally and conveniently available. Community programs such as L.A. Green Grounds and 24th Street Community Garden are prime examples of showing this resilience and strength. They not only feed a community, but also bring people together. They serve as a means to teach young children the importance and power that lies within growing one’s own food. It employs self sufficiency and independence, skills that can never be stripped from a person. Ron Finely says it best, “growing your own food is like printing your own money.” Before this, this was something that I never really had to ponder. To me having a small garden in my backyard meant having access to various herbs and vegetables on hand. That I didn’t have to make the 2 minute journey to my local grocery store to procure whatever crop I needed. It showed me the other side of the coin, the side in which food acquisition is truly based on demographics, economics and race. I think, personally, this blog in particular truly shifted my worldview in the context of what is going on just a few miles away from me and in our USC community. What we can do to change and petition our government to allow these individuals access to these vacant lots to better serve their communities.

Us at 24th St Community Garden
  1. https://www.ted.com/talks/ron_finley_a_guerrilla_gardener_in_south_central_la?language=en
  2. https://civileats.com/2020/07/10/op-ed-how-urban-agriculture-can-fight-racism-in-the-food-system/
  3. La agricultura urbana un brote de esperanza entre cinturones de asfalto – Los Angeles Times

4 respuestas a “La Lucha por La Comida

  1. Jared Zhao

    Hola Khamilah,
    Muy buen punto sobre la distancia entre los hogares desfavorecidas y los comestibles frescos y como los jardines abordar no solo la cuesta de comida fresca, pero también el tiempo del viaje al supermercado. También me encanta la idea de un programa que provener recursos y habilidades sostenibles además de programas más superficiales como SNAP.

  2. bethanylum

    Kamilah —
    Mi familia también gasta más de $200 cada persona cada mes para la comida. No pensamos mucho en el costo de las cosas sino compramos lo que necesitamos. Pero es importante comprender que muchas familias no tienen esta opción y los artículos y tu blog me lo recordaron.

  3. Sarah Portnoy

    Khamilah,
    Buena discusión sobre la dificultad de tener que alimentar a una familia con el $ de SNAP–sería muy difícil, como explicaste, y sobre todo sería difícil mantener una dieta saludable.
    Felicidades en tu graduación y mucha suerte!

  4. maxmoulton

    Khamilah, su descripcion sobre la injusticia y los desiertos alimetarios es bien describido y muy desafortunado. Me alegra que hay recursos a combatirlo, pero es claro que no es basta a cambiar algo realmente.

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