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Renowned urban farmer Karen Washington coined the phrase ‘food apartheid’

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Now the Bronx-based activist says a shift of power is urgent

By Nina Lakhani
The Guardian
May 26, 2021


Moving to the Bronx in 1985 and having my own backyard for the first time. I went to the library and read gardening books, and grew my first collard greens, eggplants and tomatoes. It was the tomatoes that changed my world. I hated them growing up, they were pale and tasteless, so I was astonished that they were red and grew on a vine. I’d never tasted anything so sweet and delicious! It was so incredible, I knew I had to start growing my own food.

At the time a lot of my patients had food-related health problems – type 2 diabetes, hypertension and obesity – which led to problems like stroke, end-stage renal disease, amputations, blindness. I’d look in the kitchen and find the cookies, cake and sodas. These were people who grew up on farms, got all their food from the fields, whose parents were never sick, but had now succumbed to a food system which was killing them. The bottom line is that it’s too hard to access healthy food and too easy to get unhealthy and fast food. In this area it was mostly Puerto Ricans and southern Blacks so it was heaven for them to find a spot to grow food that they were used to growing at home, and they passed on a lot of that technique and wisdom to me.

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