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Pandemic Prompts More Black Americans to Take Up Urban Gardening to End “Food Apartheid”

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Jamie Edwards tends an urban garden that was a vacant lot in North St. Louis on Nov. 12, 2021. Edwards said she’s had to overcome escalating costs and accidental demolitions as she tries to feed the community.Wiley Price/St. Louis American

A push to resist “the violence that our people experience through the corporate-controlled food system.”

By Karen Robinson-Jacobs
Mother Jones
Nov 19, 2021


Before coronavirus shutdowns gave Mike Daniels an unexpected furlough, he hadn’t thought much about urban gardening, though he’d heard as a youngster about his great grandmother tilling the soil. Yet weeks into the pandemic, the former bowling alley attendant turned his Lawton, Oklahoma, backyard into a “mini-food forest,” feeding family and friends with zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.

More recently, he conscripted a vacant third-acre lot owned by a friend near an area defined by the US Agriculture Department as having low access to healthy food. Daniels, who is African American, said he plans to convert the plot into a community garden by next spring to fill what he sees as a “void.” “I feel like it’s necessary,” he added, excitement evident in his voice. “My plans are pretty much to feed the community.”

When the pandemic exposed gaping holes in the nation’s food safety net, community organizations, nonprofits, and the federal government scrambled to head off what loomed as a major food catastrophe. In 2020, one in four Black residents across the US experienced food insecurity—more than three times the rate for white households—according to Feeding America, the nation’s largest charitable hunger-relief organization. The USDA, which maintains a map of low-income census tracts in which there is low access to healthy food, pegged the rate of food insecurity for Black households in 2020 at 21.7 percent, more than double the national average rate of 10.5 percent.

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