According to the CDC, “food deserts” are areas that “lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk, and other foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet.” If this seems like an alien concept in overfed America, consider the recent Shreveport Times article that estimated 1/3 of Shreveporters to be living in a food desert. (Do yourself a favor, though, and don’t read the comments on that link–especially if you’re sensitive to racism, classism, and general douche-ism.)
Living on a low income in a car-dependent city like Shreveport makes it hard to get to a decent grocery store. Even if you make it to the store, higher-quality food means a higher price (though there are exceptions), and many people don’t have the culinary knowledge to prepare fresh produce, beans, or meat in a nutritionally sound way. This may be a moot point, though, as many grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods have abysmal selections of healthy food–the fresh, less-processed items located on the perimeter of the store. Until Steve Casey deploys a fleet of his Peace Prize-worthy Fresh Moves buses to the South, food deserts are here to stay. In a small community like ours, it’s likely that you regularly interact with someone who lives in a food desert–or that you live in one yourself.
Like it or not, food is political. It’s polarizing, but it also has the power to bring us together and equalize us. If you have a psych background, you know that Abraham Maslow put food at the base of our hierarchy of needs. It’s what we need before we can go on to solve even our most rudimentary problems. Strip our culture out of its man-made, 21st-century trappings, and our day-to-day goals are exactly the same as any other animal’s. Find food. Stay healthy. Keep going.
If you haven’t yet heard of Slow Food North Louisiana (or, on a larger scale, the global slow food movement), consider participating in their upcoming $5 Meal Challenge. The premise is simple: prepare a tasty, nutritious meal that can serve a family of 4 or more for $5 or less per person. Bring the dish and your grocery receipt to Camp Forbing on September 17 at noon. “Challenge the popular belief that it is more expensive and more time consuming to eat food that is good, clean and healthy than food that is fast and processed.”
More information here: http://www.slowfoodnla.com/event
How about another great equalizer? Beer! I’m not sure what it is about fermented, fragrant, wheat-based drinks that seems to turn enemies into friends, but there it is. The world could use more friends. Shreveport Brew, our fair city’s annual beer-tasting extravaganza, is coming up on October 15. Tickets are already on sale, and a sellout is anticipated. Drinking on an empty stomach, however, is not recommended. With that in mind, several local restaurants will be on hand, dishing out sample-sized portions of some of their best-loved dishes to sop up all of that hoppy goodness. A $50 ticket gives you full run of the beer and food. Best of all, no kids allowed! This is a major selling point for me. Not that I’m some kind of evil kid-hater, of course, but sometimes people don’t exercise very good judgment when it comes to appropriate nights out with the ankle-biters. That’s all I’m saying about that.