Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Food desert

A food desert is any area where it's difficult to get healthy food. In the case of Baltimore it's being defined as "an area where the distance to a supermarket is more than 1/4 mile, the median household income is at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level, over 40% of households have no vehicle available, and the average Healthy Food Availability Index score for supermarkets, convenience and corner stores is low". That last bit means the stores where the most nutritious thing they sell are the lotto tickets.

This definition includes most of Baltimore.
Red means Cheeto Casseroles for supper. (source)
A local newspaper is having a contest to come up with proposals to do something about this. They've already got a program where you can order your food and it'll be brought to your local library where you can pick it up. And while that did a bit, it doesn't really help if they're closing libraries.

So Yummy has a plan. She's working on a proposal to enhance Baltimore's edible plants. This means finding what already exists and building it up a bit, and finding open areas that can have edible stuff introduced.

For the proposal we picked a small neighborhood (i.e. one we could easily walk) and plan to virtually develop it. Sunday we went out and walked her chosen neighborhood. We had maps printed out and we'd already found some promising lots from satellite shots. As we walked we located unused sidewalk cutouts, small empty lots, visited our bigger lots, and wrote down the stuff we saw that could be eaten. We also took pictures of things to try to identify later. The season is early still so some stuff was just now blooming. This did make identification tricky. But dandelions are out, as are wild onions, skunk cabbage, and some stuff that may or may not be clover. It's not yellow sorrel which is what most people call clover.

One of the large lots had a bunch of people in it. We'd been thinking an orchard would go there, but they're clearly using it. Baltimore is full of empty lots. Some are cared for, others less so, some are buildings that look to be a stiff wind from becoming an empty lot. Very few are being used. But this one lot was full of people just visiting. Around the edge were scattered old chairs for people to sit on. They even had a permanent horseshoe pit in place. We talked to them and found that they had plans to paint the wall of a building next to the lot and show movies on it as well as getting some playground equipment.

Across the alley was a heavily overgrown rubbish pit. This lot I like. Once we pick out the bottles and clear the thorny plants it looks like it would be a fantastic place for raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry bushes. And, while we're at it, maybe a grill and table.

Other things we're looking for and looking to plant:
Chicory
Mulberries
Plums
Crabapples
Persimmons
Honeysuckle
Apples
Pears
(your idea here)

And we'll need signs indicating what they are and how to prepare them.

Here's the neighborhood.
Blue marks the neighborhood, green, the open spaces, red is something we had marked on our map and skipped. Most of the blue and green markers are sidewalk cutouts. I need to finish placing those, but the map starts fighting me and putting them in the wrong places. The blue marker near the bottom is where someone has a rooster and some fancy pigeons.

View foraging in a larger map

1 comment:

amj523 said...

http://www.takepart.com/article/2012/02/21/its-not-fairytale-seattle-build-nations-first-food-forest