A silver bullet for local agriculture and food deserts

This April, Duke Durham Hunger Alliance and Duke Democrats cohosted the Oasis Banquet: Finding Solutions to Durham’s Food Deserts.  We heard from Wendy Noel, manager at TROSA Grocery, one of the only fresh produce options in Northeast Central Durham — as a frame of reference, its closest competitor, a supermarket called Los Primos just under a mile away, had its employees found guilty of Organized Retail Theft for stealing from Food Lion and reselling at their store.

TROSA provides an incredibly important service to the community, by providing a place where its’ neighbors can purchase produce, and other daily groceries like milk, eggs, cereal, bread, meat and rice, providing an enormously important alternative to convenience stores and fast-food.

What did Wendy Noel identify as one of the biggest challenges?  Distribution.  Because of their relatively small size, they have to pay for a distributer that charges much much more than larger grocery-store distributors.  It’s perverse that food prices are higher precisely for those who can least afford it.

At the same time, just a few miles away, the Durham Farmer’s market has to turn farmers away due to space constraints.  We have tons of local farmers, but there’s no simple way to move that produce from those who have it and those who need it.  Farmer’s markets and CSAs are basically the only distribution mechanisms organic farmers have.

What if there was some better way?  

Cory Adkins, Duke 2013, is working on an incredibly important pilot project in Charleston, South Carolina called GrowFood Carolina.  GrowFood Carolina is a project to empower local farmers and to reduce the environmental and economic waste associated with our broken food distribution system.   It would create the physical infrastructure (warehousing and distribution functions) to link local farmers to regional markets. Grocers and restaurants would have an easier way to source local produce, and local/organic farmers could spend more time producing nourishing food, instead of using their resourcing on marketing/selling what they grow.

I’d encourage you to vote for GrowFood Carolina in Chase Community Giving.  By voting for GrowFood Carolina you help support:

1) Rural communities and economies in the Carolina

2) An innovative solution to help close food deserts

3) a Duke student

4) The global and local environment

For more about the project, check out the Coastal Conservation League website.

Published by Elena Botella

Elena Botella is a Duke Undergraduate in the Class of 2013, majoring in Economics and Math.

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