Ok, so the title might be a bit of a stretch; not all Black children in North St. Louis County are hungry. But, there are enough hungry children that should warrant the question of why? Why did so many groups have to feed North County’s children this past summer? Why do upwards of 90% of children receive free and reduced lunch? And, why are there so many food pantries (with shortages) in the region?
My intern and I began talking with residents about healthy food access yesterday and just their thoughts on food in North County in general. We visited with patrons at the North County Transit Center and the conversations were very enlightening. We discussed grocery stores, convenience stores, restaurants, fast food, affordability, use of EBT, restaurants, and general hunger overall. Everyone we spoke with lived in close enough proximity to a grocery store to either walk, ride the bus, or get a ride from a relative.
After our interviews, we visited The Link at the Hanley Metrolink Station and EarthDance Organic Farm School. While driving, we observed a grocery store in Ferguson and several smaller stores with food that contained low nutritional value. One interviewee mentioned she buys her milk from such stores but nothing else because she knows it’s junk. Another interviewee also mentioned another metro mart that will soon be up and running.
Although it seems that a lot of food is being made available in the region, I can’t help but wonder if enough is being done to end the line, so to speak? While many of these solutions seem to help, they are all short-term and in need of a group or organization to operate. Who is working to ensure residents can feed themselves by bringing in jobs that will pay sustainable wages, profit centers to offset the loss of tax revenue, and other ways to increase the budgets of the various municipalities that make up North County? Who is working on transportation infrastructure so that bus and train travel to the good jobs is feasible and practical? What would families do if the food pantries, link markets, and other not-for-profit organizations stop operating? In other words, who is working to empower our citizenry?
A Red Circle is looking at all of these issues and coming up with long-term solutions that are both system driven and profit driven; however, we cannot do this work alone. We have several opportunities for collaboration in policy and entrepreneurship. We need investors, not just donors, but groups and individuals who are willing to help revitalize North County in a manner that is equitable and purposeful.
While charity is nice; it cannot be the end solution.
…because all blood is red.