Growing up in South Florida, Asha Loring saw firsthand a lack of access to fresh produce like radishes and kale in her neighborhood of Overton, Miami. Her father, a professor and long-time organizer in Miami, began an urban farming organization in the 90s, so it’s not surprising that Loring grew up to start her own community gardening nonprofit, Health in the Hood, which works to combat food deserts. Through her efforts, Health and the Hood has established 10 community gardens in Southern Florida; each are managed by a local resident, providing a paid job opportunity to the neighborhood, and offer produce free of charge to the residents, as well as health education and nutrition classes. Here, Loring shares her story, some of her experiences working with Health and the Hood, and why the mission to provide access to healthy food is so important. – FoodPrint Editors
“Excuse me, can I offer you some free, locally grown collard greens?”
I’ve yet to receive a “no” this question.
Eating fresh foods is almost impossible if you live in a food desert, which is why I have spent the last six years growing food in urban areas, giving it away to families who can’t access fresh food.
Combatting Food Deserts
In 2013, I founded the community gardening nonprofit organization Health in the Hood. We built our first urban vegetable garden in Liberty City, a sprawling South Florida food dessert, best known for drug wars and drive-bys and almost no fresh ingredients. We applied for a few grants, expanded our network of urban gardens and developed our health education curriculum. Today we have 10 urban farms throughout Southern Florida and have distributed over 6,000 pounds of free fruits and vegetables to families in food deserts.
The USDA designates food deserts as areas of low income with no access to fresh food within one mile, and South Florida by this definition is home to 326 of them (for some perspective, over 23 million Americans live in food deserts). Instead of spinach and apples, the grocery stores in these communities have Chef Boyardee and hot fries, and a lack of transportation, cash and/or knowledge can both contribute and make matters even worse.
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