Food Insecurity & the Edible Landscape

I saw on the news this morning that Americans waste 40% of their food each year. That’s a lot. Now think of this: as of 2017 (according to Feeding America) 41 million people in the Untied States were dealing with food insecurity. That’s 12.3% of households or 1 in 8 families. Yet we’re throwing food away at an alarming rate. 

It seems like there should be more effective ways to deal with this. I had a thought— which I’m sure many others have thought of before me— why don’t we spend less money & effort growing manicured lawns and spend a bit of effort planting vegetables and fruit in our yards? While many of us have small vegetable gardens, or grow herbs & such, these are only a small fraction of our yard space. We could all be so much more independent and helpful to our neighbors if we used the bulk of our ‘lawn space’ to grow food instead. Think about that for a minute.

You say that not everyone can do this. You’re right. Some folks have physical limitations and can’t do it. So if you’re their neighbor can you help them? Or can you share with them in exchange for something else? Maybe a group of neighbors can get together and all help with planting and weeding, etc, and then all share in the bounty. Now think about that. You can imagine any amount of various scenarios that would work right in your own neighborhood.

For every roadblock or limitation there is a way to work around it or overcome it.

Apartment dwellers. Do you have a porch? Or a communal yard space? You can grow vegetables in pots. Or on rooftops. No land, no space? What if cities and towns set aside parcels of land for folks to have communal gardens? Or along sidewalks? In front of businesses?

In my mind’s eye I can picture all of this in place. I can see people helping each other and interacting, building friendships. Real people dealing with each other in real time. People outside working side by side without having their faces bent into their cellphones. I miss seeing people actually looking at each other and having conversations.

I’m a bit old school. I remember life before cell phones. I remember the phones attached to the wall with a limited amount of cord coming out of them. You had to get up and run to the other room to answer it. When your parents wanted you to come home they yelled for you out the window or called your friend’s mother.  The point being that people interacted more and knew how to have actual relationships. I miss seeing that when I drive through a neighborhood. So what if we began building our human relationships again? Beginning with growing food is an obvious choice. People would compare notes on growing techniques, swap plants and food overabundance with each other. We would be doing something proactive about our food insecurity. My theory is this: if we spend time & effort growing some of our food we will appreciate that food more and waste less. All while growing our relationships and strengthening our society. Instead of reminiscing about the ‘good old days’ we could be living them! 

I watched a Ted talk a few years ago and it has stuck with me ever since. It’s the inspiration which allows me to envision the bounty in each yard and public space that I pass. Given by Pam Warhurst from England (https://www.ted.com/talks/pam_warhurst_how_we_can_eat_our_landscapes#t-765782 ) it  showed me how they made this work in England. A simple group of volunteers made such wonderful things happen. It made incredibly perfect sense. There were places everywhere where people grew vegetable plants in front of businesses, by the sidewalk, and anyone walking by was free to weed around them and take a share in the harvest if they wished. This is the kind of community I’d like to see. How awesome would it be to finally read a news report that showed us our efforts had eliminated hunger in America?

We have the power and we CAN.

We live in a world where we feel powerless every time we watch the news. The latest political outrage, mass shooting, drugs, disasters, etc. We can make a difference in our world in spite of all this. We can teach the next generation that changes can be made by individuals. We can show that when those individuals come together they are a very powerful force for good. We can all learn about this and be on the same page. We can come together and just do it. Talking about things and then letting them fade away is not the answer. The most powerful phrase that Pam used in her Ted talk, “we are all part of the solution” should inspire each and every one of us to do something. Watch the video and see if it inspires you.    👩🏻‍💻