Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Paul Quinn's Answer to the Challenge of Food Deserts

I've got a scheduling conflict today, so I'll miss something that I think is pretty meaningful: the celebration of Paul Quinn College's urban garden.

The post in the Dallas Morning News' Southern Dallas blog says, "Perhaps the largest one I've come across is the one that will be officially inaugurated at noon tomorrow at Paul Quinn College, 3837 Simpson Stuart Road. The school has partnered with PepsiCo to transform its former football field not just into a garden, but into an urban farm. PQC President Michael Sorrell says the effort includes teaching "the principles of biology, botany and social enterprise.""

"President Sorrell is using the first planting tomorrow to emphasize the fact that the campus -- like many neighborhoods in southern Dallas -- sits in a "food desert," where finding a grocery store that carries decent basic produce means a long drive. This, despite the fact that the campus is only eight minutes from downtown."

"Urban farms and community gardens may sound like do-gooder "happy talk," but the momentum building around them shows that these simple projects are having a variety of payoffs -- from better nutrition to cross-generational and cross-racial bridge-building."

Michael Sorrell is to be commended for this innovative use of campus property. I like football as much as the next guy - maybe more. But I lived in that area for several years. The one food mart (I hesitate to call it a grocery store) that was in the immediate area closed a couple of years ago. The nearest full grocer is better than five miles away. Not a great distance, but it is the only one within more than another 5 miles or more. When you have that kind of lack of competition you know what you get? Limited choices. And while there are a number of low income residents in the area, it is not low income by definition. There are any number of middle income, middle class residents in that area and Paul Quinn is just a few miles from the University of North Texas Dallas campus. An entire area literally served by essentially one grocery store. The fresh fruits and vegetables will be welcome by students, parents and homeowners from miles around.

Sorry to miss tomorrow Michael, but still another reason to be proud of you and PQC! Keep up the good work!

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