On Wednesday night the middle school library filled up with adults. They were neighbors, school teachers and staff, grassroots organizers, college students from up the hill, city council members, civil servants, gardeners, and hunger relief workers. They lived in, worked in, organized in, grew food in, studied, or were curious about our neighborhood’s food desert.
For me, the neighborhood acts as a collection of homes. I haven’t claimed or been claimed by these streets and schools. I’m a renter in a communal house, and therefore, by experience if not definition, impermanent. My neighbors are neighbors by proximity rather than daily contact; ours is a block of back yards, not front porches. I can come and go as I please because I have a bike, because, to me, $2 round trip bus fare is pocket change, because I can walk or run across the city and sometimes do. I haven’t thought much about our neighborhood food desert.
When we circled the cafeteria tables to talk problems and solutions, I listened. I kept notes for the group. “Imagine money is no barrier,” the activity’s organizer told us. “What would you do?” And my table mates told me. They told me not only what they would do, but what they were doing. The most inspiring part wasn’t the ideas themselves, it was that, with or without funding, so many of them were already being implemented.
Near the end, our Council rep stood up. “We can do all this,” she said, “but who will be living here to use the services?” And I could see it almost like it had already happened, because in so many neighborhoods it already has: the community-owned grocery, the parking lot farmers market, the network off urban gardens and food-share boxes, the scratch-made school lunches and community dinners, the vegetable truck with it’s tinny jingle, all the dreams and organizing and hard work, past and present, realized, and the neighborhood gone, flattened by gentrification.
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Every Wednesday, OCT 2 - DEC 18
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