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Food security, race and Charlotte’s history intersect
Social mobility part of civic discussion
Published Monday, May 27, 2019 9:16 am
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Food security and social mobility is part of an extended discussion in Charlotte.

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Historical context needs to be addressed before seeking solutions to food insecurity in Charlotte.  

Last week’s Charlotte Food & Social Mobility Summit included civic and community leaders from across the state. They gathered at the Duke Endowment to discuss numerous areas of food inequity.

“History in Charlotte does have an impact on the food system,” UNC Charlotte professor of anthropology Nicole Peterson said. “It is important to talk about where we are coming from, to understand where we can go.”

Peterson spoke on a panel titled “Understanding History to Plan for the Future” with West Boulevard Neighborhood Coalition Board Chair Rickey Hall of Seeds of Change as well as Duke University professor of public policy Robert Korstad. A Males Place founder and director Reggie Singleton moderated the conversation.

“Food, while it is one of the major drivers in our economy, it is also one of the major political drivers,” Singleton said. “Food is politics, very, very political in who grows it, who profits from it, etc.”

Peterson referenced Charlotte’s crescent and wedge, referring to differences in income as they pertain to Charlotte socioeconomic disparities. The latter represents the fiscally secure. She also touched on centuries of dispossession as it pertains to African Americans. For instance, redlining in the 1930s greatly impacted black communities.

“Banks were not allowed to give loans to these areas, and these areas tended to be African American,” Peterson said. “If you could not get a loan, you could not improve your home. You could not buy a home. You could not do anything. This was a systematic disinvestment in these areas. In the 1950, ‘60s, you have urban renewal. What gets renewed are the areas that are not invested in. We get entire communities like Brooklyn that are erased from the map. These histories are important. They are not over. We are still doing this. Gentrification is doing similar things in neighborhoods around Charlotte. This is why we still have a crescent and a wedge. This is why we still have massive inequality.”

Mecklenburg County has 216 farms spread over 11,000 acres.

“There is actually a growth of farmers who are nonwhite,” Peterson said. “They lack the support services they need to really be successful. The opportunities are there, but how do we overcome these barriers?”

Peterson touched on the significance of the evolution of farming, with the rise of urban farms in response to Charlotte’s rapid expansion. Hall is among those urban farmers.

“The Seeds of Change initiative features an urban farm to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to families in the West Boulevard corridor during farmers market sales, and the added caveat of providing work experience for youth in terms of gardening and using it as an educational platform,” Hall said in a previous interview. “The provisional opportunities, as well as the educational aspect provide for a better quality of life for the community.”
Hall’s vision with Seeds of Change is to create a co-op grocery store in an area that has not had a fixed supermarket in nearly half a century.

“There are seeds of change,” Hall said. “Over the last 30 or 40 years we’ve had several efforts to have a tradition grocery store, but have failed in those efforts, and we said, ‘we’re tired of that.’ We take the community centered approach, and the co-op model serves us best.”

The co-op would be called Three Sisters Market.

“We have three specific goals,” Hall said. “One, to provide fruit and vegetables to over 19,000 households in the West Boulevard corridor. Two, to create good paying jobs, and three, to build community wealth. This model of community self-help can be a guide for others in the crescent and wedge.”


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