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Navigating Food Apartheids

April 25, 2024

The term “apartheid” derives from the French phrase “mettre à part,” which was used to describe the racial separation that occurred in South Africa from the 1940s to the 1990s. Though today we don’t have blatant methods like the apartheid in place to segregate different races and ethnicities, there are economic mechanisms that are still in place that further the economic inequality of Black people. A Food Apartheid signifies the underlying factors contributing to the absence of nutritious food in low-income communities. In this fashion, the term “apartheid” represents economic disparities manipulated to separate the races rather than explicit separation. 

Research suggests that approximately 20 percent of Black households reside in food deserts. However, food deserts do not only have limited quality food. They are also likely to have poor transportation, inadequate education systems, unemployment, and a risk to public safety. Given the majority of people of color reside in these communities, they face an inherent disadvantage compared to their white counterparts.

While food deserts have become a hot-button issue, we’ve created a comprehensive guide to combat the lack of nutritious foods. Scroll ahead to read Afropunk’s seven tips on navigating a food desert. 

Find a quality grocery store or supermarket to go to occasionally and stock up on frozen and dried produce that can last several months in your freezer. 

Since traveling long distances to healthy grocery stores can be burdensome, consider stocking up on fresh produce and meats and storing them in your freezer. This way, you can have ingredients on hand to cook over the next few months instead of relying on weekly or bi-weekly trips.

Plan your trips in advance. Arrange for dependable transportation and enlist someone to help you gather and unload your items.

To lighten the load, invest time into planning these crucial grocery store trips. Considering you are shopping for months, and not weeks you will surely need a helping hand. During the planning process ensure that you have reliable transportation and assistance when handling the goods. 

Find a Farmers Market or Co-op near you, pay an upfront membership fee, and receive a basket of fruits and veggies the farmers grow each month. 

Farmer’s markets are a great option to purchase affordable and fresh fruit and vegetables. Many of them offer membership plans to ensure you receive a certain amount of produce each month; this allows you to forgo the worry of ensuring you have enough because you automatically receive a package each month without thinking about it. 

Opt for saving seeds

Food apartheid’s aren’t just about geography, but also the environmental racism that also comes with living in underprivileged neighborhoods. While the trips to the grocery store may be few and far in between, you can save your seeds from your fresh produce to harvest more of your favorite fruits and vegetables. With reusing plastic or styrofoam containers and a little bit of soil and water,  you can create a never ending supply of fruits and vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, and green onions.

Try meal and grocery delivery services.

While it may be the priciest choice among these options, ordering groceries and for delivery from distant neighborhoods can alleviate the stress of hauling them home yourself. Additionally, it offers the convenience of communicating with the shopper, suggesting replacements, and requesting specific brands, simulating the experience of being in the store yourself.

Seek Out Local Food Banks

Utilize area food banks as a supplementary resource. Many local food banks collaborate with organizations like Feeding America to operate mobile food pantries, reaching rural communities. Catholic Charities is also recognized for its efforts in this area, running mobile food pantries to assist underserved populations in rural regions. For example, the Central Texas Food Bank implements a Fresh Food program, distributing boxes of fresh produce monthly at different locations, including rural areas, often in partnership with local churches. To learn if your local food bank offers a similar initiative, reach out to them directly.

Find Smaller, Community Efforts

While urban areas may boast access to food pantries and banks, grassroots initiatives are emerging worldwide to address the growing challenge of food deserts. In these locales, community members are establishing community fridges and pantries, providing free access to nutritious foods for those in need.