Welcome to my blog! As the coordinator of the Ingredients for Change Campaign, I am spending this year visiting 30 low-income communities throughout the USA that are actively working to create more equitable and accessible healthy food systems to combat food insecurity and disproportionately high rates of obesity and diabetes. It's my job to partner with community groups that help low-income populations gain greater accessibility to healthy food sources. I assist each group in planning a community screening of the feature documentary Food, Inc., in order to create a public engagement and action opportunity, and reach audiences "beyond the choir." The Campaign is being run by Active Voice - my organization - and Participant Media (the film's producer), and is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This blog will provide some snapshots of what I've observed , and some of the inspiring projects and people I've met. I hope you enjoy it - and please feel free to contribute and/or contact me with your questions and perspectives. Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: The views and perspectives expressed in this blog are those of Matthew Green, and do not reflect the positions of Active Voice, Participant Media, or The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Vacant Lots to Farming Plots in San Antonio's West End

From Pittsburgh I flew to San Antonio and drove straight from the airport to meet Diana Lopez. An impressive young community organizer, Lopez is only 21, but has already developed a wide breadth of environmental and food justice organizing experience in her native San Antonio. After going through most of high school with her sites on becoming an US Air Force pilot, Lopez’s trajectory changed course during a senior year economics class when her teacher detailed the many environmental health problems in the community tied to pollution from the nearby air force base.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

One Pittsburgh Mom's Drive to Feed Her Family Right

During my trip to Pittsburgh, I met Yejide KMT, a 27-year-old resident of the City’s Homewood neighborhood, mother of five, and founder of the Black Mommy Circle.  Notoriously one of the City’s most dangerous and under-resourced districts (The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that it had perennially topped the list for the most violent crime and drug offenses in the entire county), Homewood also has severe issues of poverty, and disproportionally high rates of diet-related health problems and infant mortality. “We’re not even touching the poverty line,” Yejide told me. “We can’t even jump and touch it with our fingertips.”

Friday, May 21, 2010

Food Deserts in the Rust Belt: Pittsburgh, PA - 4/13/2010

On April 13 I visited Pittsburgh, PA. The city was a longtime powerful industrial force in America, a major center of steel and iron production. The economic collapse of these industries in America that began in the 1970’s, left the city’s air much cleaner, but it’s economic health and vitality in a fragile state.

Food insecurity in paradise: Oahu - 4/5/10

In 2008, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture reported that the state – the most isolated island chain in the world, that is strangely part of the U.S. - imports 85 to 90 percent of its food. It’s a hard figure to believe, especially while taking in the view from the Kamehameha Highway, which circuitously winds along the rich coast of Oahu, past fertile farmland and lush green valleys.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Boone County, Arkansas - 3/10/2010

From St. Louis, I drove south through Missouri (or Missoura, depending on who you ask) to the Ozarks. Just across the border in Arkansas sits Boone County. A predominantly white region, Boone County is home to several KKK factions that are still present and active (I was told that a community film screening several years ago on the history of U.S. race riots got picketed by Klansmen).

Old North St. Louis - 3/9/2010

I began the week in St. Louis and met with a group called Healthy Youth Partnership. A small, relatively young coalition-based agency, they focus on policy approaches to countering the high levels of malnutrition, childhood obesity, and diabetes in the city's four poorest zip codes.

Old South Baton Rouge - 3/1/10

Today I drove from NOLA to Baton Rouge to attend a meeting in the Old South Baton Rouge neighborhood, a predominantly black, very low-income community that is nearly completely lacking in fresh food options, and whose population suffers from disproportionately high rates of obesity and diabetes. I visited a small educational garden in a lot across the street from a Black Muslim center (which, interestingly, is located in a storefront that used to be a grocery store).

Espanola, NM – 2/3/2010

After becoming very aware that I was in the jaws of death, futility trying to drive my swerving compact Hyundai rental car in a Southwestern snow storm (and realizing that I was physically unable to stop), I rented a 4WD truck and headed north to the town of Espanola, NM in Rio Arriba County. The meeting was held at the health council offices and convened by the department director. The first portion of the meeting was about forming a local food policy council. There were about 25 attendees who were mainly ranchers and farmers, as well as some health workers.

Holmes County, Mississippi - 12/15/09

Four plus hours north of New Orleans, I turned off I-55, the road running through the heart of the Mississippi Delta. I headed down rolling side roads into Holmes County, Mississippi, the poorest county, in the poorest state in the nation.

The Big Easy - 12/11/09

Finally made it to New Orleans! I got here yesterday. My taxi driver from the airport was a spirited older gentleman who's lived his whole life in the Lower 9th (minus a 2 year absence following Katrina). We were talking about the Deep South, and he remarked: "This here's the butter biscuit bottom. You get any farther south and you'll be in Mexico."