Atlanta, Georgia, known for being one of the major cities at the center of the civil rights movement during the 1960s, has in recent years taken on another social justice fight: combatting food deserts.
The urban food forest at Browns Mill Road in southeast Atlanta is an initiative taken on by the city of Atlanta to improve food access and to eliminate food deserts in the impoverished communities in the city. The 7.1 acres of land, which is located in an area identified as a food desert, provides free food, including fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and nuts to feed families who otherwise do not have access to these resources.
The urban food forest, which is the largest of its kind in the U.S., has the support of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Forest Service’s Community Forest Program (who has given them a grant to fund the project), a long list of community partners, and area schools, to ensure the forest operates efficiently and adequately services the families in the Browns Mill, Lakewood, and surrounding communities in southeast Atlanta. The site was formerly a working farm as recently as the year 2000.
Soisette Lumpkin, head of the Friends of the Urban Food Forest at Browns Mill explains that the communities that the forest is targeted to service are Browns Mill, Lakewood, Thomasville, Norwood Manor, Heritage Valley, and the whole southeast side of Atlanta. Community partners also include the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Conservation Fund, the United States Forest Service, the Georgia Forestry Commission, Trees Atlanta, and the Georgia Food Oasis.
“A desert community is a community that has no fresh vegetables or healthy foods within walking distance,” Lumpkin explains. “That’s what we are trying to do, decrease health disparity and provide healthy food.”
The Friends of the Urban Food Forest at Browns Mill help protect and maintain the beauty of the forest as well as raise money and solicit grants to fund programs for the forest with the help from the city, community partners, churches, and schools.
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