Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Don't tell me poor people don't want access to QUALITY food, fruits, and vegetables!

I live on the south side of Chicago in a veritable food desert--except for Wednesdays from 7am-2pm. This Wednesday I was able to secure the treasures in the picture to the left!

While the Church’s, Harold’s, Dunkin Donuts, Starbuck’s, McDonald’s, Burger King’s, and Subways are in abundance, there are very few healthful options.

In my neighborhood, there are two grocery stores: Dominick’s and Aldi’s. No Trader Joes or Whole Foods or other affordable, QUALITY alternative for those who are trying to steer clear of processed or genetically modified foods. (Whole Foods is not affordable for many but it is a more healthful option.)

On my way home from visiting my family in the super-resourced Oak Park community (Trader Joes and Whole Foods are within blocks of each other), I decided I needed some fresh produce and had resigned myself to stopping at Dominick’s to get some grapes, bell peppers, and greens. However, as I was driving down 71st Street I experienced a “hallelujah” moment! The Farmer’s Market was open!!!! I knew there were a few farmer’s markets operating in Chicago near where I lived but I must admit, I was skeptical about this one. It was on the South Side, which really isn’t a big deal but I thought I would be short-changed because of society’s beliefs that poor people don’t or won’t frequent farmer’s markets. I was pleasantly surprised not only at the quality, but the abundance of the produce offered. Many types of greens, red and green tomatoes, peppers, turnips, squash, pumpkins, corn, and apples were among the pickings for this Wednesday’s market.

And for those of you who think that people with limited incomes PREFER to spend their hard-earned money on fast, processed, food, it’s time for you to think again. I have fast, hard, empirical, [ok more like anecdotal] EVIDENCE that this is NOT the case.

1) A woman nearly elbowed me because I was reaching for the last two broccoli stalks. Turns out she was going for the turnip greens right in front of the broccoli. Whew! That was close. (NOTE: the greens in the photo are NOT turnip greens. But, they were purchased, picked, cleaned and immediately cooked from today's treasures [picture above].)

2) A person parked so close to me [in an attempt to get the LAST parking spot in the lot] that I had to literally SQUEEZE into my car. Benefit to loosing the weight—at least I had less to squeeze in and could actually get in my car! Otherwise, there would have been a problem.

Lesson: DO NOT get between an older, African-American woman and her greens—especially at the farmer’s market where once things run out, that’s it. She will take you out if she has to because she has a PLAN for those greens—the smoked turkey meat (now, I know its probably fat back or ham hocks but I can wish and pray, right?) is probably already simmering and seasoning the pot licker on her stove.

I LOVED that this market was CROWDED with folks. It let’s me know that folks are NOT content with the food choices that were just down the street—Harold’s, Shark’s Fried Fish, Baba’s Steaks and Fries, etc.

And that gives me hope.

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