So, we as a country might have a slight obsession with food, and with that, a larger problem. From the strangest combinations like kimchi cupcakes to the largest portions such as a 49 oz. porterhouse, Americans take the act of sustenance to a whole new level, and for the general public, we are inundated with food options and experiences. There are blogs and books and television channels and magazines and movies and programs and so much more built solely around eating and unless you are purposefully looking, the problem remains hidden.
The trouble begins away from the dinner table, starting with the matter of food access. It’s not a simple one. We have traded seasonal variety for stagnate uniformity and built distance between where our food is grown and where it is consumed. The story of our food, from ground to table has been altered and there are large groups of people who have been overlooked.
In Jacksonville alone, there are areas of our community where it is easier to get beer and cigarettes then apples or bananas. These places are known as food deserts. Within those neighborhoods, affordable and nutritious food is hard to buy, especially without a car. In a country where food is an obsession, there shouldn’t be large populations who suffer malnutrition and easily preventable diseases because they can’t get close enough to a supermarket. In 2009, an official from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed food deserts as a primary cause of ill health in low-income areas.
And this is where the story of Dig Local begins. In 2010, two Americorp volunteers at Beaches Local Habitat wanted to start a garden for their afterschool program. With that in mind, the two women sought help from volunteers in the Atlantic Beach area. Even after the garden was built, those volunteers continued to work together as they shared a similar outlook regarding the injustice of the modern food system.
In 2011, those original volunteers officially started the not-for-profit, Dig Local, Inc.
The overarching goal is to connect people to better food. The group believes access to good nutritious food is a human right regardless of a person’s location or economic level and that community gardens, farmers markets and accessible education are sustainable routes to a future where everyone can eat better. Dig Local works to provide communities a choice when faced with the ills of the modern food system.
At the beginning of this year, Dig Local Inc and Beaches Local Food Network joined forces in order to better serve the Beaches area. They currently maintain three community gardens, including Dutton Island Garden in Atlantic Beach, Beaches Community Garden in Neptune Beach, and the Patricia Aguilar Memorial Garden in Jacksonville Beach. They also run and manage two weekly farmers markets, the Neptune Beach Green Market on Saturdays and the Atlantic Beach Mid-Week Market on Wednesdays along with a growing number of educational programs provided in partnership with community centers across the Beaches.
This is only the start. Dig Local and Beaches Local Food Network plan to be integral parts of the better food future to come, here locally, and later, across the nation. Our culture at large needs balance and all families need to be fed. Our community as a whole needs rise to the occasion and address the problem of food insecurity. What better or more communal place to start than at the table?