Updated: Feb 26, 2019
Here are some figures for you to chew on.
The World Health Organization reports that in 2014, 27% of the world’s population was overweight.
In that same year, 29% of the world’s population was experiencing a micronutrient deficiency like iron anemia (the only deficiency which affects both industrial and developing countries.) A minority of people experiencing a micronutrient deficiency were underweight.
And another 711 million people experienced hunger every day, a figure that has now risen to 844 million (11% of the world’s population.)
Those figures are a bit like kale. It is good for you to be familiar with them, but they leave a slightly bitter taste behind unless paired with other items, such as the following more pleasant statistics.
Of the roughly 125,000 private foundations in the United States, over 13,000 of them (representing over $715 Billion in assets) currently list hunger or nutrition as a main giving interest. In 2015 alone over $740 Million was granted to organizations which work on food issues, according to the data service Foundation Search. There are helpers out there trying to make a difference.
Now that we can be hopeful about the prospect that help is on its way to combat nutrition issues, let’s figure out what to do about all of the bad news.
Reading healthline.com’s report about the types of food that provide nutrients that fix all of the types of nutritional deficiencies, a few common solutions rise above the available food solutions for deficiencies. “Eat dark leafy greens and nuts and beans.” Teaching children to expect their plate to have a rainbow of naturally produced color is a recent trend in education. It seems that we were born with the skill to pick out the chlorophylls, the carotenoids, the flavonoids and the betalains — pigments which give edible plants their color — that will produce the most nutrient-filled meals. Even our children can learn how to eat healthy, using just their eyes.
Here’s our solution: We will teach the people to grow kale, and they will prosper. [Cue the Hallelujah Chorus here.]
Well, we wish it were as simple as that. If everyone experiencing malnutrition were able to simply start consuming fresh grown food with a higher density of nutrients, then they would likely experience less diet-related health problems, both short term and long term. We believe that they would also realize economic benefits from procuring food from their residences or community gardens rather than from the nearest grocery store produce section.
Since we are not yet delivering programs acting on that principle, we cannot yet bring firsthand proof to our argument that fresh high-density nutrients grown in people’s back yards will make a significant difference in people’s economic and physical lives. Fortunately the prospect of conducting pre- and post-service surveys inspires one of our co-founders to squeal in excitement.
Nationwide Insufficient Access to Quality Nutrition
Clement Waters’ supposition is that many of these serious food-related health crises could be helped if more people in low-income situations had access to high-nutrient foods. The rural common-sense suggestion would be for more households to learn how to grow high-nutrient foods in their back yards, actually grow the food, and then serve that food to their families on the dinner table. However, urban residents probably can’t be expected to immediately make the major lifestyle changes required to follow that sequence of activities to fruition.
Specifically, people living in non-rural low-income households often work hours that do not allow for time-consuming domestic tasks like weeding, canning or cooking, much less serving and eating the food with their family. In previous generations, maybe that would be possible for more fortunate urban and suburban families. Now, fewer and fewer families are fortunate enough to be able to claim the luxury of domestic duty, no matter their location.
This solution isn’t flashy. It isn’t exciting. But we see the potential for this solution to inspire generational change that will reduce suffering for a population struggling with the effects of poverty.
One of the realities about rural living is the lack of proximity to a grocery store, and one of the little-known anomalies about rural grocery produce sections is that the majority of the fruits and vegetables for sale have been on the road significantly longer than what is stocked in urban and suburban grocery produce sections. This leads to faster spoilage, which stands in the way between a well-intentioned but overworked parent and the ideal dinner spread.
In urban and suburban areas also, residents close to grocery stores are able to coordinate healthy meals for their families much more conveniently than residents in areas which have not attracted grocery stores due to the lower retail potential of the area. The implication is true: grocery stores choose to be closer to residents with more money, which leaves low-income households, the very households more likely to experience transportation problems, farther away from community food sources.
Check out this interactive map from the USDA which highlights areas with poor access to food. Where is the nearest USDA food desert to your home?
Cultural Change Surrounding Nutrition
Clement Waters is following a path that will lead to support for neighborhoods surrounding our headquarters, which is located in a USDA food desert. Our plan of action involves first establishing a small demonstration edible garden and a larger community garden. Both plots will utilize organic farming and permaculture techniques for optimal nutritional value. Door-hangers will announce a neighborhood seed swap and compost giveaway (helped at first by other food-growing organizations) and monthly neighborhood community garden activities during the outdoor growing season. All participants will be encouraged to share about their prior knowledge of food gardening, and their favorite uses of backyard food.
During the first season of growing, Clement Waters will construct a movable commercial-grade kitchen based on a semi tractor-trailer. The “food truck” will be available to community members for neighborhood shared meals, and will be available to local business start-ups for a low, “no barrier” per-use fee. At community food events, large-scale meals will be produced on the food truck and served to those present for the celebrations of the harvest. At the same events, residents will be asked about their own successes from the season. Their volunteered information will be used in evaluating the effectiveness of Clement Waters’ outreach and involvement.
This solution isn’t flashy. It isn’t exciting. But we see the potential for this solution to inspire generational change that will reduce suffering for a population struggling with the effects of poverty. If we find that our efforts make a difference, we certainly will invite partnerships so that others can join in with our impactful celebration of homegrown food culture. We hope you’ll stay tuned as we work toward this strategic goal.