From Fast Food to Food Forests
(some thoughts in response to ‘Gutted’ – headline article in the Doncaster Free Press 9/5/13)
Small wonder that Doncaster is the ‘fat capital’ of Britain (Doncaster Free Press’s Description, not mine) when you look at the state of our high streets. It sometimes appears as if the only viable businesses in our towns and villages are fast food joints and hairdressers… in fact I’m waiting for an entrepreneurial genius to open a place called ‘Kebab Kutz’ where you can eat a doner and fries whilst getting a short back and sides. I haven’t got anything against hairdressers (come to think of it I could do with a good trim), or even a little indulgence every now and then, but this infestation of grease gourmets is a recipe for disaster.
In a recent TED talk Ron Finley said: “I live in a food desert, South Central Los Angeles, home of the drive-thru and the drive-by. Funny thing is, the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys. People are dying from curable diseases in South Central Los Angeles. For instance, the obesity rate in my neighborhood is five times higher than, say, Beverly Hills, which is probably eight, 10 miles away.”
Coincidentally obesity rates in Doncaster are five times higher than the UK average and despite being a semi-rural area most Doncaster neighbourhoods are also ‘food deserts’ where it’s easier to buy pizzas than potatoes (unless they’ve been skinned, cut-up and deep-fried of course).
The good news is that Doncaster has so far managed to avoid the ‘drive-bys’. The *really* good news is that Ron did something about the food deserts of South Central LA… “I got tired of seeing this happening. And I was wondering, how would you feel if you had no access to healthy food, if every time you walk out your door you see the ill effects that the present food system has on your neighborhood? … This has to stop. So I figured that the problem is the solution. Food is the problem and food is the solution … So what I did, I planted a food forest in front of my house.” And we can do something about the problem here too. In fact a growing number of green fingered, guerrilla gardeners already are…
Ron’s band of food foresters, ‘LA Green Grounds’ (lagreengrounds.org), was one of the main inspirations behind a grass-roots (no pun intended) group of volunteers called Doncaster Urban Growers (DUG). We plant edible and useful plants around Doncaster, both in members’ gardens and on unused plots (often tidying up unsightly ‘waste-ground’). Our most recent project was to start planting an Apothecary (food, herb and medicinal plants) Garden at the front of Church View (the former art college behind the Minster opposite Tesco’s car park).
We made a cracking start last Thursday (May 23rd)and will be there again this Thursday (6pm on Thursday 30th May) as part of the Doncaster New Fringe Showdown Exhibition party. Why not join us? Bring whatever tools, talent, seeds and jokes you may have (along with food and drink for the party of course!). But don’t worry if you’re new to growing, DUG’s diggers will teach you a thing or two…
Not only will you learn how to grow healthy produce whilst brightening up Doncaster’s environment, you’ll also find out how growing your own food can save you money. In fact it can even provide some additional income; as Ron says: “When one dollar’s worth of green beans will give you 75 dollars’ worth of produce … growing your own food is like printing your own money.” What’s more you can even get your kids to eat their greens!.. “You’d be surprised how kids are affected by this. Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do … If kids grow kale, kids eat kale.”
And if you have a patch of land you’d like to plant-up then you can contact DUG via their blog at thedug.wordpress.com. Let’s turn every food desert into a food forest!