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Posted under: Culture Health

These New York Gardeners Are Fighting Back With Clean Eating

These black women want better for the children in their communities.

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In many low-income communities, black people and people of color are plagued with unhealthy food options. These communities have an abundance of fast-food restaurants and convenience stores with far too much junk food that creates food deserts. This issue contributes to obesity, heart disease, type-2 diabetes and other ailments because poor people are denied healthy food alternatives. But there are some who are fighting back and taking matters into their own hands.

New Yorkers Mount Vernon school teacher Ruby Olisemeka, Frances A. Perez-Rodriguez and Sajata Epps have led the way and have worked in their community gardens to give young people more healthy food options. 

Photo: Naima Green
Photo: Naima Green

"We taught 8th graders about gardening, nutrition, cooking, and wellness after school, "Olisemeka told The Fader. "It was great but the Board of Education wanted to redo the whole entire school and demolish the garden. The 8th graders did something really incredible. They went to the board of education and petitioned. They were like, “we want our garden and you can't just demolish it.” I think all those voices together saved the garden. They did demolish the garden anyway, but they rebuild it and we are really grateful that they did."

Photo: Naima Green
Photo: Naima Green

Perez-Rodriguez has volunteered hours at La Finca Del Sur community farm in South Bronx in hopes of building community and uplifting those around.

"From the beginning of time, land has been taken away from people of color. When a person of color decides to reclaim land, when they decide to refuse to depend on the system for food that isn't even real," she said. "And decide to not give their money to disgusting food makers and businesses that do not care about my health, it's a “f**k you” to the system, and at the moment you are taking care of yourself and each other."

Photo: Naima Green
Photo: Naima Green

For Epps, farming is a place to vent. People often share how they feel about day-to-day issues like paying rent, gentrification and knowing your rights regarding food justice.

"A lot of people within this community make under $25,000 a year, so if you give them a whole bunch of McDonald's and you're not giving them healthier options at a price they can afford, then, of course, they are going to buy a hamburger for a dollar. We want the same foods as everyone else. We want the choice."

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