Kristine: Urban Investigations in Food Security

Upon doing research on accessibility and affordability of food in my community in Greenpoint, a neighborhood in Northwest Brooklyn, I made some pretty amazing discoveries. When I walk through the streets, I always sense the feeling of a tight knit community, but I had no idea how fantastic it is until most recently. Restoring my faith in humanity, the Greenpoint Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen is certainly at the top of my list, located at the Greenpoint Reformed Church on 136 Milton Street. They turn their sanctuary into a food pantry onThursdays and distribute groceries from the church from 8am-11am. On Wednesdays, they offer a free meal, with a sign that reads, “Everyone welcome, Fast food Greenpoint Church style: from the garden to the community meal plate in under 30 minutes!”. To my amazement, this wonderful group of volunteers manage to feed hundreds of hungry people every week. They have set up a remarkable garden run by volunteers to feed anyone in need of a nutritious meal. There is a large assortment of members from the community that are involved. Below is a picture of a sign made by the first graders, displaying their involvement.

Kristine

They are not alone in this community venture; in fact, it is all part of an organization named The Greenpoint Interfaith Food Team (GIFT). The members currently involved are the Congregation Ahavas Israel, aka the Greenpoint Shul, the Greenpoint Reformed Church, and the Greenpoint Islamic Center. Their purpose is to act as a community based effort to alleviate hunger in the community. The Greenpoint Shul also has a community garden that provides food on a weekly basis to the soup kitchen run by GIFT at the Greenpoint Reformed Church. All faiths aside, they encourage everyone and anyone to get involved, simply as a gesture of human awareness and kindness.

Aside from the amazing efforts for the homeless and hungry, there are also several convenient places for the health and earth conscious individuals. For example, The Garden Market, which is a small grocery store that sells a large variety of organic food from various local farms, including produce, dairy, eggs and bread. And down the street from them, Natural Garden is a market that seems to see the competitive benefits of selling organic food. They have recently put up a sign in front of their market that announces regularly the new organic items they are carrying. Both stores are affordable and accessible to anyone in the area that wants fresh organic, local food as well as a large selection of eco-friendly soaps and cleaning products.

For those that prefer to get their food directly from the farmers, that has conveniently become completely accessible. There are plenty of options, including the Eagle Street Farms, which is a rooftop farm in Greenpoint that covers 6,000 square feet of organic vegetables. They sell onsite as well as provide to local restaurants, to whom they deliver the produce by way of bicycle. And McGorlick Park’s Down To Earth Farmers Market, is an incredible farmers market that is expanding quickly due to its popularity. In the center of a beautiful park, tents go up on Sundays to provide local goods from upstate, nearby Pennsylvania, New Jersey and local urban farms. It caters to just about all members of the Greenpoint Community and can get quite busy from the time they begin at 11am until closing time at 4pm. There you will see everyone from families with children to elderly couples as well as younger individuals that count on the market for their weekly grocery shopping. The market offers composting, clothing and used material recycling and a wealth of knowledge about the food, the farms and practices of sustainability.

McGorlick Park Farmers Market

Kristine 2

Alongside McCarren Park on the border of Greenpoint and Williamsburg is the Greenpoint / McCarren Park Greenmarket. They set up their market on Saturdays from 8am until 3pm on a tree lined street in a high foot traffic area. This market is incredibly busy due to its prime location and its long list of local food suppliers. They have live music by local artists, offer recipes, cooking demonstrations as well as other family activities. This market really is a local weekly event that any member of the community can enjoy.

And for the occasions that you want to eat a meal out, there are now several restaurants that have chosen to use organic, local food for their menus. This includes a great quality Italian restaurant, Fornino, that gets their produce from the local urban farms; the flour for their pizza is fully organic and the meat is local. A few of the cheeses are imported, but with the local farms providing high quality cheeses, this could change. Another local dining spot is a very affordable Korean place, called Little Dokebi. They are all about quality there and get their produce and meats from local farms as well. The list of organic restaurants in my neighborhood is increasing at a rapid pace, as whenever I am searching for a place to meet with friends, it has become increasingly easier to meet my standards of local organic foods. Everything from healthy organic brunch spots to late dinners, the community of restaurants has it covered.

There was a time when eating fully organic, local foods seemed to be out of reach for a lot of people, as it was a costly choice that a lot of people in the community were unable to manage. However, with the increasing awareness of the benefits of eating organically, the prices have lowered and this is in part due the increase of product sales. This has also encouraged more farmers to either head into the city to sell their goods as well as encourages urban farms to expand and increase their goods to meet the needs of the community. Food is not to be thought of in terms of just health per se; it should also be thought of in depth about the health of the land it grows. Buying from local farms creates a deeper connection to the earth and the person working the farm as a team as opposed to the person that heads to the grocery store to buy a heavily processed item that has traveled to no avail, wasting precious resources to provide little to no nutrition. Without nutrient rich foods available, a community can suffer tremendously with health issues of all sorts. Managing a healthy relationship to food and getting to know the food providers can improve the overall health of a community.

There was a time when eating fully organic, local foods seemed to be out of reach for a lot of people, as it was a costly choice that a lot of people in the community were unable to manage. However, with the increasing awareness of the benefits of eating organically, the prices have lowered and this is in part due the increase of product sales. This has also encouraged more farmers to either head into the city to sell their goods as well as encourages urban farms to expand and increase their goods to meet the needs of the community. Food is not to be thought of in terms of just health per se; it should also be thought of in depth about the health of the land it grows. Buying from local farms creates a deeper connection to the earth and the person working the farm as a team as opposed to the person that heads to the grocery store to buy a heavily processed item that has traveled to no avail, wasting precious resources to provide little to no nutrition. Without nutrient rich foods available, a community can suffer tremendously with health issues of all sorts. Managing a healthy relationship to food and getting to know the food providers can improve the overall health of a community.

As time passes, I notice with more frequency the number of people in my local community taking responsibility for both their health and the environment by choosing the good practice of clean, organic, sustainable living. Of course, it is not of interest to everyone at the moment, but education for the matter is on the rise and it seems that every little bit makes a difference. As long as it is available and accessible to all, a change in the right direction is inevitable.

By Kristine Franklin

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