Agriculture

Atlanta Converts Vacant ‘Food Desert’ into the Nation’s Largest Free Food Forest

The City Council of Atlanta, Georgia recently voted to turn an old and overgrown pecan farm, classified as a ‘food desert’ by the USDA, into a ‘food forest’ where visitors can pick healthy fruits, vegetables, and medicinal herbs for free.

Atlanta’s new 7-acre lot was repurposed into a lush forest with a plethora of healthy foods available to the whole community, including fresh apples, figs, peaches, medicinal mushrooms, and walnuts.

“It’s just like going into a park and picking muscadines from a bush” – Carla Smith, Atlanta Councilwoman [SOURCE]

In a unanimous vote, the Council decided to purchase the land in 2016 and volunteers have taken care of it ever since. The project has given Atlanta’s community a huge morale boost as more than a third of local residents live below the poverty line and a quarter reside over half a mile away from any source of natural food, including at a supermarket. Atlanta’s goal is to put fresh produce within a half mile’s distance from 85% of the population.

“Residents still talk about the land’s former owners, who left excess produce from their farm on fence posts for neighbors to claim and enjoy. Now this land will celebrate that history and make new memories for the community.” – USDA [SOURCE]

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The land was first acquired through an $86,150 grant from the U.S. Forest Service Community Forest and Open Space Program, a federal organization which contributed a total of $164,000 to the project, with support from the non-profit Trees Atlanta and the Conservation fund.

Plans are in the works to add a composting facility, rainwater collection system, and apiary to house pollinating bees. Eventually, the city wants food forests to replace several similarly unused ‘food deserts’ in the area.

“It’s great to fast-forward five years from now. What if there were five of these food forests sprinkled around Atlanta? There could be. There’s enough land. It’s more about showing it’s possible.” – Stacy Funderburke, Acquisition Associate at the Conservation Fund

Access to healthy food is extremely important, especially for children. Studies show that schools which adopt gardening programs end up increasing the nutritive intake of their students at home, leading to a lower risk of obesity, stroke, and heart disease in adulthood, and improved cognitive function.

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“For many of these kids, it’s their first time interacting with a fruit or vegetable in the ground.” – Michael McCord, Food Forest Ranger

Food Forests are a great way for communities to connect with one another while enjoying nutritious food and experiencing the outdoors away from the heavy traffic, industrial noise, and stress of the big city.

The first project comparable to this was Seattle’s 5-acre Beacon Food Forest which was started in 2012 and continues to grow.

“The Food Forest not only brings food but brings life to the area.” – Soisette Lumpkin, leader of the Friends of the Forest community group


About the Author
Phillip Schneider is a staff writer and assistant editor for Waking Times. If you would like to see more of his work, you can like his Facebook Page, or follow him on the free speech social network Minds.

This article (Atlanta Converts Vacant ‘Food Desert’ into the Nation’s Largest Free Food Forest) originally appeared at PhillipSchneider.com and may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author credit, and this copyright statement.

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