Last week, members of Episcopal Charities had the pleasure of participating in a tour hosted by Community Food Funders, an organization which seeks to help potential funders invest in sustainable food for underserved populations. Because we fund feeding programs throughout the diocese, seven of which are in the Bronx, we were very excited to be able to participate. The tour, which took us to multiple locations in the South Bronx, explored issues surrounding foodways and food justice in the Bronx, and was intended to connect potential funders with organizations working for environmental and food justice in underserved communities.
One of the first stops on our tour was a seafood distribution center in Hunts Point, where Angela Tovar, Director of Community Development at The Point CDC delivered an enlightening presentation on food and environmental justice in the Bronx. Though many areas of the Bronx lack grocery stores and access to fresh produce, much of the food sold in NYC passes through the Bronx via the many enormous food warehouses that line the waterfront. As we stood in the distribution center parking lot, breathing in the strong scents of fish and car exhaust, Ms. Tovar explained to us that the diesel fumes from the delivery trucks that constantly pass through the area have led to extremely high asthma rates in the surrounding community. Additionally, much of the South Bronx waterfront in which these food distribution centers are located is a flood zone. The organization with which Ms. Tovar is affiliated, The Point Community Development Corporation, is currently organizing around these and other environmental issues which affect the South Bronx.
Throughout the day, our tour visited several sites in the Bronx and heard presentations from a variety of organizers about what they are doing to bring fresh, nutritious food into Bronx communities. Representatives from Greenmarket (an organization familiar to those who shop at New York City farmer’s markets) told us about how they partner with local farms to make produce available at affordable prices. Organizers of farm-share programs like La Canasta explained how they deliver bags of fresh produce directly to Bronx residents, while also offering cooking classes to help their clients learn to prepare the food they receive. We even experienced less traditional approaches to food justice like Swale, a barge full of edible plants which invites anyone to forage for free and which aims to challenge existing ideas about food in urban environments.
Episcopal Charities was thrilled to be able to spend a day learning about how issues of food justice affect Bronx communities and what those communities are doing in response. As a funder of many feeding programs, we know that healthy options in food pantries are a national concern, and we are already brainstorming ways to build connections between the programs we fund and the ones we heard from on this tour. We are grateful to Community Food Funders for the opportunity to learn more about how to bring fresh, healthy food to the communities we serve!