Posted Under: Eco-Friendly "Green" Suggestions,Economic Improvement Suggestions,Ft Lauderdale Parks and Green Spaces,Important Issues for Fort Lauderdale,Neighborhood Issues,Social Issues
Something good is growing in Fort Lauderdale!
Sometimes good things happen in Fort Lauderdale, not because of local government, but in spite of it. In the Northwest part of the City, a collaborative effort is underway between the residents there, a local non-profit organization known as “Step Up”, the Carlisle Development Group, and leaders from around the City. The goal: to provide fresh produce to residents in need.
Here’s the problem: Our society today relies too much on fast food, junk food and sugary sodas (courtesy of large multi-national corporations). This is causing wide-spread obesity (more than half of us are overweight), along with diabetes, joint problems, and other health related issues. Insurance rates have more than doubled in just a few short years, due to this problem. On average, an obese person pays $1,400 a year more in health care costs than someone who is not overweight. And it costs our country more than $100 Billion annually!
Weight control is especially difficult though, when you have plenty of fast food outlets, but not many options for fresh fruits and vegetables. If you live in the Northwest part of our city and rely on public transportation, that means your diet consists mostly of hamburgers, other fried and salty foods and sugary sodas.
Michael Madfis, an architect, a South Andrews civic leader (and an urban farmer from Fort Lauderdale Vegetables), is part of a collaborative effort to bring fresh produce to the Northwest part of our City. He and others are establishing a “Community Garden”, providing seeds and teaching the residents there how to raise fresh produce. He knows that without this garden, many residents there would not have ready access to fresh, healthy food. “We are in a true food desert,” Madfis said, of the Northwest part of Fort Lauderdale. “We are at least 40 blocks from the nearest Publix or Winn-Dixie, and there isn’t even a direct bus route to get there.”
The ultimate goal is to broaden this effort by getting more neighborhood residents involved and establishing more of these community gardens. Doing so will mean more people will be eating healthier foods. If they are successful, the intent is to provide produce to not only residents but to the “Pantry of Broward”, which provides meals for seniors in need and to those raising their grandchildren. And any of the garden’s surplus could potentially be sold to local restaurants, with profits reinvested in the neighborhood.
I think this is a great idea, and I must commend Mayor Jack Seiler and Commissioner Bobby DuBose who visited this first “Community Garden” recently. I would like to see them take the next step however, and identify several city-owned (and vacant) properties that could be loaned out for this purpose as well. It would cost the City next to nothing and would provide a way for people to improve the quality of their lives.
And the benefits can grow, just like the produce.
According to Michael: “We plan on making it four times larger over the next 9 months. Currently we’ll be planting tomatoes, collards, okra, beets, basil, broccoli, peppers, and beans. That’s what the neighbors want. Of the excess produce, 25% of the food will go to the Broward Pantry, 25% will be sold at market price to local residents, and 50% will be sold to a local restaurant.”
“This farm will also create two living wage jobs for the community and train three unemployed youth in the area as well. There will be no refrigeration or transportation associated with the food production and distribution, saving money, and energy.”
“Eventually, we want to produce $300,000 of food each year with no carbon footprint, give away $75,000 in food and create $150,000 in salaries for three employees. We hope to do 25 in the city over the next two years, creating 75 living wage jobs in this new industry and training many others to do the same. In just a few years, we could create 1,500 jobs and give away $500,000 of fresh food to those in the most need of fresh produce.”
Pretty amazing stuff here, for a “grass roots” effort (pun intended). Mike, please let me know what I can do to help.
Now, how about our Mayor and Commissioners doing their part! Let’s turn some of our City’s vacant lots into parcels loaned out to groups like these, so that more groups can grow their own fresh produce. The health benefits to our residents will be invaluable.