A community gardening program helps fight food insecurity in Midtown

By Catalina Rasdall

Personal health is one of the most important things for living a long life. The human body needs nutrition in order for it to keep moving. 

That is why those grocery runs are crucial. They are something to look forward to because they present an opportunity to pick healthy food options and try out new recipes. But what happens when people no longer have access to a grocery store within their ZIP code? How can they keep their bodies healthy without access to healthy food?

Food insecurity has taken a toll on Midtown where grocery stores are being closed left and right. There are no large-scale grocery stores between Fourth Street to 49th Street, which means there is no access to healthy food. The only access to food is ready to go processed food, such as gas station food.  

Midtown lost Walmart earlier in the year, and ever since then the neighborhood has been suffering. Without stores open, there needs to be another solution to the evident food insecurity.

Growing plants and vegetables guarantees not having any hard chemicals or preservatives tainting the food. It also enables control over portion and variety. The process takes patience, trial and error. There are slower ways to grasp the concept of nurturing seeds and selecting the right soil and amount of water for them to grow. Then there are also quicker ways, such as attending a gardening class open to the community held by the St. Pete Youth Farm.

The St. Pete Youth Farm is a volunteer-based nonprofit organization working toward giving back to the community by creating a space to grow food. Carla Bristol started it off with a  gardening class that informed everyone of the dire needs for access to healthy food. 

“It is rewarding to see your own food growing and be able to do it for yourself,” Bristol said.

One of Bristol’s solutions to food insecurity is for people to grow their own plants. She brought a special guest, Robert Greenfield, to teach a class on how to create your own garden. 

Greenfield is an environmental activist. He was a guest teacher at the St. Pete Youth Farm who shared his knowledge on how to preserve soil and grow any desired type of plant or vegetable. He aims to educate those around him and whoever he can reach out to. 

 “My main goal is to inspire a healthy Earth, often with attention-grabbing tactics,” Greenfield said.

Greenfield started the class by continuing Bristol’s initial statement about how Midtown needs healthy food now more than ever. He has traveled around the world and seen people live off of strictly land and joined them in their need to only eat what they grow. Greenfield learned specific tactics that help an individual grow their own food. These tactics include foraging your food and fleet farming. 

Forging is the act of gathering food, wild or cultivated. Foraging for food can come in handy when the need to find any sort of edible substance to feed your stomach is present. It also allows individuals to become connected with the natural world. 

The wild food that comes from foraging is much healthier than the food from the grocery store. The food contains essential vitamins and minerals that are not present in most processed foods. Foraging the food is not something that can be done on a whim. Individuals interested should find a mentor to learn from, someone who has been through every step of foraging so they can give them that boost of confidence to go on their own. 

A much easier way to have guaranteed access to healthy foods is fleet farming. Fleet farming is a dedicated piece of land used to grow food. This allows for the typical home lawn to become a garden 

Before foraging for food and gardening, Greenfield didn’t have the slightest clue on how to grow plants and vegetables. He started asking around for tips and small lessons on how to garden. From then on, he picked up his own tricks and was able to teach others from his own experience. 

People can go to the closest garden store  and pick out some seeds to create their dream garden. If time is pressing, seeking out a professional forager who can offer guidance might be a good option.