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Farm Share: More Than Just Grocery Shopping

Farm Share volunteers prepare this week’s selection of produce for everyone including CUNY students,
faculty, and workers. PHOTO/ M.A. Rahman

By M.A. Rahman

Published: September 26th, 2018

The Corbin Hill Farm Share program sets up a shop in the Brooklyn College cafeteria, offering CUNY students, and faculty an assortment of healthy options on the go via its single day pick up service, exuding mostly warm reactions across campus.

Since Spring 2018, the weekly subscription-based produce for low income areas program Farm Share has had an active presence on the BC campus, boasting well over a hundred subscribers from the campus, thanks impart to its partnership with the BC Agricultural Center.

“What makes Corbin Hill unique is that you can pay week by week, instead of by the month; you can just pay at least 15 bucks per week and go as you please,” said Michael Hanna, an Urban Sustainability major and volunteer for Farm Share at BC noting the convenience offered by Farm Share.

The aforementioned sign up is done via the Corbin Hill website, where users are offered between a $15 to a $28 share options including at most eight to 11 items of fresh produce respectively.

This does not include the additional locally produced add-ons offered to Shareholders such as eggs, bulk flour, or even raw honey.

Beyond the wonder and flexibility offered by the program, there is an altruistic purpose behind it – the need to remedy the encroaching problem of ‘food deserts’ appearing in places like New York City.

According to the USDA, “Food deserts are defined as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.”

Thus, a vacuum has been left for major food distributors like Corbin Hill to fulfill with their own program, seeking to address “the needs of low-income communities through our affordable prices and flexibility with sign up and payment options,” states the Corbin Hill website.

The result is Food Share, noted for its locations, prices and going as far accepting the now obscure Health Bucks as valid payment.

“How such a program came to Brooklyn College has been the undertaking of faculty members from various BC centers and services pushing for it,” said Devon Heath, a volunteer and Sustainability major.

These include the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences, and the Sustainability Council.

The concept of ‘food deserts’, however,  and their ubiquity in the city as indicated by map’s based on the City’s survey, have not gone unchallenged.

City Journal, a magazine published by the right-winged think tank, “Manhattan Institute of Policy Research,” has drawn a skeptical eye with reports stating as many as 1.4 million New Yorkers are deemed ‘food insecure’ by the city.

Rebuffing “the idea that hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of New Yorkers are miles away from an apple or banana is simply untrue…” suggesting that there are a greater concentration of groceries in low-income minority communities who in their estimation presumably are unwilling rather than unable to purchase healthier food options.

To further underscore their point, City Journal’s Seth Barron points to the high rate of obesity in these low-income areas populated by minorities, a contrast to any sense of a ‘desert’ in his view.

Barron goes on by pointing that even the New York Times concur at least to some extent that the city’s definition of ‘food deserts’ might fall under too broad a range and needlessly come off as exaggerating if not overly simplifying an ever pressing issue affecting New Yorkers.

Yet as the definition of ‘food desert’ and the criteria that makes a given place qualify as such especially distance-wise continues to be subject of dispute, most studies are still remain certain about the status of ‘food insecure’ persons in the city – 1.3 million NYC residents are found to be ‘food insecure’ according to Food Bank For New York City.

That is around 1.3 million people at some point have unexpectedly gone hungry without access to a reliable food source typically due to economic conditions.

Ideally, organizations like Farm Share work to address this if not help directly organize reform for such an issue.

“The end goal is hard to define for us” Michael admitted regarding Farm Share, acknowledging the lingering debate that persists amongst his peers between what is called “resilience vs sustainability.”

“All I know is that I want to reach at least the same numbers of subscribers we had as last semester,” Michael concluded jovially.

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