Tackling food insecurity through urban farming
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Over 1.6 million North Carolinians have to travel a long way to get to their nearest supermarket.
What You Need To Know
Nearly 15% of households in Mecklenburg County face food insecurities
Three Sisters Farm and Market is one of at least five urban farms helping tackle food insecurity by increasing access to fresh, local food around the Queen City
The farm grows vegetables, like okra and sweet potatoes, and sells them at an affordable price
They live in what’s known as food deserts, where finding affordable healthy food options can be a struggle. That’s the case for about 15% of Mecklenburg County’s population.
Mason Olonade is the farm manager at Three Sisters Farm and Market in Charlotte’s West Boulevard neighborhood. It’s one of at least five urban farms in Mecklenburg County that’s helping tackle food insecurity by increasing access to fresh, local food around the Queen City.
“The West Boulevard Corridor does not have a grocery store of any good repute,” Olonade said. “You can either get your food at Family Dollar or Walmart – so there’s not that much nutrition going to be found in there.”
Each week, Olonade sees dozens of people from around the area visit their farm, buying fresh vegetables, like okra and sweet potatoes, at an affordable price.
“But they don’t come to us just because we got this food here,” Olonade said. “They come to us because they believe in the mission of what we’re doing, they believe in us, they buy from us because they understand what it means to be a community.”
Olonade also mentors teens in the community, who work or volunteer at the farm through the West Boulevard Neighborhood Coalition’s “Seeds for Change” program.
“The market provides for them an opportunity for them to do the math and to interact with a wide variety of customers,” Olonade said.
In addition, the program hosts tutoring sessions and academic help at the nearby library.
Olonade believes it’s another reason why urban farming is becoming increasingly vital to communities like west Charlotte.
“I think that people still want something that is unique to their city just as much as this okra and this sweet potato that I just pulled up is unique to this land right here,” Olonade said.
The West Boulevard Neighborhood Coalition is actively working on plans to open the city’s first cooperative grocery store. It’ll offer fresh fruits and veggies that are grown on the farm, along with non-perishable food items.