On the Record
by Holly Tsang
Apr 21, 2009 | 17417 views | 0 0 comments | 510 510 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When Jane Hodge traveled to five different countries as a college student, she was struck by the negative impact of the industrialized food system on global communities. By relying on food grown halfway across the world, people were giving up a basic level of control over their lives.

They lost the ability to improve the environment, to work with their neighbors and to have access to fresh, healthy food and know where it came from.

"How food is grown can affect the quality of our environment and can affect the community around us," said Hodge.

She came to the conclusion that food production should incorporate social justice and environmentalism while improving a community.

Hodge joined an organization that reflects her passion for locally grown food. As the City Farms Program Manager for Just Food, which advocates a sustainable food system in New York City, she encourages New Yorkers to grow their own food and provides them with resources so that they in turn can lead educational workshops for blossoming community gardeners.

Hodge said cities are often thought of as "food deserts" where few fresh, affordable, and healthy fruits and vegetables can be found, but city residents have been very eager to join community gardens.

"We are learning - or relearning - the delicious taste of a tomato fresh off the vine, the sweetness of a carrot fresh from the soil, and the delicious smell of fresh herbs," said Hodge. "We are starting to demand that."

She attributes this to a variety of factors, including national and international food scares, rising gas and food prices, and the frequency of diet-related illnesses.

"People are starting to think about where and how our food is grown, what we are eating, and how we can afford the food that we deserve," said Hodge.

And Hodge really does believe that a healthy diet can be affordable. Just Food works with many community gardens in low-income neighborhoods. Community gardeners produce their food during the growing season and can even make extra money selling at community garden markets.

Hodge said that despite progress made by Just Food and similar organizations, millions of New Yorkers still lack access to locally grown food. Community gardening needs more support from local and federal government before it can become the mainstream.

"It gives me great hope to see Michelle Obama planting an urban farm on the White House lawn-the more we can encourage each other to do the same, the healthier our bodies, environment, and communities will be," said Hodge.
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