I interned for Slow Food, an international non-profit that supports “good, clean, fair food” for all.. I worked for the St. Louis chapter of Slow Food U.S.A., focusing on “food deserts” in the inner city. My goal was to improve children’s access to nutritious food by working with inner city schools. I spent much of my time interviewing school administrators, chefs, and policy makers in order to better understand the barriers to healthy food access. I also spent a significant amount of time on rural Missouri farms to hear the farmers’ perspective on bureaucratic limitations to food distribution. The ultimate goal was to form a partnership between Slow Food and area farms to improve food distribution channels. Additionally, I attended the St. Louis Food Policy Council meetings, an organization that met under the auspices of the Missouri Governor, in order to address this problem.
I found that schools did not know whom to contact or how to go about purchasing large enough quantities of fresh, in-season food. Administrators lacked the basic information to increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables their school served, even when the proper funding was in place. Moreover, the farmers noted that a large-scale distribution hub was necessary to bring more fresh food into the city. With this data in hand, my boss and I began to build the groundwork to address these problems. We applied for the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program (FMPP) grant, offered annually by the USDA. This year’s grant criteria focused on improving food deserts via direct producer-to-consumer activity. In the grant, we proposed to create a directory of farmers, local food providers, and organizations involved in issues surrounding food deserts. The directory will serve as an efficient and straightforward way for schools to purchase healthy produce. We also proposed a yearly expo to bring both the food producers and those with purchasing power together to exchange ideas. The directory and expo will improve large-scale distribution of produce into St. Louis area food deserts, improving food-related distal determinants of health in the St. Louis region.