One of the projects that Civic Nebraska is working on this summer is our Equal Justice Corp, which is a partnership between Civic Nebraska and Legal Aid of Nebraska. The mission of the Equal Justice Corp is to make equal justice happen. While equal justice is unique to every individual, we aim to empower those in poverty and provide legal remedies to ensure that those low-income individuals maintain a sustainable lifestyle.
One of the toughest hurdles to clear when overcoming poverty is access to healthy, reliable food sources. As defined by the United States Department of Agriculture, food deserts are parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. Frequent causes of food deserts are “a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.”
Despite being one of the United States’ leaders in agricultural production, there are large
portions of Nebraska that lay within a food desert. Check out the USDA’s food desert tracker to see if you or anyone you know fall within one! Some of the more notable food deserts within the state fall in lower income neighborhoods of Lincoln and Omaha. In addition to the food shortages that occur within these neighborhoods, the food that is purchased is commonly cheap, unhealthy alternatives to reliable food sources. As a result, obesity rises and lifespan shortens. Therefore, in our effort to make equal justice happen, there are several ways to help remedy food deserts.
Our Equal Justice Corps has been traveling across the state attending farmers’ markets and other local events helping to spread the word about the threat of food deserts and other issues affecting low-income individuals. While attending farmers’ markets is not always possible, it is at farmers’ markets that low-income individuals can receive fresh produce and other goods, while at the same time supporting local farmers. At a recent stop at a local farmers’ market in Lincoln, our Equal Justice Corps counted over 150 stalls of locally made goods and products!
We are also integrating this into our after school programs by having community gardens in both
Lincoln and Omaha school sites. Not only do we grow healthier food choices, we are teaching our students how to do the same. With the produce from the garden we will donate the food that is un-used in our after school programs to local food banks around the city. This aspect of our after school programs encourages students to grow their own food (and gardening skills) as well as exercise civic engagement by donating the extra food and giving back to their community.
In addition to farmers’ markets, there are several other measures individuals and neighborhoods can take to combat food deserts.
- Community Gardens are a great way to grow your own healthy, sustainable food sources. Get together with your neighbors and plant your own tomatoes, onions, basil, etc.! Not only is it a great way to help combat hunger and unhealthy foods, it is also a great way to establish relationships within your neighborhood and maintain a strong community!
- Educating yourself, your children, your friends, and others within your community about healthy food choices is another way to make equal justice happen in regards to food deserts. If you and your community know what making healthy food choices look like, the incentive to shop in a healthy manner only rises. Host healthy dinner parties, share healthy recipes with your friends and neighbors, go to farmers’ markets with your family, and make healthy and reliable alternatives fun!
- Speak to your local representatives about the threat of food deserts and how they affect you and your family. Let your voice be heard and make equal justice happen for you and your community!
If you have any questions about our Urban Farming initiative or any other Legal Aid services, please contact us at (402) 348-1069 or our Legal Assistance hotline at (877) 250-2016.