Our View / Lincoln Park Neighborhood: Getting food getting easier
At just 46, Ted Beaudoin of Duluth suffered a stroke. He was forced to give up a good job as manager of a cab company, and suddenly he found himself low-
income, reliant on disability checks from the government. Among his many new challenges — and one maybe not a lot of us would think of — was getting fresh, healthy produce and other foods.
“We haven’t always had a car, and you just couldn’t always go shopping all the time,” Beaudoin said in an interview last week with the News Tribune Opinion page. “You shop maybe twice a month, so you couldn’t always get your vegetables fresh. And when you’re low-income you have to use other sources, too, like the food shelf.”
Easy access to fresh, healthy food ought to be a given. We as a community ought to stand for nothing less. But for too long it has been a challenge instead in Duluth’s poorer neighborhoods, including Lincoln Park, where 2,000 of 6,000 residents, a full third of them, live in poverty. Two years ago, recognizing that challenge, a campaign called Lincoln Park Fair Food Access was launched to find solutions.
With successes now, the campaign scheduled a celebration for tomorrow and has its eyes on expanding elsewhere in Duluth. All of us can support and learn from what’s happening.
The campaign started with what has become an annual door-to-door survey of Lincoln Park to ask residents about the barriers that keep them from fresh, healthy foods.
Since then, and in response to the survey results, a weekly farmers market has opened on summer and fall Thursday evenings at Harrison Community Recreation Center with as many as seven vendors involved, a new neighborhood garden was created at 20th Avenue West and Fourth Street, and nutrition and cooking classes are now offered, among other initiatives.
“Some people have lost the ability (and) are multiple generations out of knowing how to cook whole foods. There are a lot of folks who all they know how to do is make Easy Mac. We’re working on that education piece pretty heavily,” Lisa Luokkala, a part of the campaign as director of the Healthy Duluth Area Coalition, told the Opinion page. Other nonprofits in the campaign are Duluth LISC, CHUM, Community Action Duluth, and the Duluth Community Garden program.
In addition, after urging convenience stores in the neighborhood to sell more than processed and packaged goods, the campaign is thrilled a new Whole Foods Co-Op is opening in neighboring West Duluth and that new Kwik Trips are coming where fresh produce and even fresh meats are expected to be sold, hopefully at reasonable prices.
Also, a farmers market vendor plans to donate produce to low-income residents of Seaway Hotel. And the community garden folks want to offer cooking classes there.
“There’s a lot of visible stuff like the farmers market and the (community) garden where you can visibly see the changes, but there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff going on, too, that isn’t so visible, because, as we know, policy change and economic development and those kinds of things take time,” Luokkala said. “Moving into year two, (our goals include) just building our capacity in the neighborhood and getting the word out. A lot of this is about letting people know about all these things that we’re offering. We know that takes time. … But as we’re growing, we’re seeing more and more people coming to us, wanting to partner with us, and looking for interesting ways. There’s kind of a ripple effect, you know, work that we’re not necessarily doing but that is spurring from the energy of this.
“We’re starting in Lincoln Park,” she said, “but this is really about food access in Duluth as a whole. We know this isn’t the only neighborhood experiencing food-access issues, so ideally we’d like for this to ripple out into other neighborhoods or partner with folks who want to bring this to their neighborhoods.”
A few minutes before heading out to tend to his community garden plot in Lincoln Park, Beaudoin strongly endorsed the campaign. It certainly has helped him.
“I’m learning each year. This is my second year,” he said. “I’m learning how to garden. It gives me access to fresh vegetables. I do what I can.”
And Duluth has the ability to do all it can to assure everyone has access to healthy food. That’s not something that should be a challenge. There shouldn’t be transportation and other barriers.
What: The second annual Lincoln Park Neighborhood Summer Celebration, a neighborhood and community gathering to commemorate the efforts being made to improve
access to healthy foods; the party will include a farmers market, a free picnic, live music, information and the comedy of Julia Zwild
When: 5-8 p.m. Thursday
Where: Harrison Community Recreation Center, 3002 W. Third St.
Hosts: Lincoln Park Fair Food Access and Northern Expressions Arts Collective