Often, articles about how kids and families can’t get fresh, healthy food in urban “food deserts” take on one of two tones: either hand-wringing despair, or a certain tsk-tskiness towards those vaguely evil convenience store owners who don’t stock broccoli next to the chips as a matter of moral obligation.
And that’s exactly why we love this video, made by incredibly charming high school students in the South Bronx, home to one of New York City’s most infamous “food deserts.” (The irony of the predominance of fast- and processed food in this neighborhood is that it’s also the distribution point for most of the fresh produce that comes to the three surrounding states.)
In it, the students are concerned with where and how they can get good, healthy food. But, being neighbors with these shop owners, they know, too, that these businesses are an important part of their community. They take the time and care to interview the store owners about how they decide what to sell, customers on what they would buy, and people from points all across the urban food chain: delivery drivers, wholesalers, even a Congresswoman.
Instead of just lamenting the dearth of fresh food in their neighborhood, these students take the opportunity to really explore how this little corner of the city works… and what results is one of the smartest, most nuanced, and most fun documents on the subject we’ve ever seen.
Of course, that didn’t come as a surprise. The video was produced by students from New Settlement’s Bronx Helpers in conjunction with CUP (a.k.a. the Center for Urban Pedagogy), a nonprofit that works with artists, designers, and low-income communities to make complex issues understandable to the people they affect. That might mean doing a graphical poster, in five languages, of all the regulations you need to know as a street vendor. Or it might mean creating a comic book for young people who’ve been arrested, detailing all the ways they can keep themselves from getting into deeper trouble once they’re in the criminal justice system. Or, as in the case of Bodega Down Bronx, it might mean working with students themselves to explore questions about the world around them, like who owns the internet. (No, we didn’t know the answer to that either.) Tapping into people’s curiosity and concerns with a wonderful sense of playfulness, CUP makes it easier for people to talk about hard things.
(Full disclosure: A person at Gilt Taste dates a person at CUP. But we’d like what they do anyway!)