Urban farming is one way to help replenish food deserts in Milwaukee’s impoverished neighborhoods, and it’s not just about growing food.
“It’s not just about the fresh, healthy foods, but also the education behind it,” said Venice Williams, executive director of Alice’s Garden, an urban garden and farm that dates to 1972. “We do a lot of work to help people understand their relationship with food.”
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a food desert is a low-income area where a supermarket or grocery store is at least a mile away. Based on 2015 data, the USDA estimated that nearly 9% of Milwaukee’s population lived in a food desert, including many areas of the city’s north side.
“Having access is very important from a health perspective,” said Alfonso Morales, a University of Wisconsin-Madison associate professor and expert on urban agriculture. “Not only does the absence of healthy foods negatively impact health, but the presence of healthy foods positively impacts mental and physical health.”