“Eating healthy is expensive!”
Who hasn’t heard these words before? Maybe you’ve uttered them yourself — I know I did. However, when I made the decision to heal myself using a whole foods, plant-based diet, I refused to let my pockets dictate my meals.
In the US, affluent white neighborhoods have easier access to healthy foods than poorer neighborhoods with black and brown folks.
Check it. I live in Baltimore where 1 out of 4 households lived in food deserts in 2015. A food desert is an urban area where it is hard to access affordable, high quality fresh food. Now, it’s 2018 and nothing has really changed but Baltimore’s food policy director’s push to use the term “healthy food priority area” instead. But I’m sleep tho.
According to Baltimore’s Food Environment 2018 Report, 23.5% residents live in a food desert. That’s over 34,000 people. “Black residents are the most likely of any racial or ethnic group to live in a Priority Area [aka food desert] (31.5%). In comparison, only 8.9% of white residents live in Priority Areas”.
Baltimore isn’t the only area affected by this. DoSomething.org states that about 23.5 million people live in food deserts in the United States and almost half of them are also low-income.
I am one of the people living in a food desert and I’m drastically affected by it. When I first moved to the city, I was unemployed and broke as a joke. Healthy eating was a true challenge. After discussing this challenge with my former roommate, she told me about an organization who sold a huge IKEA bag worth of fresh produce for $8. Since then, I was on a quest to find other organizations and events that catered to bringing fresh produce to the neighborhoods that desperately needed it.
So here’s that list. A list of dope organizations and groups that provide free or low cost fresh produce in the Baltimore area.
Gather Baltimore is the non-profit organization with the huge Blue IKEA bags. While the bag price went up from $8 to $10, you still get way more bang for your buck. Gather Baltimore is dedicated to providing fresh produce to families who need it. They head to Jessup, Maryland to bring excess produce from local farmers. Volunteers sort the produce in bags at their warehouse on Sisson St.
They are open on every day from 10am until the bags are sold out. I would suggest you to follow them on www.facebook.com/gatherbaltimore because they give frequent updates on whether they will be open due to supply, produce variety, and weather. Heads up, it is better to come on a weekday than a weekend. Weekend lines are longer and bags tend to be sold out earlier.
My experience with Gather Baltimore bags has been great! I received pineapples, rhubarb, lemongrass, oranges, apples, kale, collards, bananas and LOTS of potatoes! You get a lot of food enough to feed a small family. I promise.
Food Rescue Baltimore
Food Rescue Baltimore is a collective of farmers and activists who come together to provide fresh foods and dry goods free of charge. They are into to ensuring equal access to nutritious food, and providing for those in need in Baltimore’s communities. Food Rescue receives excess foods and goods from grocery stores and farmers. They collaborate with Baltimore businesses to create weekly pop ups on storefronts. Every week, they are in a different location in different neighborhoods.
I frequented their weekly events at Dovecote Café and Land of Kush. I’ve received spelt bread, nut milks, vegan cereals, Japanese purple potatoes, burdock root, and more from these weekly pop ups.
Check out their website for their weekly schedule and locations.
“Every year, 40% of produce goes to waste in this country. 20 billion pounds of that produce is lost on farms”. A huge reason for this waste is due to produce being too big, too small, “ugly” and more descriptions that showcase how shallow we are as a people. But Hungry Harvest is trying to change that.
Hungry Harvest is a produce delivery service that rescues from farms, packing houses and wholesalers. Their mission is to eliminate food waste and end hunger. Their harvest box starts from $15 – $50 and they provide doorstep delivery in Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia and other states. Check them out here.
The local farmers market is a great source of fresh produce on the low. Getting rid of the middle man (aka grocery stores) gets rid of the markup prices. Also the produce is fresher due to is being grown nearby instead of bumbafuk, USA.
At the 32nd st Farmers Market, I got a huge bag of Kale (I mean the farmer continued to stuff a bag that was overstuffed) for $4. Besides cheaper and seasonal produce, you can also find quirky foods and goods. On one of my farmer’s market trips, I found edible flowers for $3 and got to try them in a spring salad. Another trip, I got a lilac bouquet in which I re-purposed to make a DIY spirit and body mist.
Find farmers markets in your area with the Local Harvest Database!
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
Another way to support your local farmers is through CSA’s! Community Supported Agriculture or CSA is a “ is a system that connects the produce and consumers within the food system more closely by allowing the consumer to subscribe to the harvest of a certain farm or group of farms.” The way that CSA’s work is that you pay a seasonal fee in order to get a share of crops and goods that farmers produce every week. A CSA seasonal fee can seem a bit expensive at first. But when you divide up that fee into 8-12 weeks of your share of fresh local produce, you will see that the investment is worth it.
When I used to live in DC, I joined a CSA created by Three Part Harmony Farms. It was the best investment I ever made. I had fresh local produce from peppers to tomatoes. I tried different types of eggplants and greens. I even got some great tinctures and flower bouquets. Check out my first CSA experience below.
Want to find a local csa in your area, check out this CSA database from localharvest.org!
The Jar Method
This isn’t a source for free or low cost food but more so a way to save money on fresh produce. The homies, Roe and E of The Brown Kids, created a technique on how to make fresh produce last up to 3 weeks. As someone who practically lives in the produce section, The Jar Method has made my fridge look like a Pinterest photo and my pockets a little fuller. Using the jar method, has made meal prepping easier, my food last longer, and cut my grocery bill by half. NO more spoiled veggies!
Check out their online workshop here. It’s definitely worth the investment.
So here’s my list of free/low cost produce and tips in the Baltimore & DMV area. If you know any more organizations that provide free produce in the Baltimore and the DMV area, please let me know. Fresh, good quality food should be available for everyone.