Certainly industrialization has caused all Americans to become more divorced from their food sources. But that separation has often been far more drastic and detrimental for black Americans. The 1999 case of Pickford v. USDA found that black farmers had been subject to decades of governmental loan discrimination. In 1910, black farmers owned 15 million acres of American land. In 2002, according to a report from the “Why Hunger” campaign, the figure had dropped to just a tenth of that. As these connections have disappeared, suppliers of fresh food have all but abandoned many black neighborhoods. A recent study in New York City found that in underserved black and Latino areas, shoppers had to travel 20 blocks before finding produce for sale. Washington, D.C.’s heavily black Ward 8 got its first major grocery chain in late 2007. The story is similar in Oakland, Detroit and Tampa. And even in small towns, black residents often have to go to the “white side of town” to find decent fresh food.
Blacks have historically maintained deep ties to the earth, living for centuries—as with most of the world—as subsistence farmers. And so there is something ironic about the fact that black Americans whose ancestors were brought here to work the soil—first as slaves and then as sharecroppers—are now largely clustered in neighborhoods where it is harder to find fresh oranges than “orange drink.”
Excellent article and a substantive followup to our discussion earlier this week about black farmers.
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