A Back to Basics Grocer

Inside Mill Valley General Store, Baltimore Md.

Inside Mill Valley General Store, Baltimore Md.

Over the summer of 2016, CLF’s Map Team interns visited every known food store in Baltimore City to collect data for the Healthy Food Availability Index (HFAI)—but they also took time to interview some of the store owners and learn about their challenges and successes. Here’s the third of those stories. 

Tucked away in the Baltimore neighborhood known as Remington, in what used to be a broom machine factory, the Mill Valley General Store is a modest, unassuming brick storefront just off the I-83 exit ramp. What started as a small shop in Hampden in 2002 has become a spacious neighborhood grocery store and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) pickup site. Read More >

Food & Dignity

“So, where do the leftover veggies go?” It’s a common question around here, especially on Tuesdays.

The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) operates a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, connecting students, faculty and staff with fresh, organic, Maryland-grown produce. Those who have paid upfront for a share of the season’s harvest at Maryland’s One Straw Farm stop by the JHSPH parking garage every Tuesday to pick up their shares.

At the end of the day, at least a dozen crates of unclaimed produce remain.  Some folks just aren’t crazy about, say, chard, but CLF and One Straw Farm donate most of the extra shares. Since August, we’ve been sending this produce to the Franciscan Center of Baltimore, an outreach agency that has been providing emergency assistance and support to those who need it for 42 years-and serving hot meals for 30. On a typical day, the Center serves 400 meals. At the end of the month, when SNAP benefits run out, the number runs closer to 600.

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In the Franciscan Center kitchen with the cooks

Last week, I had the privilege of visiting the Franciscan Center with two of my colleagues. We were met with a warm welcome from Ed McNally, the new Executive Director of the Center. An attorney and former Roman Catholic priest, Ed stressed the importance of treating each client with respect. One of the main goals of the Franciscan Center is to recognize the dignity of each human being, and this intention is apparent: the facility is immaculate and the staff and volunteers tremendously kind. A mural brightens the dining room and positive messages throughout the building uplift passers-by. The Center has an open door policy: rather than requiring proof of homelessness or unemployment, the staff and volunteers welcome as many clients as they can accommodate.

Ed stressed the importance of serving fresh, healthy food in an emergency assistance setting like this one. Read More >

What’s all the Buzz about CSAs?

Fresh strawberries from One Straw Farm, a CSA-participating Farm in White Hall, MD

Fresh strawberries from One Straw Farm, a CSA-participating Farm in White Hall, MD

In an age where large scale industrial farming operations dominate our food system, a counterrevolution focused on local and sustainable agriculture is growing. Data collected in 2007 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates that 12,549 farms in the United States reported marketing products through a community supported agriculture (CSA) arrangement. One of the primary ways this counterrevolution is manifesting itself is through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. CSAs are operations in which consumers pay a fixed fee at the beginning of a growing season in exchange for local, often organic, produce (and sometimes meat and dairy products as well). While reports about global warming and climate change, and the U.S’s astronomical ecological footprint (calculate your own) can make the problems we face today seem overwhelming, CSAs provide an opportunity to be part of the solution, to help make one’s lifestyle more sustainable, more healthy, and frankly, more fun.

As a CSA member, I receive eight local, seasonal, types of produce every week (though some CSAs also sell partial shares at farmers’ markets, where members can pick a given number of items from those available each week). Each week, I am surprised by at least one vegetable I’ve never heard of (e.g. garlic tail). The challenge, as in the Food Network show, Chopped, is to conjure something delicious out of this basket of unknowns. Thanks to some tips from experienced locavores, I’ve enjoyed a decent amount of success (as measured by the approval of my family, as strict a panel of judges as any on the show). Read More >