By Nancy Smith, board member, Farm to Family Naturally

When I was a teenager living in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, I made a personal field trip to Knoxville’s inner city.  I was checking out a rumor that the grocery stores that served the inner city were appalling compared to the  shiny suburban supermarkets where my family shopped.  The conditions I discovered were, indeed, appalling, and motivated me to a lifetime of working toward a better food supply for the underserved in city neighborhoods and rural areas alike.

Too many years have gone by, and conditions have worsened.  Now, instead of shabby, filthy stores with  expensive, moldy food, many inner cities have no grocery stores at all.   Low-income folks without transportation are forced to “shop” at gas stations, convenience stores and liquor stores.   This condition has led to the term “food desert”.    Many parts of St. Louis are officially considered food deserts.

Help is on the way.   St. Louis is going to have its first Food Summit on March 4, 2010 at St. Louis University.   The evening of March 3, a reception will be held at the Piper Palm House honoring Mark Winne, author of Closing the Food Gap.  Mark has spent much of his lifetime working to bring oases to food deserts.  He is a perfect match for the Food Summit.  To learn about Mark, go to www.markwinne.com.   If you attend the reception, you will receive a signed copy of his book as part of your registration fee.

The food policy group grew out of meetings that began two years ago in Congressman Russ Carnahan’s office.  The dynamic group has already accomplished more than any of us could have imagined at that first meeting.  The goal of the Summit is to hold a regional conversation about the development of a food policy council.  A food council is a group of stakeholders that provides support to governments and citizens in developing policies and programs related to the local food supply.

From the first meeting, Sappington Farmers Market has taken an active role in the food policy group.   We invite any readers who would like to help shape food policy to join us at the Food Summit.  Reservations may be made online at www.healthyyouthpartnership.org or call Sara Rasmussen at 314-539-4277.   See you there!

Sappington Farmers Market is located at 8400 Watson Road, between Elm Ave. and Laclede Station Road.