The article that David posted, Out of Reach, raised some good points and was inspiring to us here at Amyitis. In thinking about this issue and doing some follow-up research I ended up on the San Francisco Permaculture Guild website and saw a posting for volunteers for something called the Free Farm Stand. I immediately got in touch with the folks who organize this remarkable program in our very own city. The stand is “funded” by a community of gardens and gardeners from the mission who bring their harvest together every Sunday. In the spirit of mutual support for our community and fellow gardeners I woke up earlier than normal on my one day off and harvested the greens that have grown, albeit slowly, through a relatively cold bay area winter.
When I arrived at the Farm Stand there was already a veritable bounty of food and a line that stretched out of the park. I introduced myself to Tree, one of the organizers, and was happy to meet a gentle, generous soul happy to have some more to add to an already overflowing table of food. The table was split in half with locally harvested produce on one side and donated food on the other. As I squeezed our greens in I sensed the line of people was eager to get their turn at making their way down the table and getting some of the very free bounty awaiting them. There were baskets of greens, fruit, bread, grains, and volunteers to refill them as they were quickly diminished.
The Free Farm Stand happens every Sunday from 1-3pm
Programs like the Free Farm Stand and the food stamp program at San Francisco farmers markets are a good step in the right direction for helping improve access to healthy food for all. One other thing that I would like to add to the problems of access the article Out of Reach covered is the very corrupt system of farm subsidies. They are one of the most important factors contributing to the problem of the cheapest food being the unhealthy preservative and sugar-loaded packaged food. If the subsidies that our tax dollars contribute to went to healthy food we would have far better access for all and a healthier population that would go a long way in reducing the cost of health care in this country. However, that’s a topic for another time and Michael Pollen has covered it pretty thoroughly in recent speeches. I’d like to assert, though, that if we diverted a fraction of subsidies handed out to big agriculture for this purpose we would have a better idea of what a more sustainable food system might look like and whether it would improve both working conditions for farm workers and access to healthy food for all.