CRUISE: Healthy food everywhere

April 22, 2013

As a former LA County public health clinic nurse with an additional seventeen years involvement in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I currently advocate for the advancement of single payer universal healthcare and all services that enhance community life.  I will serve on the Health Council of the new Green Shadow Cabinet as Assistant Secretary of Health for Community Health and Wellbeing. 

Dr. Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, former candidates for Green Party President and Vice President, created the Green Shadow Cabinet to bring cooperative solutions to the public that are necessary but that run counter to the interests of big industries. Solutions exist for every crisis that we face, but it is up to us to make them a reality. That is why we need an alternative political party, one that represents people, our needs and aspirations and the future of a healthy and thriving planet.

The lack of access to affordable healthy food in many communities is a serious concern and something that is solvable.  As our local LA grassroots activist and urban gardener Ron Finley says, “'In South Central more people die from drive- thrus than from drive- bys” and "Growing your own food is like printing your own money" .  Unhealthy food is at the root of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. Our inner city youth and populations residing in "food deserts" are particularly affected.

I encourage you to watch Finley’s TED talk in which he explains how he engaged  the City Council and regulators to win support for his sidewalk median community gardens. This is something that can be replicated nationwide. Where people don't have yards, there are city medians and other open spaces.  

Los Angeles has several community gardening support groups hosting hundreds of gardening projects in neighborhoods and in schools where students learn to connect with the earth and the joys of nurturing growth.  Even lack of ground space is no barrier. Mesh pocket gardens hanging on walls are popping up throughout the county. Another grassroots group in South Central LA, “HOOD HEALTH”,  has "dig ins" for community gardening in various neighborhood yards. This is great communal project for youth groups to connect them to the earth, growing organic food and eating a more healthy diet. 

A ferw years ago an enormous thriving garden on LA City  was sold off to corporate interests and bulldozed for storage centers. Trucks and exhaust, noise and dust dominate land where wonderful, affordable, wholesome, fresh and delicious food was once grown and lovingly tended by community members.  Other privately owned land has also been withdrawn. So it is time for the grassroots to green whatever land that can be planted and insist that unused portions of public property be available for the important and essential public good of food security.

It’s time to challenge the destruction and pollution of our communities, especially "food deserts".  Our open spaces must be used to sustain healthy lives with dignity. Urban community gardening with family involvement, education about nutrition and the sharing of healthy recipes, is one of the solutions that we will promote  The Green Shadow Cabinet will build the opportunity and  the political alternative that believes human needs are more important than corporate profits.

~ Dr. Maureen Cruise is Assistant Secretary of Health for Community Wellbeing in the Green Shadow Cabinet.