Wow, what a book! I’ve read sections of it before for Dr Citeroni’s Food Justice course last semester, but this time I really sat down and analyzed from a new point of view.
I was particularly struck by the differences between Deanwood residents’ discourse around the neighborhood versus their actions. On the one hand, you have this pervasive idea of “nothingness” from many different people, but the same people portray a stubbornness of unwillingness to totally abandon the neighborhood (though in some cases people literally can’t leave the neighborhood). The theme of resiliency throughout was really profound for me. I’ve lived in an area that wasn’t as drastically considered a food desert, but was still tough. It was eternally frustrating to be told to just “shop smarter” or “make better food decisions” when often my only options if I needed to buy milk or vegetables were to scrounge from the beat up fruit basket at the gas station or milk that was very close to its expiration from the mobile food bank.
In contrast, other players in the neighborhood structure fight the idea of “nothingness.” Mr Jones and the community garden organizers very clearly want to support the community and help citizens uplift themselves to the nostalgic “former glory” of an independent neighborhood, as seen in Mr Jones’s refusal to sell alcohol or lottery tickets. Mr Jones saw himself as a core part of the moral backbone of Deanwood, passing on lessons to the children that shopped there and keeping adult shoppers out of trouble by not providing vices. Similarly, the garden organizers really wanted to help the community, and especially the children of the community, to have access to practical life skills and access to fresh food. And yet the garden organizers were met with suspicion or outright dismissal, as seen in the mowing of plants and dumping of construction waste. One part that really hit me hard was the claim that 1) the garden would not produce physically safe food because of the heavy metals and debris in the soil, but also that 2) it would not be able to produce spiritually safe food because of the history of murder and spilled blood on the plot of land the garden was located on.