For many people, access to healthy food is never an issue. It’s there in the grocery store down the street, and it’s within a family’s budget.
But that’s not true for everyone. Some neighborhoods lack stores with healthy options, and some people struggle to afford anything but cheap, processed foods.
Meredith Brown, a 17-year-old junior at Broughton High School, wants to change that.
“I wasn’t really aware of the issues in these communities ... I grew up in this bubble where everyone around me was fine – the issues were in other places,” Brown said last week. “But there are problems right here, and you can change it in your own community.”
Never miss a local story.
Brown is part of the Food Ark nonprofit chapter at Broughton, which works to fight food insecurity in the community. The group works with Inter-faith Food Shuttle, a hunger-relief organization that serves seven counties in and around the Triangle. The food shuttle creates sources of healthy food in low-income neighborhoods and helps people provide for themselves by learning job skills or growing their own food in local gardens.
Inspired by the work of the Food Shuttle, Brown has organized a 5K run/walk almost entirely on her own.
The race will benefit the Camden Street Learning Garden, one of the gardens where Brown regularly volunteers to provide resources to families living in a food desert.
The Camden garden hosts more than 30 Southeast Raleigh community gardeners and is where the Food Shuttle’s urban agriculture educational programs are based. People in the community are given access to land, seeds, water, tools and gardening experts who teach them how to produce a lot of food in a small space.
“My family and I have always loved to run, and I’ve been a part of so many races where I didn’t necessarily know where my money was going,” Brown said. “I thought, ‘Maybe I can do this, too,’ and give that money to a place I know really makes a difference.”
So Brown started working last fall on making the race a reality.
“Going into it, I had no idea what goes into planning a race,” Brown said. “My parents gave me that look, like I had no idea what I was getting into. And they were completely right.”
But Brown wasn’t willing to give up. She consulted with other groups, potential sponsors, the city of Raleigh and other organizations to make it happen.
“There’s so much – so many events you have no idea are happening, permits, you have to pay for police, find a location, make sure EMS is alerted, that bathrooms are available,” Brown said. “All these little details have to be figured out before the race.”
So Brown spent her time outside of school in meetings that weren’t always encouraging at first. But she found people who believed in her cause and wanted to help.
Brown is hoping to raise $10,000 for her cause, and she’s calling the race “The Food Shuttle Garden Gallop 5K.”
That money will “do a significant amount of good,” Brown said.
“I started realizing this year how important food is in your body,” she said. “Junior year can be extremely stressful, and eating unhealthy can make it so much worse, so I started looking into healthy food options.”
That led Brown to learn more about the food industry and birthed a passion for food policy and how food can affect people.
So while she was spreading fertilizer around blueberry bushes in the garden and picking weeds from the strawberry patch, her determination grew.
“My friends thought I was crazy at first to spend this much time on something, but now they think it’s awesome,” Brown said. “I see what a difference these gardens and programs make in these communities, and I want to help in a bigger way.
“People take for granted the options available to them. Not everyone is so fortunate. We need more people willing to step outside their bubbles and lend a hand.”
Abbie Bennett: 919-836-5768; @AbbieRBennett
Want to sign up for the Food Shuttle Garden Gallop 5K?
Saturday, June 10
To learn more, register or donate, go to app.racereach.com/event/food-shuttle-garden-gallop-5k-run-walk.