True Food Security
For all his valid concerns about poverty and the rising costs of food in our county, Patra Kelly may have quoted Jim Staudacher of ESCCC Food Bank out of context with this statement: “Our area is commonly known as a food desert.” If he was referring to other parts of Santa Cruz County, maybe, but that hackneyed term poorly fits the state of the food system in Patagonia itself. In fact, the USDA has stopped using the term “food desert” in part because its definition was “lacking a full- service grocery store” like a Safeway, Fry’s or Bashas. A chain grocery store in a town our size is no valid indicator of food security!
Patagonia churches, for-profits and non-profits have many programs to innovatively deal with these challenges. Since 1981, we have been blessed to have Red Mountain Foods in our community, for it provides an extraordinary diversity of healthful and affordable foods to our community for prices well below those of Whole Foods, Natural Grocers and other big city analogs. Its founders Annie and Barry were also in on the ground floor of the Tucson Cooperative Warehouse, and have integrated many of that now-defunct food hub’s strategies into their own organization. Red Mountain currently supports the town’s weekly farmers markets, as well as discount sales for customers year-round.
What other town of 800 to 1000 residents has a free seed library, a food bank, church food pantries, Mary McKay’s garden nursery, Native Seeds/SEARCH and the Borderlands Restoration Nursery? What other town this size has had a summer Earth Care Youth Corps where high school students plant gardens at home, for the elderly and the school? What other town has locally-produced grass-fed beef available every day, free-to-pick fruit trees in public spaces, a community-operated mesquite hammer mill for grinding flour, as well as sprouts and mushroom producers? Get off the main drag, and you will see grassroots efforts no food bank can match – family orchards, with neighbors sharing wild fruit, pecans, fermented beverages, and seasonal greens in a year-round cycle. And our Senior Center assures that the elderly get good meals in their belly, thanks to an all-volunteer staff!
True food security is based in the community itself, not just institutions receiving governmental or philanthropic support. We are blessed by many food resources and talents in Patagonia, although the challenges never seem to magically disappear! That’s why I am grateful for every level of generosity we see expressed in our town.
Disputes Food Desert Description
The very first sentence in this article [Food Insecurity a Pervasive Probem in Eastern SCC, PRT, October 2022] states that “our area is commonly known as a food desert.” Has Jim Staudacher ever been to Red Mountain Foods in Patagonia?
Food insecurity is an economic issue with the customer. A food desert is a place where no healthy, affordable foods are nearby. We stock literally thousands of products that are health foods. We have a 5-door refrigerator and 4-door freezer that are both eight feet tall.
We have a 12-foot long, double decker produce cooler and two large tables of produce, both organic and conventional, and when available we carry local produce. Our prices are comparable to supermarkets, especially when you factor in the cost of driving 20 to 60 miles.
I wish consideration had been taken for the vast availability and fair pricing that Barry and I at Red Mountain Foods have tirelessly worked to provide to our community for over 40 years.
Righting a Wrong
I believe it is incumbent upon each of us to reflect on the past in order to understand the present so that we can contribute to co-creating a better future. During my formal education there was a false narrative about the founding of the United States. The factual information about the first peoples of these lands was not shared in history books. As those false narratives are replaced with historically correct information, it has become important to acknowledge new information by changing the story.
In September 2022, the U.S. government announced an important action to change the names of nearly 650 places that used a racist term for Native American women. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said “I feel a deep obligation to use my platform to ensure that our public lands and waters are accessible and welcoming. That starts with removing racist and derogatory names that have graced federal locations for too long.”
The term “squaw” originated in the Algonquin language and may have once simply meant “woman.” But over time, the word morphed into a misogynist and racist term to disparage Indigenous women.
Two places in Santa Cruz County have received new names. Squaw Peak is now known as Santa Rita Peak (Latitude 31.58628938 Longitude -110.8377641) and Squaw Gulch is now known as Santa Rita Gulch (Latitude 31.5129474999999 and Longitude -110.7994575).
Happy to Be Back
Lucky me! I’ve just arrived back in Patagonia from Colorado. Time to tune into KPUP, enjoy tasty, nutritious meals at our Senior Center, swim in our wonderful outdoor pool at the school (thank you lifeguards!), bike Harshaw Creek Rd (my fave), jog the Train Track Trail (TTT).
Queen of Cups now open! Will Velvet Elvis soon do the same?
How about those wonderful thunder & lightning shows from our oh-so-necessary monsoon rains?
Speaking of the TTT. If someone has the ways and means to mow, I’ll buy the gas!
Let’s Address Food Insecurity Honestly
Patra Kelly’s article in the Aug/Sept issue of the PRT on food insecurity in Eastern Santa Cruz County reawakened my longtime interest in promoting healthy eating. As an elder senior who lives on just slightly above poverty level and who has, as a special education teacher, observed the adverse effects that poor nutrition has on children (and later as adults), I am motivated to explore the challenge in our own community of the seeming lack of accessibility to affordable fresh food, especially produce, for all.
While I have no doubt that many individuals and families in Santa Cruz County face financial and other challenges in accessing such foods, it is also clear that many hardworking single parents and elderly folks may lack the know-how and/or time and energy to gather, grow or prepare healthy foods. The article had me asking myself, ‘What is the next step we could take in Patagonia to alleviate this problem?’
I would like to propose a one-time guided brainstorming session for our community on this topic. This would simply be a gathering of information in order to have a realistic foundation for future action; attendees would not be obligated to volunteer for planning or executing any idea or plan.
It will be crucial to have a broad cross-section of our community in attendance, especially including those who are experiencing (or are serving) the need for accessible, low-cost, healthy fresh foods. If this interests you, please contact me at email@example.com or 520.604.0207
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