I wrote this about 3 hours ago on my van ride to Dallas. Enjoy:
This is the beginning of my Spring Break, and I am currently in a fifteen passenger van on my way to Dallas. Unlike some folks who go home—or on delightful vacations—I am currently on a trip with the ACU Honors College. It is sort of difficult to define our trip. It is not a mission trip in the traditional sense, nor is it primarily a service trip—though we will be doing some of that. It is, I guess, a learning trip. Or, to be more active, it is an investigative trip.
There are two primary focuses of the trip. For the first three days or so, we will be in Dallas exploring questions about urban food deserts with CitySquare, a non-profit organization that operates, primarily, in south Dallas. On Tuesday afternoon, we will fly to Charlotte, NC where we will explore questions of food distribution in developing nations with Mananutrition. We will then drive to Fitzgerald, GA where will will explore Mana’s factory and peanut farm. We will finish out our trip on the beach in Jacksonville, Florida.
CitySquare does a lot of things, and I encourage you to check out their website here. They seek to combat the large part of south Dallas that is a food desert. A food desert is a place where adequate food is not readily accessible. In Dallas, this primarily means that those people living in the inner city do not have grocery stores nearby. There are restaurants and convenience stores, but no grocery stores. This forces low-income families to get food either from restaurants (expensive) or convenience stores (largely unhealthy). There are grocery stores, but they are often several bus changes away. So, for those families with no access to transportation other than the bus system, it is patently difficult to get good food (compounded by the fact that they can only buy what they can carry). CitySquare runs a food distribution center. This distribution center also serves as the starting point at which CitySquare can get to know individuals who need other services which they also offer. They also provide healthcare, permanent housing for the homeless, and legal assistance. They do a good deal of partnering with local churches, businesses, and community organizations.
Mananutrition has its headquarters in Charlotte, NC. Here is their website. They provide Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF). In large swaths of the developing world, even a slight famine can force the issue of survival and nutrition for many children. Mana creates—primarily using milk whey and peanuts—this therapeutic food which they distribute to areas of the developing world in severe need of immediate nutrition aid. This aid saves many children from both death and stunted development.
I intend to post fairly regularly this week as I report on our adventures. I am very excited.