Food deserts, vast expanses of urban and rural areas that are void of fresh fruit and veggies, are a growing epidemic -- affecting more than 23.5 million people nationwide. Disproportionately affecting occupants of poor, low-income neighborhoods, food deserts are the result of a lack of access to healthy food.
While food deserts are often short on grocery stores and farmers’ markets, local quickie marts and fast-food chains run rampant. These outlets offer an abundance of processed, sugar- and fat-laden foods that are known contributors to our nation’s obesity epidemic and a leading cause of a host of other illnesses.
The lack of access to fresh, healthy and nutritious food fuels hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, negatively impacting 1 in 7 homes across the country. The working poor who struggle to afford good food and lack transportation to get it are often trapped in neighborhoods that restrict their options further.
And, while hunger has no boundaries, it does impact some communities more than others. African Americans are more likely to suffer from poverty, food insecurity and unemployment than their white, non-Hispanic counterparts. Children are also among those who are most negatively impacted by food insecurity and malnutrition. There are over 15 million hungry children in the United States alone.
Proper nutrition is critical to a child’s development, and not having enough of the right kinds of food can have serious implications for a child’s physical and mental health -- negatively impacting their academic achievement and inhibiting them from reaching their fullest potential.
On the flip-side of this epidemic is the issue of food waste. The average American family wastes about 25 percent of the food they buy annually. Their trash cans eat better than 25 percent of the world’s children. The amount of food waste produced globally each year is more than enough to feed the 1 billion hungry people in the world.
In a world of rising population, increasing cost of food, and concerns about inequality and growing food insecurity, food waste is one of the greatest challenges of our time. One of the greatest tools we have at our disposal to reduce food loss and waste in our communities is to discover creative ways to redistribute food wealth.
There is one Ohio-based entrepreneur who is committed to doing just that. Floyd Johnson, the founder and CEO of Ohio Against the World, is on a mission to “feed the streets” and bring fresh, healthy, organic food to local communities.
Ohio Against the World is a lifestyle brand that reflects hometown pride. The company is committed to fighting against poverty, hunger and environmental degradation by promoting a more healthy, eco-conscious lifestyle and producing products which make the world a better place.
“More than often I think we can evaluate a person by what they do. Are they building or destroying?” Johnson told TriplePundit. “At some point I decided that I wanted to do more than just create a streetwear brand, but to build something that actually gives back to my community and the world around me.”
Johnson is taking steady, measured steps toward this ambitious goal. He started sourcing products from sustainable wholesalers and investing his profits into developing community gardens and food projects. His vision evolved from a school project into a social enterprise which uses fashion and food as a vehicle for social change.
“I believe that food waste and food desserts are connected,” Johnson explained. “We reclaim abandoned lots and unused spaces in poor neighborhoods and transform them into thriving community gardens. We’re also educating the community and offering them an alternative to unhealthy food. I believe the youth are the future of our planet. If we feed our youth, we feed our planet."
From a food truck that delivers fresh, organic, pressed juices to food deserts, to offering raw food cooking classes to families in need, Johnson is constantly developing creative ideas to alleviate issues around poverty, hunger and food waste. “Leftover fruits and vegetables from the garden can be pressed into juices. Food scraps can be composted into soil for our gardens. Everything works together,” he explained.
And, despite the name, Johnson’s sights are set on more than just Ohio. He envisions several licensed brands following suit. “Ohio Against the World is about coming back to where you’re from and making it happen in your own backyard,” Johnson explained. “We are all battling against things that negatively impact our communities.”
Image courtesy of Ohio Against the World, used with permission
Joi M. Sears is the Founder and Creative Director of Free People International, a social enterprise which specializes in offering creative solutions to the world's biggest social, environmental and economic challenges through the arts, design thinking and social innovation.