Memphis residents and communities are pushing back against the high obesity rates and unhealthy eating trends of Tennessee. As of 2012, the adult obesity rate of Tennessee was up to 31.1 percent with 11.9 percent of adults diagnosed with diabetes. Now, Memphis is taking a stand by promoting healthy nutrition and working to make fresh food more accessible. Get inspired by Food Tank’s ten great urban agriculture and sustainable living projects in the River City.
1. The American Heart Association Teaching Garden of Bethel Grove Elementary School is representative of the more than 40 school gardens planted in East Memphis. The teaching garden’s program “combines nutrition education with garden-based learning” to give students a hands-on experience of healthy eating. Cigna HealthCare, who sponsored the opening of the garden, hopes to sponsor at least one new school garden each year.
2. The Green Leaf Learning Farm is a USDA-certified organic farm in the heart of South Memphis. The learning farm is a project of the Memphis nonprofit Knowledge Quest and is used to educate children about healthy eating and urban agriculture. Produce from the farm supplies the Knowledge Quest food pantry, the South Memphis Farmers Market, and a number of afterschool and summer youth programs.
3. The Green Machine Mobile Food Market brings fresh fruits and vegetables to almost 400 customers in the ‘food deserts’ of South Memphis using a bus. A joint project of University of Memphis graduate students, the Vance Avenue Collaborative, and Saint Patrick Community Outreach, this rolling market delivers fresh produce to areas in Memphis with limited access to healthy food. Videos highlighting the connection between fresh food and health are shown on the bus.
4. Grow Memphis envisions Memphis as “the healthiest, greenest city in the United States.” To realize this vision, Grow Memphis maintains organic community gardens throughout the city and is currently working towards the creation of a food policy council for Memphis. Today, Grow Memphis is an independent nonprofit organization and manages over thirty community gardens.
5. Memphis Locally Grown is a neighborhood cooperative serving small growers, hobbyists, craftsmen, and nonprofits. The organization connects farmers and local food producers to customers by way of an online marketplace. Memphis Locally Grown seeks to support small local growers by providing them a market for their homegrown and homemade products.
6. Pick Tennessee Products, operated by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, is a not-for-profit service designed to connect people to Tennessee farms, farmers, and local products. On the website and at participating markets, the service seeks to support Tennessee agriculture by finding and promoting fresh local food.
7. Project Green Fork certifies sustainable and homegrown restaurants in Memphis and the mid-South. The project seeks to reduce the environmental impacts of restaurants, whose individual annual waste totals 50,000 pounds each year. Project Green Fork certification ensures the usage of green disposable products and nontoxic cleaners by helping restaurants set up their own systems for recycling and composting.
8. Roots Memphis is an urban farm in Whitehaven which supports a CSA every winter and summer. The farm utilizes many sustainable growing practices and is free of chemicals and pesticides. The organization also runs a farmer incubator program called the Roots Memphis Farm Academy, which trains and launches new sustainable farmers.
9. The Uptown Community Garden is an urban farm located in the heart of Memphis. The garden supplies the community with fresh produce grown by local volunteers and organizations such as Bridges, and Girls, Inc. Residents enjoy a fresh annual harvest of tomatoes, beans, corn, cucumbers, squash, peppers, basil, flowers, eggplant, cilantro, and more.
10. The Urban Farms maintained by the Binghampton Development Corporation are located on a three-acre plot of land in a residential area of Memphis. Several greenhouses on the farm allow for year-round growing and distribution to local restaurants and residents. Produce is sold at the Urban Farms Market, which was opened in 2011 in response to “overwhelming demand” from residents.