The Issue of Access, Part I
Food trucks, urban farming, and the Beltline. These things have taken Atlanta by storm as of late. They are grabbing the attention of both the local and national media and rocketing Atlanta up the hip-city totem pole. That is great.
As evidenced by this weeks vandalization of DH Stanton Park in Peoplestown, there are deep-rooted problems in our city that new surface programs can’t fix. Atlanta city government- and its citizens- are spending money on attractive projects and programs but failing to address some of our basic city-wide issues. Falling property values, abandoned and blighted properties, failing schools, high crime and widening socio-economic divides. Investing in parks is great, investing in people is better. Growing organic food is awesome, enhancing food access to under-served populations is better.
Our urban farms are quickly growing. We now have a mobile CSA (community supported agriculture) unit bringing wholesome food stuffs to Atlanta and nearby community residence. In addition we have expanding green space, walkable trails, transit and parks spreading throughout the city. Great right? What is not so great is the lack of accessibility and practicality some of these trends are showing. Most of our CSA’s, urban farms, parks and the Beltline are being used by Atlanta’s more affluent citizens. Citizens who really love these amenities, but who have better forms of access to food, transportation and recreation. So why are many of the cool projects and social/environmental businesses springing up not reaching the right places? One thought points to Atlanta’s very vocal and relatively affluent East Side. The “east side” of Atlanta is both a geographic region and a mindset. Folks who have embraced the organics and local movements, who support crafters and artists, who vocally embrace their new-found neighborhoods of Kirkwood, EAV, Reynoldstown, Cabbagetown and the like; these folks are young (at least at heart), energetic and active in their communities. These are all great things, and they are certainly making our city better. Unfortunately, they may also be drowning out the voices of more marginalized groups. Just look at the pressure felt by the city government exerted by the arts community, forcing a reversal of cutting the city arts budget.
The FEED wants to find out how we can make Atlanta better for everyone and how we can capitalize on some of our creativity to conquer Atlanta’s lasting problems. Over the next few months we will be talking to experts, gathering data and reporting on some of Atlanta’s biggest problems: access to healthy food, mass transit and top notch education. Stay tuned.