Pro Bono and a Food Desert Near You

clip_image001The PBEye closely follows pro bono efforts designed to increase access to nutritious and affordable food.  As a society, we continue to pay greater attention to the food we eat and the impact it has on our health and well-being.  Unhealthy eating habits and limited access to fresh food, however, are systemic issues for many Americans.  This is particularly problematic because the number of poor and hungry residents in the U.S. climbed recently (47.3 million, nearly one in seven Americans, participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as food stamps).  Pro bono work in this area has the potential to make a significant impact on our communities.

Want to know where you can’t buy fresh, healthy food?  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a new map for you!  The Food Access Research Atlas helps you see exactly where people have challenges finding fresh fruits and veggies to purchase.  With a few clicks and you can learn exactly where people are unable to walk to a grocery store.  The atlas is a terrific tool for policymakers, nonprofit groups, and pro bono lawyers concerned about food access issues.  In addition to providing relief to food deserts by bringing farmers markets and grocery stores into communities, efforts to help people eat better also include working on lowering the costs of nutritious food and education.

Another useful tool, in addition to USDA’s new online atlas, is the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s publication Pro Bono Food for Thought: Improving Access to Nutrition.  Pro bono work to support food access and security has the potential to transform a community, for example by turning an abandoned lot into a productive urban farm or cutting through bureaucratic barriers obstructing food stamp distribution or access to school meal programs.  Because this is an emerging area that many people – not just foodies – feel especially passionate about, you may be able to excite and engage a certain segment of your attorneys and professional staff, including some who may not have previously been the most active pro bono volunteers.

You may access the publication, which is free to Member Firms and available to others for purchase, by visiting our Resource Clearinghouse.  Are you engaged in an innovative pro bono project that promotes access to healthy food in low-income communities?  Leave us a comment and let us know!